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Letter To Editor

An example of welfare: the “Inclusa”

Roberto Grao Gracia

“Inclusas”, hospices or orphanages were places of welfare, most of them founded by the Church in the XVIII Century, where needy children, abandoned by their parents and delivered to those Institutions were welcomed and brought up.

The name “inclusa” comes from an imagine of the Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Inclusa, which dominated the home for foundlings in Madrid, and was brought in the XVI Century from Dutch island of L’Čcluse (lock –“esclusa”-). The most developed of them were in Madrid, Santiago, Calahorra, Zaragoza, Bilbao, etc.

The aim of these institutions was to avoid infanticides and save the mothers’ honour, and so they admitted children borne illegitimately and orphans due to their father’s death or their lack of interest in them, and with mothers in extreme poverty.

When children were abandoned anonymously, these institutions disposed of portals open to the street. There was a person in charge of getting the foundlings who stayed permanently in a room close to the portal and came immediately when the bell or whatever other signal rang, to pick up the child. No questions were made about parents’ identity. Clothes and money for the child were already received, and the will of who leaved the child was fulfilled.

The person in charge of the reception on the rotatory device of the portal, wrote down the hour, the day and the year when the child was accepted and straightaway carried them to the lounge destined to baptisms. After cleaning them and clothing properly, put them in the pertinent cot. Foundlings was pushed an identifying collar with the year they have arrived at the Inclusa. They were usually named Foundling. Some people called them “inclusers” in a contemptuous way.

Inclusas disposed of nursing mothers for breastfeeding the foundlings. They had the duty of rearing the foundlings were given to them, always no more than two. They also helped the institution washing and cleaning up the children room, the infirmary, the dressing room and the bedroom, besides the laundry. Children were also given to nursing mothers living outside of the inclusa.

Infant mortality in Spain during the XVI, XVII and XVIII Centuries, as in the whole of Europe, was in general very high; it could rise easily as high as 30 or 40 per cent of living births. But mortality soared for the children in inclusas; for instance, of the 2446 children gathered up by Zaragoza Inclusa between 1786 and 1790 only survived 200; around the same time, 610 children were collected in Logrońo and Vitoria and 400 died; of 164 picked up in Huesca, 115 died, and so on.

This terrifying mortality was due to several causes: there were very few inclusas, and the long and difficult way to got there made babies to arrive exhausted and irretrievable. Another factor was the bad quality and circumstances the nursing mothers outside the inclusa had, because nobody assessed them and besides they usually worked for a low pay which didn’t cover the children expenses. One more reason was that the inclusa did not provide clothes for the foundlings, and taking into account the subsequent damage and scarcity, many women chose not to apply for this job, even though they could have breastfed and taken care of them.

Anyway, in spite of all failures they suffered, was it not a more honest, careful and respectful way of proceeding with unborn children than to be aborted, i.e., killed in the womb of their mother as is currently happening? Why this beneficial caring for children got lost? Why inclusas did not recover?

To be sure, the bloody and fierce persecution against catholic people which took place during the 1936-39 Civil War dealt a fatal blow to these institutions, and so gradually disappeared from the whole society, without nobody attempted to save them. Perhaps, it might be the time to recover them as a way to avoid the current genocide of abortion, because in addition to kill thousands of innocent human beings, produce high profits for companies engaged in this business.

Roberto Grao Gracia.

Independent Forum of Opinion (Spain