The finding of babies mortal remains in a former mother and baby residential home in Tuam, has awakened much anger, pain and disgust.
The plight of single mothers, the disregard of ritual, when it came to high levels of infant mortality, has brought to light a very dark, secretive and oppressive culture for generations previous to ours.
I fully acknowledge the truth of this dreadful reality. I acknowledge also that the Church whose fundamental GOOD NEWS is felt with kindness and compassion failed to communicate this message to so many women who were abandoned by their families to places of shelter often provided by religious orders.
I find it difficult to understand what Ireland must have been like for any young woman finding herself with child, outside of the then absolute requirement of matrimony.
It seems to my generation a complete different world. I am also aware that today’s reality and norms are much different. Discerning the past with today’s reality is always problematic.
Ireland in the 40s, 50s and 60s was indeed a different world. A world of hypocrisy, elitism, judgmental and harshness, where an overly assertive catholic morality allowed society to become prescriptive and cruel.
A culture where large institutions with huge walls were built to isolate vulnerable citizens who struggled with mental illness. A country where the public front of family life was often very different to its private reality.
Domestic violence, sexual abuse, and alcoholism often were hidden, kept secret from the outside. Women who became pregnant with new life in the womb outside of social acceptable norms were almost demonised. Where were the fathers?
These women were abandoned to institutions that were harsh, cold and isolated. Mothers were not allowed keep their baby. A fundamental connection severed for life.
A wound that has never been healed and now vociferously articulated by heroic elderly citizens who have lived with this pain all their lives.
We all hopefully appreciate that a mothers love is such a wonderful blessings. The maternal love transcends any barrier it’s simply unconditional.
Think of the heartache, the silent grief of any mother without her child and struggling to integrate back to life, family employment after such trauma.
While the telling of their story is so painful it opens the beginnings for healing. This is a time of healing not just for the mothers who went through this pain but for the healing of memories that perhaps have been held silent and never have been given voice.
As a society, using the language of recovery, we are only as sick as our best kept secret.
I suggest in the context of mother and baby homes of the past, surly this is a mandate to end mother and baby homes of 2017.
What about our disgraceful and oppressive direct provision centres right across this Republic where vulnerable mothers and children are currently locked and isolated into regimes that reminiscent of our shameful past often for years on end?
Surely it’s time for our state to lead with action in offering serious support to vulnerable families. There is a crisis in the lack of resources to vulnerable families, this is 2017. The lack of social workers, home school liaison officers, family support personal, is also, in my opinion, a national scandal.
Our healing from the past begins pragmatically by building a society where social inclusion and protection truly supports our most vulnerable.
I believe in hope. My hope comes from a God who has come to befriend, accept, include and heal. God’s light often shines on the darkness of the past.
Scripture prophetically tells us that what has been “hidden will be revealed”. May the light of this new spring bless all who carry pain and hurt from the past with truer inner-healing.
May their truth inspire us to honour every mother and child.