News Roundup

Nuns should not be scapegoats for mother-and-baby homes, says Archbishop Martin

The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh has said he would be disappointed if the religious congregations were scapegoated for their role in mother-and-baby homes.

Speaking on RTÉ’s ;This Week’ programme, Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “They were commissioned by the State and local authorities, county councils, and they were expected to intervene when the rest of society had basically banished these mothers and their unborn children”.

“They found themselves on the frontline.”

Dr Martin said there was “clear evidence that the day-to-day running of these institutions was very harsh,” but he said they were subject to inspection and oversight by the State.

“As soon as women and children went into these places, society didn’t seem to want to know any more, be they living or dead.

“If it’s just, proportionate and if it’s in account of the findings of the Commission, I do feel the church needs to do reparation for this. I accept that,” he said.

In relation to a redress scheme, Dr Martin said: “I think we can show our apologies are sincere by being willing to contribute in any way we can.

“Minister O’Gorman has asked for the church to make a contribution to whatever restorative scheme is put in place.

“I do think religious congregations will be willing to play their part generously.”

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Church of Ireland archbishops issue apology over mother and baby homes

The two Church of Ireland archbishops have acknowledged “with shame” that their Church was “complicit, as with the rest of society at that time, in a culture of hypocrisy and judgment which stigmatised women and children and endangered their health and wellbeing”.

Responding to the report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, Church of Ireland primate Archbishop John McDowell and Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said the women and children who passed through the homes “deserved much better”.

“We are sorry and apologise for the role that our Church played in shaping a society in which unmarried women and their children were treated in this way,” they said in a statement.

“We also want to pay tribute to those former residents of homes, and others, who have focused society’s attention on mother and baby homes. One of the most prominent groups was associated with the Bethany Home, which operated under a general Protestant ethos while being independently managed.”

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Labour leader threatens legislation to seize Church assets

Legislation should be introduced to seize assets from the Churches if they do not contribute to the state’s scheme for former residents of mother and baby homes, Alan Kelly has said.

The Labour leader made his comments on Wednesday after the Taoiseach gave a full state apology.

“In regard to redress, we cannot undo what happened before. We need to ensure, this time around, that the religious institutions make their contribution to redress for the families and women affected,” Mr Kelly said.

“Once they agree to that, or when they are made to agree, if they do not make their contribution, we will pass legislation – I will draft it myself – to enable us to take their assets and ensure they make that contribution.”

He also threatened to seize the records of the orders who ran the homes.

“We also need to ensure that all archives relating to social services provided by the religious institutions are nationalised. That is a very important point. They provided a service in lieu of the State. We need to nationalise all of their archives in order that everything can be preserved”.

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Vulnerable may die if people refuse vaccine, says Bishop Kevin Doran

A senior Catholic bishop has warned that if a significant number of people refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine, more people may lose their lives to the virus.

Writing in The Irish Catholic Bishop Kevin Doran reassures the Faithful that there is nothing in Church teaching to prevent them from taking a vaccine, even if it was developed using cell-lines from aborted babies.

“Catholics are free,” he writes, “to use any Covid-19 vaccine that is approved for clinical use, on the understanding that they themselves do not approve of or consent to abortion for the purposes of biomedical research”.

While Dr Doran acknowledges that a decision on taking a vaccine is a matter of individual conscience, he insists it is also not simply a private matter.

“If significant numbers of people chose not to be vaccinated, for whatever reason, it would prove very difficult to achieve the required levels of immunity in the population. The result could be significant loss of life and serious illness in the community and especially among those who are most vulnerable, as well as long-term damage to social and economic life, which would impact on the population as a whole.

“This reality must inform any judgement of conscience. Any person who wishes to signal his or her rejection of the use of foetal cell-lines should consider whether there are other ways of doing so, than by refusing to avail of the vaccine,” Bishop Doran writes.

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Vatican City: Both Francis and Benedict get vaccinated for covid 19

Both Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict received a covid19 vaccine on Thursday.

The Catholic Church has urged believers to get vaccinated while also holding it to be a matter of individual conscience.

The Church has also long appealed for vaccines to be developed in an ethical way, free of cell lines derived from aborted foetuses.

But it also accepts that, in the absence of freely available alternatives, there is no moral wrongdoing in taking a vaccine that is remotely connected with abortion.

The Vatican is using the Pfizer jab which was developed and produced without using foetal cell lines, although it was tested on a cell line that is thought to derive from an abortion in the 1970s.

On Sunday, Pope Francis threw his full support behind the drive to vaccinate.

“I believe that ethically everyone must take the vaccine. It is an ethical action, because you risk your own health, your life – but you also risk the lives of others,” the Pontiff said.

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US Supreme Court reinstates Federal administration’s ban on abortion pills via mail

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision Tuesday reversed a federal judge’s injunction that had blocked rules requiring women to obtain an abortion pill from a doctor in person.

