Children's bones; babies' bodies – the undying shame of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland
This is a guest post from Sister Tiberia:
I didn't think there was anything that the Roman Catholic Church did in Ireland in the 20th century that actually had the power to shock me any more.
I was wrong.
This week, the news broke internationally about the nearly 800 bodies of children found in a disused septic tank belonging to what had once been a 'Home' for unmarried pregnant women in the town of Tuam in Ireland.
The Irish Mail on Sunday ran the story first. Then The Guardian got hold of it (and HERE), and then the Daily Mail ran the story.
It's now made the Washington Post.
For any who might wish to plead media inaccuracy, please read the evidence first.
We all know the Guardian is not a bastion of clear-headed unemotional journalism. But if they have accurately quoted Father Fintan Monaghan, Secretary of the Tuam Archdiocese, you will have to excuse me while I beat my head against a wall.
"I suppose we can't really judge the past from our point of view, from our lens. All we can do is mark it appropriately and make sure there is a suitable place here where people can come and remember the babies that died."Excuse me?
Infant mortality rates in Ireland in the period between 1926 and 1961, when this home was running, were dreadful anyway. According to the historian Catherine Corless, the mortality rate there was four to five times the national rate. Nor did the mothers of these children have any choice about where they were taken, or what was to happen to their children. There's a name for a place where people are interned without trial or appeal, worked or kept in inhumane conditions and die from "malnutrition, neglect, measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia". I'm sure everyone here knows what that is. So let's not invoke Godwin's Law before we even get to the comments.
Is Father Monaghan serious when he says we aren't to judge? We do judge. We judge the actions of the people who neglected these children. We judge the actions of the people who permitted them to die from the diseases of neglect. We judge the actions of the people who denied these children Christian burial. And we judge - with reason - the actions of the representatives of the Church who still can't say plainly what every decent person is thinking - that this was an outrage, then and now. That it should never have happened - then or now. That it is the Church's undying shame that this was allowed to happen on their watch.
And for probably the first and last time, I am in total agreement with a Guardian writer. Emer O'Toole says:
"Do not say Catholic prayers over these dead children. Don't insult those who were in life despised and abused by you. Instead, tell us where the rest of the bodies are. There were homes throughout Ireland, outrageous child mortality rates in each. Were the Tuam Bon Secours sisters an anomalous, rebellious sect? Or were church practices much the same the country over? If so, how many died in each of these homes? What are their names? Where are their graves? We don't need more platitudinous damage control, but the truth about our history."