"We must explain, but not excuse what happened" - Archbishop of Tuam

Dr Michael Neary made the call in a homily this evening

"We must explain, but not excuse what happened" - Archbishop of Tuam

Image: Henry McKean

The Archbishop of Tuam says the Mother and Baby Home inquiry should look at society in general, and not just the religious order that ran the institution.

Dr Michael Neary made the call in a homily this evening in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Tuam.

Highlighting what he calls the lack of compassion shown to the deceased and their mothers, he said: "It was an era when “unmarried mothers” – as our society at the time labelled women who were pregnant and not married - were often judged, stigmatised and ostracised by their own community and the Church, and this all happened in a harsh and unforgiving climate. 

Dr Neary said the fundamental question at the heart of the investigation should be: "how could the culture of Irish society, which purported to be defined by Christian values, have allowed itself to behave in such a manner towards our most vulnerable?” 

Shared anger

He continued by saying the focus should now move beyond one religious congregation, and begin looking at society in general.

"There is an understandable sense of shared anger arising from this situation; people are deeply distressed and desperately upset by what they hear and read," he said.  

"There is a danger, however, that when anger begins to die down, we may be tempted to move quickly to the next social problem from the past without having fully understood the complex and tragic historical situation before us [...] There is an urgent need for an enquiry to examine all aspects of life at the time, broadening the focus from one particular religious congregation, and instead addressing the roles and interrelationships between Church, State, local authorities and society generally."

Dr Neary concluded his homily by apologising once again "for the hurt caused by the failings of the Church as part of that time and society when - instead of being cherished - particular children and their mothers were not welcomed, they were not wanted and they were not loved."

Catherine Corless

Meanwhile, the host of the Late Late Show expressed his gratitude to the audience on Friday night, after they gave a standing ovation to Tuam historian Catherine Corless.

Ryan Tubridy said: "I don't think I've ever seen something like that happen in a spontaneous way on this programme".

Ms Corless' extensive research and persistence brought the fate of the Tuam babies to light.

The mother and baby home in Tuam operated between 1925 and 1961, and it is believed several hundred children could be buried at the site in Galway.

Speaking on Friday night, Ms Corless talked about why she was so determined to get to the truth and persevered.