TWO Catholic Bishops whose Diocese are in Donegal have acknowledged the role of the Church in the ‘harsh and uncaring’ treatment of people in Mother and Baby Homes.
Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ, Bishop of Raphoe and Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown issued a joint statement.
The Bishops said the Church’s role in failing thousands of young women was a source of ‘embarrassment and shame’.
A harrowing report released yesterday details how 57,000 children were born in mother and baby homes until they were closed in 1998.
Shockingly, 9,000 died while in their care.
“Today many people are struggling to take in the account of what is a very sad chapter in the history of our country,” the statement said.
“We are reading stories of many vulnerable women and girls who were pregnant. At a time when they needed love and care they found themselves isolated and abandoned.
“Not only that but they were stigmatised by a culture of fear, judgement and secrecy.
“It is a source of embarrassment and shame that we, as a Church, along with the rest of Irish society, failed them so badly. There is no doubt that the Church contributed greatly to the culture which was, as the Report says, ‘harsh and uncaring’ in relation to women who deserved only kindness and support.
“As bishops we want to acknowledge the truth of this reality and apologise sincerely to the women who were so badly let down.”
‘Castle Diaries’ from Newtowncunningham and accounts from the Stranorlar County Home in Donegal are contained in the final Mother and Baby Homes report.
Records and practices of 14 mother and baby homes and four “county homes”, a fraction of the entire number of these institutions, are included.
The Bishops said: “In Co Donegal there were two institutions examined by the Commission.
“For the County Home, in Stranorlar, the Commission looked at the years from 1921 to 1994. The accounts of the hardship endured by those who lived there, in the most unhealthy and undignified of conditions, are truly heart-breaking. The fact that the grievous physical shortcomings were often pointed out by departmental inspectors, and staff, to no avail, is unbelievable.
“‘The Castle’ in Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, ran from 1982 to 2006 under the management of the North Western Health Board.
“It was founded with support from our two dioceses of Derry and Raphoe, and representatives of both dioceses served on its board of management. We welcome the report’s positive findings about the staff, as it stated: ‘The staff were local women who, in the Commission’s view, showed a great deal of empathy and, possibly more importantly, common sense’.”
Earlier today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin issued a State apology in the Dáil and last night Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Catholic Church’s leader in Ireland ‘unreservedly’ apologised to the victims and survivors.
Bishops McGuckian and McKeown said: “We thank Judge Yvonne Murphy and the Commission staff for their clear and comprehensive report. This report has done a great service to survivors, their families, to wider society including the Church. The contents, and in particular the personal testimonies, can help us find the truth about our past.
“It is only by acknowledging the truth of this reality, and the hurt and pain experienced, that we can begin the journey of healing.
“We pray for healing and hope for all of those who still suffer. We remember and we pray especially for those women and children who were treated so badly, and who are now dead.”Tags: