Time to cut the Bon Secours sisters some slack

Time to cut the Bon Secours sisters some slack

Dear Editor, Following the revelations last week that “significant quantities” of human remains had been discovered at the site of the former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway, one could almost hear the deafening noise of knuckle-cracking that resulted from the universal epidemic of hand-wringing that spread throughout the land. “How could this happen?” some queried, while others said that they were “shocked and traumatised”.

Katherine Zappone said the find was “very sad and disturbing news”, while Enda Kenny, stated that the treatment of mothers and babies in Church-run homes was “an abomination”, adding that for decades women who had children outside marriage were treated as “an inferior sub-species” in Ireland.

All these responses are very predictable. And throughout this sorry narrative, the Bon Secours sisters have come in for a hammering – and unfairly so, I say. It so easily fits in with the anti-Church bashing all too frequent in this country in recent years. Yes, Church personnel were culpable – just as other authorities of the day, both local and national, were equally culpable; one has only to read current reports in local newspapers in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s to realise how good a job the sisters (and brothers) actually did considering the paucity of resources available to them at every turn.

The local people in Tuam in the 1920s voiced their opinion that the former soldiers’ barracks shouldn’t be used as a mother and baby home, but rather it should be used to generate employment for the local population – just like the good people of Ballaghadereen didn’t want Abbeyfield Hotel to be turned into an emergency reception centre for Syrian refugees.

The commission stated “These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to two-three years”. Catherine Corless’ tireless and meticulous work (for which the country owes her an enormous debt of gratitude,) revealed death certificates for 796 children with no indication of where they were buried.

That fact alone sounds callous, even heartless; but, perhaps, considering the circumstances of those dark decades, and burying between 20 and 30 children per year, they couldn’t afford the ‘luxury’ of marking individual graves (something we take for granted nowadays). I say “perhaps” because I simply don’t know; but I think the sisters should be cut some slack until we see this tragic scenario within its full and complex context.

Yours etc.,

Kevin McEvoy fsc, Dublin 10.


We should refuse to pay our TV license

Dear Editor, Fr Kevin McNamara (IC 23/02/2017) is rightly concerned about the dismissive response he received from The Late Late Show producer. The same producer claims he wants fresh faces and yet two weeks later, he recycled Fr Brian D’Arcy to regale us with his regrets that he did not marry.

It is understandable that those who do not comprehend the significance of what happens at Mass might openly question the mystery behind a central Catholic belief. What is less understandable is the ignorance and total lack of respect that leads to people mocking the sacred beliefs of others and I include Ryan Tubridy and his producer in this. And then they feel competent to tell us that what they did was not sacrilegious.

Why should we continue to pay a TV license fee to pay inflated salaries to self-appointed celebrities who are only too happy to insult their paymasters? However one looks at it, the term ‘haunted bread’ is nothing other than insulting.

Sadly the vaunted powers at RTÉ are blind to their anti-religious prejudices including their willingness to distribute sex aids “for every member of the audience”.

Yours etc.,

Alan Whelan,


Co. Kerry.


Dear Editor, In relation to the ongoing saga about the ‘provocative’ remarks made on The Late Late Show which has many readers and viewers quite rightly exercised, may I make a simple suggestion? I’m wondering if there is a precedent by which people could refuse to pay their TV license on the grounds of being insulted and discriminated against? (I firmly believe that many Catholics now find themselves part of a minority group who are ridiculed, bullied and discriminated against at every opportunity, particularly by some sections of the ‘national broadcaster’!)

It’s just a thought but possibly might have a little more impact than entering into a war of words with people who neither have the ability nor desire to distinguish between what is ‘provocative’ and just downright insulting!

Yours etc.,

Fr Dominic Meehan,


Co. Tipperar


Society needs to learn from past mistakes

Dear Editor, From the death of Cardinal Connell, to the resignation of Marie Collins, to the report by the Commission of Investigation in to Mother and Baby Homes, over recent weeks we have had to face once again the terrible subject of child abuse and Church failures.

The Church in Ireland neglected its moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable, that is indisputable. However, Irish society was a harsh place to live for anyone not conforming or perceived to be stepping outside the line. Our treatment of unmarried mothers and their children as a society was appalling. Our treatment of abuse victims as a society was appalling. Really our treatment of children in general was terrible. My mother could make my skin crawl when she recounted her experience of being savagely beaten by a lay male teacher in primary school in the 1950s.

We must learn from our mistakes. I don’t think it is healthy or that it serves any purpose to have politicians and media commentators wringing their hands about the past. What we need from them now is action to ensure that as a nation and a society that we do not make the mistakes of the past, or the next scandal will be the treatment of children of asylum seekers growing up in direct provision, the children of Travellers facing a shorter life span than their peers or the treatments of children growing up within the scourge of drug addiction.

Yours etc.,

Maureen Scanlon,


Co. Louth.


Parents fighting to save Roscrea school

Dear Editor, I was glad to see the report that the parents of pupils at the Cistercian College in Roscrea are fighting to retain the school (‘Parents’ campaign offers Roscrea possible lifeline’ IC 02/03/2017). It would be such a shame to see an institution of that calibre come to an end. Besides, with such eminent past pupils as Brian Cowen, Conor Brady and Dick Spring, surely it would not be that difficult for them to rustle up a few bob to save their old alma mater.

Yours etc.,

John Rogers,

Swords, Co. Dublin.


Parishes are reaching out in modern ways

Dear Editor, Well done to Glenamaddy parish in Co. Galway for thinking outside the box and offering a ‘drive-thru’ Ash Wednesday service and Lenten box (IC 23/02/2017). It obviously captured the nation’s imagination with all the media coverage it received last week, but more importantly it also attracted good numbers to avail of the service.

This follows on from previous parish initiatives elsewhere where priests offered Confession in shopping centres. I have also noticed from social media that a few parishes this year offered a simple lunch of soup and bread after Mass on Ash Wednesday with all donations going to charity.

I am delighted to see priests and parish councils coming up with these innovative projects, which reach out to people and adapt to the modern pace of life.

Yours etc.,

Brid Hennessey,


Dublin 24


Young people do not understand Confession

Dear Editor, Fr Iggy O’Donovan was recently quoted as saying that Confession has declined because people have “thrown off the shackles” in their rejection of the idea that sex is a sin and that he is pleased about that.

This is too simplistic because the rejection of the idea of sin is not solely confined to the area of sexuality.

The younger generation simply do not know what constitutes sin – they do not feel they need to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because they do not understand. It is a sad state of affairs.

Yours etc.,

Mary Gallagher,


Dublin 3.