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Archbishop says religious orders should not be 'scapegoated' for Mother and Baby Homes

Archbishop Eamon Martin said that the church was “expected to intervene” when society “banished” mothers.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

ARCHBISHOP EAMON MARTIN has apologised again for the Church’s role in the Mother and Baby Homes but said that religious orders should not be “scapegoated” for the institutions. 

Archbishop Martin, who is the Primate of All Ireland, said that larger swathes of society also had a role in the homes.

He believes that religious congregations should not be held wholly to blame for the homes after the findings of the Commission of Investigation in its report released this week.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week, Martin said that he would “be disappointed if we were, having read the commissions’ report, to scapegoat the religious congregations”.

“They were commissioned by the state and by local authorities and county councils. They were expected to intervene when the rest of society had banished these mothers and their unborn children and infants,” Martin said.

“They too were Irish women who answered a call to serve and they found themselves on the front line of this,” he said.

“There is clear evidence that the day to day running of the institutions which some of the sisters were involved in was very harsh.”

The archbishop said he thought it was important to note that “they were subject to monitoring and inspection and oversight by the State and they too were basically hidden from society”.

“As soon as women and children went into these places, society didn’t seem to want to know any more about them.”

He said that the church needed to make reparations “if it’s proportionate and it’s in account of the findings of the commission”.

“I think we can expect that all the people who were involved in this should be demonstrating the sincerity of the apologies.”

“I think that we can show that our apologies are sincere by being willing to contribute in any way that we can and I believe that many of the religious sisters have already said they are open to it.

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“I think that this week especially a lot of people in Ireland including myself and a lot of people in the church are feeling a very deep sadness in our hearts to think of these harrowing stories,” Martin said.

“We’re ashamed to realise and to think of the number of vulnerable women and their unborn children and their infants who were stigmatised and shamed and excluded from their homes and families and ostracised really from their parishes and communities – essentially, they were banished by society and their rights ignored,” he said.

The Commission of Investigation’s Report on Mother and Baby Homes was published on Tuesday.

Among the report’s findings were that at least 9,000 children died in the 18 homes under investigation by the commission.

President Michael D Higgins said during the week that the State must “bear primary responsibility” for the homes. 

“It is the State that is charged with safeguarding the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens, and it is the State that must bear primary responsibility for failing to provide appropriate supports for these tens of thousands of young women and their children,” Higgins said. 

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