Woman Says Priest Forced Her to Give Up Her Son for Adoption, Seeks $10 Million

By David Gee
Patheos blog
August 21, 2019

A woman filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Omaha and others last week, saying a priest from that church forced her to give up her son for adoption decades ago.

Kathleen Chafin has now reconnected with her adult son, whom she says she was forced to give up in 1968, but only after years of searching for him. Thomas Halley, a Jesuit priest, is accused of manipulating her and removing her son from the hospital, according to the Washington Post.

… when Chafin first raised concerns about the adoption in 2015, an investigation from the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus concluded that Halley operated within the law and that his actions were “born of a desire to avoid scandal and find good homes for babies of unwed mothers,” the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Chafin contends the investigation was fraudulent, and she never received a copy of its findings.

The process of the investigation was full of the same lies and manipulation I have experienced all my life,” she said. “I was furious.”

Whether or not Chafin’s particular allegations have merit, her story isn’t all that unusual. Chafin was told to give up her son because she had the baby out of wedlock. The Church convinced her it’d be better to give her child up for adoption than raise him herself. One source says more than 1.5 million women were told to give up their children for similar reasons around this time. It’s literally called the “Baby Scoop Era.”

… [Halley] sat alongside her parents and told her, she said, that she’d committed a mortal sin by getting pregnant out of wedlock.

“I have his words etched in my brain,” she said. “He made me sound like a slut, like a streetwalker, like the worst person in the world.”

She doesn’t remember giving birth, which is unusual, and she was never able to spend time with her child. He was taken from her almost immediately.

They didn’t reunite until her child was 50 years old. Now she wants the Church to pay for what they did to her, in part due to what she says was a flawed investigation into Halley’s actions.

The Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus hired an investigative firm. Its findings, after interviews with Chafin and 16 others, concluded that “Ms. Chafin was subjected to great pressure by her circumstances and her parents” and that Halley “acted from a good faith desire to alleviate that pressure by helping her find a good home for her baby,” according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The Post.

It was “good faith” that led him to separate a mother from a child she desperately wanted to raise, all because the Catholic Church looks down upon single mothers.

Halley has since died, and Chafin’s first lawsuit over “adoption conspiracy” was dismissed due to it coming long past the statute of limitations. She’s now filing the same lawsuit in federal court hoping for a different outcome. If nothing else, she’s raising awareness about a serious problem within the Catholic Church that affected countless families several decades ago.


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