Catholic leader apologises for church’s role in forced adoptions

Eamon Martin expresses regret over treatment of mothers ahead of ITV documentary

Catholic  Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin has repeated the apology he made in June 2014 for the hurt to mothers and babies caused by the church. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin has repeated the apology he made in June 2014 for the hurt to mothers and babies caused by the church. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, has repeated the apology he and other Irish bishops made in June 2014 for the hurt to mothers and babies caused by the church and for the church’s role in forced adoptions.

The original apology was made following an announcement by the then government that it was setting up the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

The homes for unmarried mothers and their children were run by Catholic Church organisations during the 20th-century.

The bishops had said that “sadly, we are being reminded of a time when unmarried mothers were often judged, stigmatised and rejected by society, including the church.

“This culture of isolation and social ostracising was harsh and unforgiving.”

They apologised “for hurt caused by the church as part of this system” and also said they supported the “government’s intention to publish legislation on ‘tracing’ rights for adopted children and their mothers with due regard to the rights of all involved”.

The repetition of this apology by Archbishop Eamon Martin, who was installed as Catholic Primate and Archbishop of Armagh in September 2014, has followed reports that his equivalent in England has apologised for the church’s role in forcing unmarried mothers there to give their children up for adoption.

Documentary

Cardinal Vincent Nichols makes the apology in a new ITV documentary titled Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking the Silence, to be broadcast on Wednesday night at 9pm.

It details how, in the 30 years before local authorities in Britain were given responsibility for child welfare, tens of thousands of women were forced to give up their children by “moral welfare officers” employed by church-sponsored voluntary organisations.

The cardinal has told the programme that the Catholic Church apologises for the “hurt caused” to the hundreds of mothers who were encouraged to give their babies up for adoption.

He said the practices of church agencies in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s “reflected the social values at that time”.

He said: “The practices of all adoption agencies, whether religious, charitable or state, reflected these attitudes and were sometimes lacking in care and sensitivity.

“We apologise for the hurt caused by agencies acting in the name of the Catholic Church,” he said.

The Church of England has also expressed regret for its role in the running of mother and baby homes in Britain.

In a statement, it said that “what was thought to be the right thing to do at the time has caused great hurt.

“That is a matter of great regret.”

The Salvation Army was also involved in running such homes.

Altogether in Britain, religious institutions ran 150 mother and baby homes in the years after the second World War.