I am so saddened, I really do not know what to say.
The headline in the Australian newspaper really said it all.
796 Irish orphans in septic tank tomb
…… a researcher found records for 796 young children believed to be buried in a mass grave beside a former Catholic nun-run orphanage for the children of unwed mothers …… suggests a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place of most if not all of the children ….. the children mostly babies and toddlers, died mostly of sickness or disease in the orphanage during the 35 years it operated during 1926 to 1961 …. such out of wedlock children were denied baptism and if they died at such facilities Christian burial …… often buried their dead in unmarked graves and unconsecrated ground
The Australian 5th June, 2014
Didn’t Jesus say, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”? Well, it didn’t happen in that place, did it? Didn’t He also say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck.” What answer do those nuns have to that?
We, the church, the bearers and transmitters of the Gospel message stand condemned! Condemned also by our very self righteousness in the way we are only too quick to tell others how to live, only to cover up failings in our own communities.
Not just failings but crimes against humanity!
Forty years ago when I began working in Kings Cross, Sydney I came upon these very issues. Unmarried mothers forced to give their babies up for adoption. Often the unmarried father having his life ruined also. One of my most treasured possessions is a letter from a man who, decades earlier, had fathered an illegitimate child given up for adoption. He subsequently married the mother. As his letter progressed he told of the aching gap in their hearts for this child and asked me to help them find the child. I well remember and still bear the scars of authorities both church and secular attacking me for bringing the issue of neglected and abused children into the spotlight. Nobody wanted to hear the stories of repeated sexual abuse of these children.
The kids would tell me stories of abused kids being buried. As usual, unexplored, these stories dissolved into folklore.
I knew in my bones it was wrong then. Apologists will say, “Well that went on in those days and it’s a different culture now”. Mark my words it was wrong in those days.
Above and beyond all of this with its arms smugly folded, covered by a cloak of absolute certainty in being the only messenger of God, the church regarded itself as the sole arbiter of right and wrong; the sole judge of good and evil, the only organisation whose ethics counted for anything; the sole teacher of right and wrong.
And I, me, Bill, aware of my own fallibilities and weaknesses through my own ordination, like a little child, gripped the church’s hand believing it would keep me strong.
Well , I gotta admit I was wrong. Nowadays I don’t think the church has any more authority than any other individual or community organisation to speak out on matters of morals and justice. In the market place of morals, justice and ideas, it has been found to be lacking. Undermined by what we now find to be an ever increasing number of priests, laity and clergy whose very actions betrayed those very vows they made at their ordination.
I keep thinking of those poor little children tossed down that well. Denied baptism, denied succour and comfort, denied every good thing God wants for all young children born on this earth.
And to think many of those abusers and those who deny and cover up that abuse wear the very cross on which Jesus was so abused and reviled.
I can only believe that Jesus himself would have been at the bottom of that well with arms wide open catching those little bodies and souls as they fell.