Tuam reminds of unmarried mothers being ‘judged and rejected’

Bishops’ Conference apologises for hurt by church and calls for marking of burial sites

Catholic bishops have said the latest controversy surrounding the mother and baby home at Tuam is a reminder of "when unmarried mothers were frequently judged and rejected" in Ireland.

The Bishops’ Conference said it discussed such institutions during its three-day spring general meeting and reiterated its apology for the hurt caused by the church’s role in the system.

It also called for the proper marking of burial sites at parish level so that “the deceased and their families will be recognised with dignity and never be forgotten”.

The statement follows the continuing fallout from the controversy since the discovery of “significant” human remains at Tuam.


Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has warned that expanding the scope of the inquiry into other mother and baby homes could delay findings in relation to Tuam.

“Sadly, we are again being reminded of a time when unmarried mothers were frequently judged and rejected,” the bishops said. “We remember in prayer the deceased who suffered so much and their loved ones who continue to experience emotional and psychological hurt.”

The conference repeated its position from 2014, welcoming the announcement of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

At that time the bishops described a culture of isolation as harsh and unforgiving.

Compassion and mercy

“The Gospel calls us to treat everyone, particularly children and the most vulnerable, with dignity, love, compassion and mercy. We must ensure that all children and their mothers always feel wanted, welcomed and loved,” they said.

They also said the Government should progress the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 to assist those searching for their parents or children.

A number of other areas were addressed during the meeting, including the Citizen’s Assembly, the World Meeting of Families in 2018, the “Joy of Bells” initiative expressing solidarity with migrants and refugees, and the issue of child safeguarding.

Regarding the Citizens’ Assembly and its discussion of the Eighth Amendment, which bans abortion, the bishops acknowledged that “respect for the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception to the point of natural death is critical to the right of all citizens to be treated equally and with dignity”.

Of the recent Northern Ireland elections, they urged parties to "avoid a vacuum and instability": "It is in all our interest that a new executive is established as soon as possible in order that it may serve peace, economic stability and sustainable growth for the benefit of all in our society."

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times