A shocking expose of the dark, secret history of Catholic orphanages–the violence, abuse, and even murder that took place within their walls– and a call to hold the powerful to account.
More than 5 million Americans passed through orphanages in the 20th century alone. At its peak in the 1930s, the American orphanage system included more than 1,600 institutions, partly supported with public funding but usually run by religious orders, including the Catholic Church. Ghosts of the Orphanage is the result of ten years of investigation, and what Christine Kenneally found was shocking, yet hiding in plain sight.
Terrible things, abuse, both physical and psychological, and even deaths have happened in orphanages for many years. The survivors have been telling their stories for a long time, but no one has been listening. People are too often unwilling to accept their stories. And their options for recourse have been limited by the years it has taken many survivors to process their trauma, tell their stories, and pursue legal action.
Centering her story on St. Joseph's, a Catholic orphanage in Vermont, Kenneally investigates and shares the stories of survivors. She has fought to expose the truth and hold the powerful — many of them Catholic priests and nuns — to account. And it is working. As these stories have come to light, the laws in Vermont have been forced to change, including the statute of limitations on prosecuting them.
Told with human compassion, novelistic detail, and a powerful sense of purpose, Ghosts of the Orphanage is not only a gripping story but a reckoning. It is proof that real evil lurks at the edges of our society, and that, if we have the courage, we can bring it into the light and defeat it.