Babies 'not cared for with scrupulous dignity whether in life or in death', says Archbishop
The findings of the interim report of the Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes, which was published on Wednesday, caused "profound distress, even indignation" to Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.
Addressing Dublin's Pro Cathedral yesterday at the annual Chrism Mass, Dr Martin questioned what went wrong in Church and society in Ireland that children "were not cared for with scrupulous dignity, whether in life or in death".
In a reference to the Commission of Investigation's finding in relation to Tuam and to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which ran Bessborough home and who have said they do not know where the 900 children who died under their care over seven decades are buried, Archbishop Martin said that he found it "hard to believe that evidence has simply vanished and that no one can remember".
He said that the Catholic Church in Ireland "has to look constantly at the negative effects of the way it exercised a dominant role in Irish society in the past, while at the same time not renouncing its prophetic role in society today."
The Archbishop also recalled Pope Francis's address to the Irish bishops during his visit to Dublin last August, when he said: "Do not repeat the attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church."
This was Dr Martin's 15th year celebrating the Chrism Mass, which prepares the sacred oils that will be used in parishes at liturgies such as confirmations and ordinations during the coming year.
Much, he acknowledged, had happened over that 15-year period.
"We have experienced the dramatic effects of the crisis of sexual abuse." Moving forward did not mean "whitewashing the past" but recognising how our parish communities have responded with great dedication, putting into place and supporting child protection structures of which they could be proud.
Elsewhere yesterday, Bishop Brendan Leahy, of Limerick, referred to the tragic fire at Paris' Notre-Dame Cathedral and the fact that in the midst of the rubble, a cross remains standing over the altar, gleaming in the darkness.
"It's like a reminder to us. At times we can be overwhelmed, humiliated and perhaps fall," he said.
"But Pope Francis says, it's not the falling that matters, but rather our ability to get up again and go on."
Dr Leahy said it was "undeniable" that priests have a greater workload today and it would require more laity to step up and take on greater responsibility.
Calling for greater flexibility in how the Church ministers, the bishop told the congregation in St John's Cathedral that the huge burden of responsibility must be shared.
In the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Colman in Newry, Archbishop Eamon Martin spoke about the changing context for faith in an Ireland "where vocations to the priesthood and religious life are dwindling" and where by 2030 the rate of marriage is expected to have declined by almost 60pc over 50 years.
"We are challenged to present the vocation to priesthood, to consecrated life and to marriage, as fulfilling vocations to love God who loved us first," Dr Martin said.
In the Diocese of Elphin, Bishop Kevin Doran prayed for doctors, nurses, paramedics and all who work in the care of the sick that they would "always have courage to be advocates for life" and have a deep respect and reverence for every human life as a gift from God.