A report published on Tuesday by the Government of Ireland has declared a damning find about the state of Catholic Church-run government homes for unwed mothers on 12th January this year. The 3000-page long report states that an estimated number of nearly 9,000 children had died in Ireland’s church-run homes for unwed mothers in between the second and last decades of the last century.
This number can be deemed to have been fairly equivalent to 15 percent of all children who were born or lived in the 18 institutions investigated over nearly 80 years.The report describes the emotional and physical abuse some of the 56,000 unmarried mothers were subjected to in these mother-and-baby homes.
Of all these homes included in the study, many were run by members of the Roman Catholic Church. These operated in Ireland for most of the previous century, with the last home closing as recently as 1998. These homes received a lot of state funding. They also acted as adoption agencies — with many of the children adopted to families in the United States.
According to anonymous accounts in the mentioned report, women giving birth were almost always “verbally insulted, degraded and even slapped”, presumably for their ‘sinful’ motherhood. The report also noted the “appalling” rate of infant mortality in the homes, calling it “probably the most disquieting feature of these institutions.”
Ireland’s TaoiseachMicheál Martin, told reporters Tuesday after the report was published that “one hard truth in all of this, is that all of society was complicit in it”.The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, stated that he accepted completely that the Church was part of a 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. Archbishop Martin also said, “I believe the Church must continue to acknowledge before the Lord and before others, its part in sustaining what the report describes as a ‘harsh… cold and uncaring atmosphere’.”Archbishop Martin urged anyone who could help locate the burial places of those who died in the mother and baby homes to come forward.
It is pertinent that to note here that Irish Catholics and Catholic missionaries as a general rule have been part of such maternity spaces even in countries like India and other similar post-colonial nations across the world. Most famous among these is the Catholic Missionaries of Charity founded by the now beatified Mother Teresa (AnjezëGonxhe Bojaxhiu, Albanian by birth) and headquartered in the city of Kolkata, known during the time of Mother Teresa’s operations as the city of Calcutta.
Reports of child culling, infanticide on the basis of religious ideology, misbehaviour with patients and pregnant mothers to be as well as stories of child trading have often surfaced over and over again about the Missionaries of Charity in India. However, a complete and exhaustive investigation about the same is yet to occur, or has been possibly put on hold due to the powerful hold the Catholic Church exerts over Indian political and bureaucratic systems.