Last week was a bad week for the Catholic Church, for Religious
congregations, especially the Bon Secours sisters, and for the State.
It must have been difficult to come out to Mass this morning, given the
gruelling the church received in the media during the week, much of it
We appreciate your support of your local church at this time of testing and
The revelations about the Mother and Baby home in Tuam concerning the 800
babies who died between 1926 and 1961 have shocked the whole nation.
The emerging details about how unmarried mothers were treated, how their
children were taken from them, and the high level of mortality in the Tuam
Mother and Baby home has generated moral indignation and outrage, as well
as shame and sadness for us all.
The harrowing stories of survivors and the search for their siblings is
And yet, it must be said we do not have enough information or enough data
to know fully
· what actually happened,
· why it happened,
· and what the whole truth is.
The rush to judgement, hasty expressions of condemnation, and the
scapegoating of one group over another is unhelpful at this early stage and
does little to serve either the truth or justice.
The truth, the whole truth, is always complex and is never as simple as we
would like it to be
There is a tendency to adopt a “holier than thou” approach, a pretence that
we somehow or other are morally superior in comparison to what happened
back there in those dark times.
We need to remember that all is not well at present in the way the State
treats children and the marginalised of society today in the 21st century.
We know that there are 6-7000 homeless people, and that of that number
2,400 were homeless children at the end of January 2017.
Further, we should remember that there are some 1,600 children in direct
provision which leaves much to be desired.
And then we have the story of the woman known as Grace who, it would
appear, was abused over a period of 20 years in spite of repeated
complaints while in the care of the State
I mentioned these current realities in the present lest we become
self-righteous in our judgement of the past.
In listing some of the failures of the State in the present, I am not
trying to diminish the role and responsibility of the institutional church
in the past. The church was a major player in these shocking scandals.
What bothers me most, and perplexes me most, is how the church treated
unmarried mothers and their babies, and how that treatment of unmarried
mothers and their babies was a complete contradiction of everything the
church taught and believed:
· forgetting that every human being is made in the image and
likeness of God regardless of sex, race or class,
· ignoring the sacredness and dignity of every life whether born in
or out of marriage,
· and neglecting the teaching of Christ that “as often as you did
it to one of these, you did it to me”.
Equally I am concerned about what President Higgins called the presence of
“gender inequality” in the past and the continuation of that gender
inequality in the present.
In all of this, we must seek the truth, the whole truth, in the belief that
the truth will make us free.
Further we must seek justice, knowing that only when justice is done can we
begin to have hope again.
And further, we must erect ‘monuments of memory’ on behalf of the babies
who died before their time, because these ‘monuments of memory’ will remind
us of past injustices and ensure that we do not become complacent in the
As a member of the institutional church, indeed as a representative of the
Catholic church, I can only hang my head in shame and sadness.
And so in conclusion, I wish to apologise for the treatment by our church
of unmarried women.
I apologise for the lack of compassion for these children and apologise for
the failure of the institutional church to live up to the teachings of
These disturbing and distressing stories have been unfolding during the
season of Lent. They are a challenge to all of us, in the light of today’s
Gospel, to go up the mountain in the company of Christ to seek some light
in the midst of so much darkness, Amen.