Pope Francis met for 90 minutes with eight survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse at the Vatican nunciature in Dublin, Ireland this Saturday afternoon, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke announced today.
Pope Francis was scheduled to speak this evening to a large group in attendance at the World Meeting of Families, and then to celebrate Mass tomorrow with an expected crowd of half a million people in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
The group of survivors included Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest at the age of 12. She was a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors before she resigned in protest of Vatican inaction on the issue in 2017. The others present were identified as Bernadette Fahy, Damian O’Farrell, Paul Jude Redmond, Clodagh Aileen Malone, and two priests: Fathers Patrick McCafferty and Joe McDonald. One survivor asked to remain anonymous.
Two of the survivors, Paul Jude Redmond and Clodagh Aileen Malone, issued a statement after the meeting in which they said they are cofounders of “The Coalition of Mother And Baby Homes Survivors” (together with Derek Leinster from the Protestant Bethany Home and Theresa Hiney, neither of whom were present). They described the coalition as a worldwide coalition of Mother and Baby Homes survivors.
Survivors of sex abuse to Pope Francis: Institutions in Ireland "have never taken responsibility for their willful neglect."
Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes were maternity homes created by religious orders to help unwed mothers and their children. They have been under intense scrutiny in recent years for their policies of separating mothers from their children, engaging in widespread institutional abuse of women and children, and covering up physical and sexual abuse for decades.
Their statement revealed that survivor Clodagh Aileen Malone, who was born in Saint Patrick's Mother and Baby Home in Dublin and adopted at 10 weeks old, asked the Pope to state clearly and publicly that the natural mothers who lost their babies to adoption had done nothing wrong and to call for reconciliation and reunion for these families broken by the Catholic Church both in Ireland and around the world. They said that Pope Francis had agreed to include their message in his Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park tomorrow, Aug. 26.
Paul Jude Redmond, who was born in Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home and adopted at 17 days, asked Pope Francis to publicly call upon the orders of women religious who ran the Mother and Baby Homes to immediately accept their responsibilities for the horror that went on for generations in those institutions, to issue an unqualified and sincere apology, and to pay the full costs of investigations into and restitution for the abuses in Ireland. Survivors also told Pope Francis that the religious orders who ran the homes “have never taken responsibility for their willful neglect.” They asked the pope “to publicly call on these nuns to acknowledge their actions and issue an unqualified apology to all the survivors of their institutions.”
The survivors also gave Pope Francis a copy of Mr. Redmond's book, The Adoption Machine, which contains details of the thousands of deaths and horrors that occurred at the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland.
Their statement quoted Clodagh Aileen Malone as saying “(It was a) very powerful meeting. He listened with a genuine interest. And he asked many questions about Mother and Baby Homes. "
One survivor of sex abuse said that Pope Francis “was genuinely shocked” to hear of the abuses that took place at these institutions, “and so lifted his hands to his head in shock."
The survivors gave a letter to Pope Francis which informed him that “around 100,000 single mothers who were forcibly separated from their babies were regularly told it was a mortal sin to search for, or even contact, their own sons and daughters.” They asked the pope “as an act of healing” that he “make it clear to the now elderly and dying community of natural mothers and adoptees, that there is no sin in reunion and rather that it is a joyous event that should be encouraged and facilitated by the Catholic Church.”
"We feel hopeful there will be more movement from the church on the issue of Mother and Baby Homes,” Mr. Redmond was quoted. He said Pope Francis “was genuinely shocked” to hear of the abuses that took place at these institutions, “and so lifted his hands to his head in shock."
They said that Pope Francis “did apologize to all of us for what happened in the Homes,” and that he condemned the corruption and coverup of abuses within the church as “filth” (“caca”).