In recent years, and again during this past week, we in the parish, the archdiocese, the country and beyond have been endeavouring to come to terms with the heart-breaking news of the Mother and Baby Home here in Tuam.
This is a deeply distressing story for all of us, but
especially so for those affected individuals and families. We can only
attempt to understand the emotional upheaval which mothers suffered as
they felt so helpless and isolated.
What is particularly harrowing is the report of high levels of
mortality and malnutrition.
It was an era when “unmarried mothers” – as
our society at the time labelled women who were pregnant and not
married – were often judged, stigmatised and ostracised by their own
community and the Church, and this all happened in a harsh and
unforgiving climate. Compassion, understanding and mercy were sorely
It is now timely that this dimension of our social history be
addressed and thoroughly examined. To do so would begin the process of
attempting to explain, but not to excuse, what happened in our not too
distant collective past.
Perhaps we could begin with this fundamental
question: “How could the culture of Irish society, which purported to
be defined by Christian values, have allowed itself to behave in such a
manner towards our most vulnerable?”
There is an understandable sense of shared anger arising from this
situation; people are deeply distressed and desperately upset by what
they hear and read.
There is a danger, however, that when anger begins
to die down, we may be tempted to move quickly to the next social
problem from the past without having fully understood the complex and
tragic historical situation before us.
The use of highly-charged
emotive language, while understandable in the situation, may prove to be
There is an urgent need for an enquiry to examine all aspects of life
at the time, broadening the focus from one particular religious
congregation, and instead addressing the roles and interrelationships
between Church, State, local authorities and society generally.
approach should ensure that the truth will emerge no matter how
unpalatable it may be to those on whichever side of the present
discussion. In this way we will be enabled to move genuinely forward. One hopes that the Report of the Commission will enable that truth to
surface in a clear and objective manner.
Even today there are huge challenges surrounding how we care for the
disadvantaged in our society. In years to come our present society will
inevitably be subjected to scrutiny and will most likely be found
deficient in many areas to which we are blind at present.
We need to
learn from the past in order to prevent similar injustices in our time,
and so as to inform our future generations.
I wish to again apologise for the hurt caused by the failings of the
Church as part of that time and society when – instead of being
cherished – particular children and their mothers were not welcomed,
they were not wanted and they were not loved.
In the story of the Transfiguration in today’s Gospel, frightened
disciples are given a preview of the Resurrection in order to give them
courage to face the scandal of the Cross.
Today, we pray for that
courage to enable us to face squarely and honestly those agonising
questions which confront us from our recent past.
Let us pray for the
light which will illuminate the dark recesses of that past and bring
hope and healing to us all.