The head of the Irish Catholic Church unreservedly apologized to victims of church-run homes after the publication of a condemnatory inquiry on Tuesday, praising them for “highlighting a dark chapter in the life of the church and society”.
“I accept that the church was clearly part of the culture where people were often stigmatized, judged and rejected,” Archbishop Eamon Martin said in a statement after the report showed thousands of babies died in the homes of unmarried mothers and their offspring from the 1920s. to the 1990s.
“For that and for the long-term damage and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologize to the survivors and to all those who are personally affected by the reality it reveals,” Martin said.
The homes run by the Roman Catholic Church had a “frightening” mortality rate that reflected brutal living conditions, the report said.
The investigation, which included 18 so-called Mother and Baby Homes where young pregnant women were hidden from society for decades, is the latest in a series of government missions that have revealed some of the Catholic Church’s darkest chapters.
About 9,000 children died in total, Tuesday’s report showed – a mortality rate of 15%. The proportion of children who died before their first birthday in a home, Bessborough, in County Cork, was as high as 75% in 1943.
Infants were taken from mothers and sent abroad to be adopted. Children were vaccinated without consent.
Anonymous testimonies from residents compared the institutions to prisons where they were verbally abused by nuns such as “sinners” and “Satan’s play”. Women suffered through traumatic work without pain relief.
One was reminiscent of “women who screamed, a woman who had lost her mind and a room with small white coffins”.
Relatives have claimed that the children were treated badly because they were born to unmarried mothers who, like their children, were seen as a stain on the image of the Republic of Ireland as a devout Catholic nation. The inquiry said that the permitted included girls as young as 12.
The government register shows that the mortality rate for children in the homes where 56,000 women and girls, including rape victims and incest, were sent to give birth, was often more than five times higher than those born to married parents.
“The report clarifies that for decades Ireland had a suffocating, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture, where a pervasive stigma of unmarried mothers and their children deprived these individuals of their authority and sometimes their future,” said Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman.
Prime Minister Micheal Martin will make a formal apology to those affected by the scandal in Parliament this week for what he described as “a dark, difficult and shameful chapter in recent Irish history”.
The government said it would provide financial compensation and deepen long-promised laws to dig up some of the remains and give residents, including many adoptees, greater access to personal information that has long been out of reach for them.
( Jowharwith REUTERS)