21st March

For some time here in Ireland there has been a series of dire news reports about Mother & Baby Homes of the last century which were setup for unwed mothers and their children. These were ran by religious orders and grave questions were raised about the Church’s accountability for their mismanagement. I have been asking myself: Was it all that bad? My usual sense of such media reporting is that it is calculated to show the Church in the worst possible light. Thus there are other perspectives that need to be considered to get a fuller picture of what actually happened.

Below are two newsletter articles I wrote on the Mother & Baby Homes controversy.

Mother & Baby Homes: Two recent articles from the Irish Catholic and Catholic Voice are important contributions to a wider, fairer and more informed debate about the happenings in these homes. They are available for download and viewing at these links https://1drv.ms/b/s!Alb1xoBeKkVogkZbmI_9DnMUZfBJ https://1drv.ms/b/s!Alb1xoBeKkVogkXEwHKsedagjAAz. Copies are also available in the sacristy. The articles make a number of points: (a) The high mortality rates were influenced by poverty and the easy spread of infectious diseases within an institution – this in a time prior to antibiotics; (b) It discusses Irish cultural values of the times which were largely influenced by Victorian morality and sense of respectability. There may be an element of blaming (scape-goating) the Bon Secours sisters for the wider failings of Irish society; (c) Whatever the previous uses of the underground tanks, it is possible that they were rededicated as burial crypts. An example is given of disused tunnels in Paris being reused in this way. There is currently no evidence that internments were done without due respect; (d) We cannot judge an earlier time in history entirely from our present perspectives. Would we have done things differently if we had been present in these earlier situations? Pending the full outcome of the inquiry, there is no denying that the Church shares in the overall culpability for what happened in these places.


Recently we have been hearing the sorry accounts of how unwanted children of the near past have been treated by Irish society and particularly in Mother and Baby homes: forced adoptions, high mortality rates, burials in unmarked and mass graves, being treated as second class citizens, etc. What about the fate of unwanted children today? One common solution is their deliberate and mass killing by abortion. Some 180,000 have perished in foreign abortion clinics since the late 1960s; about 4,000 are killed annually. Their remains are given far less dignity than burial in unmarked graves (without going into the sorry details!). Now the powers that be in politics and media want to legalise this killing in our own country by removing the Eight Amendment. When something is legalised, it becomes among other things more culturally acceptable. Too bad that these powers that be cant see that unwanted babies in the womb might be worth a second class status that would at least ensure their right to life.