Mother and baby homes ‘destroyed lives’ says CoI archbishop

Antagonism toward churches deepened by recent revelations, says Dr Michael Jackson

Revulsion towards church and state institutions have followed recent revelations about mother and baby homes, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin has said.

Dr Michael Jackson said this year's St Patrick's Day had been "inevitably and rightly" different in Ireland. "As a society we stand in need of restoration. As members of churches we stand in need of redemption," he said. "None of us can do this without respect for the voice of the victim; none of us can do this without the forgiveness of the victim," he said.

“For all the churches, these events have hardened and sharpened the deep antagonism now felt towards churches around betrayal,” he said.

This was “because of our incapacity to get our head around something which to others is not as complicated as it sounds or looks: accepting that those who went before us have done wrong; saying that we are sorry for the wrong that was done; offering a heartfelt apology; asking for forgiveness from neighbour as well as from God. Institutions find this tremendously difficult,” he said.


‘Nonentity is the most cruel cruelty’

Speaking at a service in Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral he said the revelations had "resulted in unspeakable suffering, personal trauma, societal anger, revulsion from church and state institutions."

People learned “of babies taken from their birth-mother never to be seen or held again; we hear of these children in adult life traversing the globe to find their birth-mother, never sure whether they will meet with acceptance or rejection.

“Nonentity is the most cruel cruelty, at the beginning and at the end of the day. And it is so because it is the wilful obliteration of the image and likeness of God in which every human being is made,” he said.

“Not even St Augustine at his most theologically negative descended to this travesty. It pulsates with a dualism that events have proved to be only just below the surface in all Irish religiosity. It speaks neither of saints and scholars nor of fáilte isteach,” he said.

“We have no sense of what else is about to unfold precisely because it did not matter to us, we did not care at the time, we who pride ourselves on our national sense of welcome to the stranger,” he said.

Irish people had gone everywhere across the world “and so often have made an impact for good,” he said. “So what has gone so tragically wrong at home?” he asked. Lives were destroyed, facts were distorted and individuals depersonalised, in what cannot be called “anything other than the mother and baby home scandal,” he said.

The ecumenical St Patrick's eve service was led by Archbishop Jackson and Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times