Monday, 9 June 2014

A (Hopefully) Final Comment on the Tuam Matter

 Yesterday this article was drawn to my attention. The article makes a number of good points placing the tragedy in its proper context and pointing out that there is still much that we don't know. Another good article on the matter can be found here.

As the friend who pointed these articles out to me rightly noted, there has been a rush to judgement on this issue and, as I confessed last week, I too was guilty of that. It's also helpful to note that problems of this kind were by no means peculiar to Catholicism and I think that the author of the Telegraph article makes a good point about the way certain people react to such acts by Catholics versus those committed by Muslims.

Having said all that, there are still hard truths in this matter for Catholics to face up to. There may yet be much that don't know but we know enough to know that a culture existed which allowed serious injustices to happen against unwed mothers and their children.

We can point out that protestants and other institutions were as bad as Catholic ones. We can point to the surrounding culture; that's all useful as context, but, as a defence of the Church it will only go so far. We Catholics claim to have the fullness of the Gospel, we have the guidance of what we believe to be an infallible magisterium and we have grace of the sacraments. We should be doing better than everyone else. If the best we can say is that we were no worse than others, then we need to remember Christ's words that "to whom much is given, from him much will be expected." (Luke 24:18).

 Blaming the surrounding culture will also only go so far. This is 1950s Ireland we're talking about. The Church was very influential in that culture. If aspects of that culture were unjust, what was the Church doing to confront and change the culture? Where were the letters from the Bishops warning that, while fornication is a sin, the culture that treated being an unwed mother as the worst possible sin was closer to the spirit of the Pharisees than to Christ? Where were the priests warning from the pulpit that those who treated illegitimate children as though they were somehow guilty of their parent's sins was to oppress orphans, one of the four sins that cries to Heaven for vengeance?

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