Mother and Baby Home Report issued on January 12th, 2021. Response of Bishop Fintan Monahan issued on January 13th, 2021
Welcoming the Report
I welcome the Report of the Commission of the Mother and Baby Home that was published on the 12th of January 2021. I hope the publication of the report will be of some help to the survivors of the many institutions involved and that in revealing the truth it will begin a process of healing. Many thanks to all who contributed to the huge work of the Commission, those who facilitated the process and all who participated in the process.
My response to the Report on the Mother and Babies Homes is one of sorrow, sadness, shame and deep regret. The report is thousands of pages in length. I have read as much of it as time has permitted to date and will continue to read, engage with and reflect on the content of the report along with associated analysis. It will take some time to process and reflect on its entirety and all its implications.
There were two Mother and Baby Homes in the Diocese of Killaloe: Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea (1931-1969) and another home in Kilrush, The County Clare Nursery (1922-1932). Both came under the scrutiny of the Report and are not exempt from severe criticism in the findings of the Report.
The Report gives an opportunity to listen, first-hand to the experience and stories of the many survivors and reflect with them on the painful memories that are so real. It is clear that in the recent past many single mothers and their children were treated unfairly, unjustly and harshly in those Homes. The pain, described so often in the report of a mother being separated from her home, family and baby is unimaginable. I am aware that mothers and their children have carried a legacy of pain from their experience in these homes. So many have struggled to have a sense of identity as a result of that experience. I would like to think that this Report will go some way to giving them the recognition they so rightly feel is their due. I say to them: “You are our sisters and brothers and you were let down by the Church and State .”
As bishop of Killaloe, I humbly say sorry to all who suffered as outlined in the Report. For the degradation caused, I am sorry; for the suffering inflicted, I am sorry; for the failure of the Church to demonstrate its commitment to the sacredness of human life, I am truly sorry. Sorry is a small word that may seem inadequate in the light of all that is attempting to address. I can only say that it comes from my heart.
A Judgmental Church
It is clear that in the recent past that single mothers and their children were treated unfairly, unjustly and harshly by the Catholic Church that was supposed to be merciful, compassionate and caring. This mistreatment arose to a great extent from a strict moral code that mostly was imposed very one-sidedly. Single mothers and their children bore the brunt of that one-sided approach and suffered greatly as a result.
Mother and Baby Homes
Until very recent times, Mother and Baby Homes were wrongly seen as a necessary means of dealing with what was seen as a problem in the eyes of a patriarchal Church and Society. Unfortunately, this judgmental climate led to these Homes being unhappy places where as the Report states “various cruel treatments were meted out to mothers”. I know that mothers and their children have carried a legacy of pain from their experience in these Homes.
A Plea for Forgiveness
As Church in the true Christian tradition of repentance we acknowledges our wrongdoing, accept it and ask for forgiveness. It is a bitter irony and cause of great shame that a Church which valued the sacredness of all human life and saw all its members as equal in God’s eyes, failed to show an equal love to all the children of God’s Family – single mothers and their children. Equally, the single mother did not receive the compassion and love that the Church professed to show all people. We now clearly see that single mothers should not have been treated in such a manner. I accept that the Church which judged them so harshly is shamed by its actions. That shame is a legacy handed down to our Church today. My hope is that we, as Church and Society have learnt much from the hard lessons of the past in relation to Safeguarding and now the Mother and Baby Home Report. As a consequence of the enormity of this sadness and suffering it will make the Church and Society of our day a better, safer place. I would hope that our Church as a result of this will be more open to listen to the voices of women and men, but particularly women. A Church that will be more inclusive, to make it a more truly Christian environment for all to live and thrive, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. As an outcome of this report, I commit to ongoing dialogue with and working alongside survivors to achieve justice and healing. If anyone affected by any issues arising from the report would like to meet with myself or any Church personnel you are welcome to make contact through the Diocesan Office in Ennis.