Thursday, June 05, 2014
Tuam adds yet another horror to the huge list of Irish Church scandals. I can't, I don't want to defend them, I find it disgusting and unsettling but the question that comes to my mind is, do these scandals arise because these institutions were Catholic or because they were Irish?
It is either that Catholicism was dysfunctional, or Ireland was dysfunctional, the other possibility is that Irish Catholicism was particularly dysfunctional. The other possibility is that what is revealed is done in a sensationalist way, to do as much damage to Irish Catholicism as possible.
Religious men and women do not exist in a vacuum, they are in the world but the they are not suppose to be of the world. I remember an Irish Mercy Sister, now dead, saying to me when I asked why she had come to England in the 1930s to pursue her vocation saying, 'Because in Ireland we had nothing, you English left us with nothing, except our faith and our poverty. The Irish State expected the Sisters and Brothers to deal with the people it itself was unable to deal with, with no resources, except what they could beg in Ireland itself'. She herself had left school at thirteen, her family survived on money sent by her father who did seasonal farm work in England and older brothers who had emigrated to England and America. Her mother brought up the family, whenever the father returned there was another pregnancy, she as child was barefoot and often hungry, it was only when she became a Sister she had shoes all year round. 'My mother and the older girls would go hungry so the boys and the younger children could survive', she said, it seems as if half her brothers and sisters had died in childhood. I remember asking her why the boys were fed in preference to the girls, her reply was interesting, 'The boys needed to be strong in order to swing a shovel, it was our investment in our future!'
Posted by Fr Ray Blake