Bishop Demands Home Deaths and Abuse to Be Criminally Investigated
By Helen Bruce
January 14, 2021
A bishop has called for criminal investigations into involuntary manslaughter at mother and baby homes.
The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan said gardai should also investigate those who perpetrated physical abuse against women and babies.
‘To allow a baby to die, and not to do anything about it, that, of course, is totally and utterly wrong, absolutely inexcusable,’ he told WLR radio. ‘These kind of specific things can be investigated again going forward.’
|The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan has called for criminal investigations into involuntary manslaughter at mother and baby homes. Pic: Facebook|
He added that the stories that have emerged from the Mother and Baby Home Report are ‘harrowing, gut-wrenching’.
The Archbishop of Tuam has said the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was a ’cause for shame’. Archbishop Michael Neary said he had been horrified to learn of the many human remains at the site of the notorious home in Tuam, Co. Galway, through the Commission’s Interim Statement in March 2017.
The leading cleric added that the absence of burial plot records was a critical aspect of the sad story, and was of great public concern.
|Archbishop Michael Neary said he had been horrified to learn of the many human remains at the site of the notorious home in Tuam, Co. Galway, through the Commission’s Interim Statement in March 2017. Pic: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne|
‘The burial pattern in the home in Tuam, more than any other single occurrence, has, understandably, caused the most outrage. While the report makes for difficult reading, every step towards uncovering the complete truth regarding the burial pattern is welcome,’ he said.
Archbishop Neary said he was genuinely sorry for the harm and hurt caused to women and children in the homes, who were left ‘broken, betrayed and disillusioned’.
‘For them, and all of us, these revelations seriously tarnished the image of the Church,’ he said.
‘The delight and joy which we associate with the birth of a new baby instead became clouded with darkness and gloom. This was a time when single pregnant women and their children were labelled as “unmarried mothers” and “illegitimate”, and then judged, stigmatised, and ostracised by their own families, by their communities, and the Church. These attitudes were wrong and very sad.’
He said the Church had failed in its responsibility to love and cherish vulnerable people.
‘What this report makes clear to me is that when the Church is not serving with compassion, it is failing. For that, I am genuinely sorry. As a Church leader I apologise unreservedly,’ he said.
|Archbishop Neary said he was genuinely sorry for the harm and hurt caused to women and children in the homes, who were left ‘broken, betrayed and disillusioned’. Pic: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images|
The Archbishop said the Tuam home was owned by Galway County Council and operated by the Bon Secours Sisters.
He said the council, on behalf of the State, was responsible for the residents, while the diocese had a pastoral role. He said everything in the diocesan archives relating to the home had been shared with the Commission, but the archive did not describe the living conditions, or the helplessness and suffering of these mothers who were separated from their babies either by death or adoption.
‘Today, how can we even begin to comprehend the raw pain and psychological damage of family separation and its devastating consequences on loving mothers and on the emotional development of their children?’ he asked.
The Archbishop added that if the Church had insisted that fathers acknowledge their responsibilities to their children, the outcome for many young mothers and their children would have been very different.
Bishop Fintan Gavin, the Bishop of Cork and Ross, also said he felt ‘a sense of shame and embarrassment’ for the actions of the Church and society.
He said the report described a ‘very sad chapter’ in Irish history.
‘Through a culture of fear, judgment and secrecy, women who were pregnant felt isolated and abandoned and had nowhere to turn but to these institutions,’ he said. ‘As I read the courageous testimonies of the women and their now-adult children who have shared their story with the Commission, I feel a sense of shame and embarrassment for how – as a Church and a society – we failed so often to respond compassionately to their needs.
‘As Bishop, I want to acknowledge the part played by the Church in contributing to this culture of judgment and secrecy, which at times showed so little compassion or respect for the women and their babies. They were treated as second-class citizens.’
Bishop Gavin appealed to the Government to find a legal way for former residents and their children to be able to access birth and baptism records. Bishop of Meath Tom Deenihan said the experiences of the women as detailed in the report were shocking and shameful.
‘The brave testimonies of those who entered seeking care but who subsequently endured emotional suffering are bleak and shameful. Like others, I found the details of the high infant mortality very distressing,’ he said.
He added much work needed to be done to allow survivors to trace their family members.
On Tuesday, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, apologised unreservedly to the survivors of the mother and baby homes.
Archbishop Martin said: ‘As a Church leader today, I accept that the Church was clearly part of that culture in which people were frequently stigmatised, judged and rejected. For that, and for the long-lasting hurt and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologise to the survivors and to all those who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers.’
He said that the Church must continue to acknowledge its part in sustaining what the report described as a ‘harsh, cold and uncaring atmosphere’.
|On Tuesday, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, apologised unreservedly to the survivors of the mother and baby homes. Pic: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie|
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland said the report was distressing, but that it had shone a light on a hidden part of Ireland’s history, and exposed the culture of isolation, secrecy and social ostracising which faced unmarried mothers and their children in this country. He said the survivors must be helped and supported, but made no mention of compensation.
Archbishop Martin added that their right to access personal information should be fully respected, and he urged the State to overcome any remaining obstacles to information and tracing.
He also appealed to anyone with further information about burial places of babies and children to come forward.
‘All burial grounds should be identified and appropriately marked so that the deceased and their families will be recognised and never be forgotten,’ he said.