“The question before us is not whether the requirements for dispensing mifepristone impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote Jan. 12. “The question is instead whether the District Court properly ordered the Food and Drug Administration to lift those established requirements because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.”

“Here as in related contexts concerning government responses to the pandemic, my view is that courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence, and expertise to assess public health,’” Roberts said.

“In light of those considerations, I do not see a sufficient basis here for the District Court to compel the FDA to alter the regimen for medical abortion,” Roberts continued.

The normal requirement of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in place since 2000, is that the abortion pill be dispensed and administered in-person. The regulation is part of the REMS protocol, reserved for higher-risk drugs and procedures.

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Sisters who ran Tuam home offer ‘profound apologies’

The Bon Secours Sisters, who ran the mother and baby home at Tuam, have offered “profound apologies” and acknowledged that children were buried in a “disrespectful and unacceptable way”.

The order also said it did “not live up” to its Christianity when running the Co Galway facility between 1925 and 1961 on behalf of the local county council.

“We failed to respect the inherent dignity of the women and children who came to the home. We failed to offer them the compassion that they so badly needed. We were part of the system in which they suffered hardship, loneliness and terrible hurt. We acknowledge in particular that infants and children who died at the home were buried in a disrespectful and unacceptable way. For all that, we are deeply sorry,” the congregation’s area leader Sr Eileen O’Connor said.

The sisters confirmed that they would participate in any redress scheme set up in response to the report. In 2018, the Bon Secours religious congregation offered €2.5 million towards the costs of a forensic excavation at the former Tuam mother and baby home.

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Legion of Mary sought to keep unmarried mothers and babies together, says Report

A Legion of Mary-run hostel was the only institution in the country before the 1970s that encouraged and facilitated mothers to keep their child, according to the mother and baby homes report.

Chapter 21 of the Report deals with the Regina Coeli hostel founded by the Legion of Mary. Before the 1970s, it says, “Regina Coeli was the only institution that assisted unmarried mothers to keep their infant”.

“Although the mothers who kept their babies were a minority until the 1970s, the proportion was undoubtedly much higher than for any other institution catering for unmarried mothers”.

It notes that children came to Regina Coeli with their mother, and remained with their mother; and “in a small number of cases a child might remain in Regina Coeli, while their mother was in hospital, prison or otherwise temporarily absent”.

It quotes a lengthy memorandum written in 1950 and submitted to the Department of Health by the founder of the Legion, Frank Duff. The document lays out the philosophy of the group, which was that mothers should be encouraged to keep their children permanently, a course that was “not hitherto possible to girls in their circumstances”.

While other institutions sought to separate mother and child, finding a job for one, and a foster home or industrial school for the other, in the case of the Regina Coeli, the mother was afforded every chance to grow in affection for the child, and become responsible for the child.

The Report notes that Duff “claimed that ‘As a result of the interaction of proper natural affection and the encouragement and facilities provided….a great proportion of the girls are not only prepared but determined to keep their child’.”

The Report also notes that Frank Duff was opposed to children being committed to industrial schools.

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Archbishop apologises following Mother and Baby Homes report

The publication of the report by the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby and County Homes has been welcomed by the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin.

In a statement released yesterday he said he accepted that the Church was clearly part of that culture in which people were frequently stigmatized, judged and rejected.

“For that, and for the long-lasting hurt and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologise to the survivors and to all those who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers”, he said.

“I believe the Church must continue to acknowledge before the Lord and before others its part in sustaining what the Report describes as a ‘harsh … cold and uncaring atmosphere’”.

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said what happened in the mother and baby homes was “only one chapter in a shocking narrative that has gone on for some time”.

He said everybody involved in what had happened “has to stand up” and admit their responsibility.

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UK University makes formal public apology for history of eugenics

University College London (UCL) has expressed “deep regret” for its role in the propagation of eugenics, alongside a promise to improve conditions for disabled staff and students and a pledge to give “greater prominence” to teaching the malign legacy of the discredited movement.

The formal apology for legitimising eugenics – the advocacy of selective breeding of the population often to further racist or discriminatory aims – is UCL’s latest effort to address its links to early eugenicists such as Francis Galton, who funded a professorship in eugenics at the university.

UCL acknowledges with deep regret that it played a fundamental role in the development, propagation and legitimisation of eugenics,” the university said as part of its apology.

“This dangerous ideology cemented the spurious idea that varieties of human life could be assigned different value. It provided justification for some of the most appalling crimes in human history: genocide, forced euthanasia, colonialism and other forms of mass murder and oppression based on racial and ableist hierarchy.

“The legacies and consequences of eugenics still cause direct harm through the racism, antisemitism, ableism and other harmful stereotyping that they feed. These continue to impact on people’s lives directly, driving discrimination and denying opportunity, access and representation.”

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