Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that the “frozen heart” that so many women found before, during and after their time in Mother and Baby Homes was a dreadful failure of Church, Society and State.
In his weekend homily, which was streamed from St. John’s Cathedral today, Bishop Leahy said that those who should have shown love and caring simply did not live up to their Christianity. Instead, they flew in the face of Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” or “come follow me”.
Many generations, he said, have found inspiration in Jesus’ vision and his words and wanted to take up his invitation and do great things in his name. Yet throughout the ages we have seen how when Christians forget the Gospel, good works turn to sand.
“During the week in the Statement of the Sisters of Bon Secours upon publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, their area leader, Sister Eileen O’Connor spoke of a history of our country ‘in which many women and children were rejected, silenced and excluded; in which they were subjected to hardship; and in which their inherent human dignity was disrespected, in life and in death.’ And then she stated: ‘We did not live up to our Christianity’.
“At a time of great need and want, women and children should have experienced in their family and neighbours, Church and state institutions, the warmth of the extended Christian family embracing them and caring for them and sheltering them. It should have been for them a significant time of being able to ‘come and see’ the close tender love of Jesus. But instead, too many found frozen hearts, prejudiced minds and callous treatment.
“Yes, too many in our society, Church and State, did not live up to our Christianity. We forgot the Gospel. We failed them. We need to ask for forgiveness.”
Bishop Leahy said that beneath the heart-wrenching cries that we have heard this week, as a Church, and a society so deeply rooted in Christian heritage, we are hearing a call to conversion that we will always have to keep in mind.
“To be a Christian, it’s not enough simply to be registered on a baptismal registry, our everyday behaviour and attitudes need to express our faith. It’s not enough to have a Christian veneer or an altruistic label, we need to be rooted in the Gospel. It is not enough simply to do what we think are good works when we forget to evaluate them in terms of the Gospel.”
Concluding, he quoted the words of Pope Francis’ Penitential Act in the Phoenix Park: “We ask forgiveness for those children who were taken away from their mothers and for all those times when so many single mothers who tried to find their children that had been taken away, or those children who tried to find their mothers, were told that this was a mortal sin. It is not a mortal sin; it is the fourth commandment! We ask forgiveness. May the Lord preserve and increase this sense of shame and repentance and grant us the strength to ensure that it never happens again and that justice is done. Amen.”