Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Ireland

Bodies of 800 Babies, Long-Dead, Found in Septic Tank at Former Irish Home for Unwed Mothers

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In the Washington Post:

In a town in western Ireland, where castle ruins pepper green landscapes, there’s a six-foot stone wall that once surrounded a place called the Home. Between 1925 and 1961, thousands of “fallen women” and their “illegitimate” children passed through the Home, run by the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam.

Many of the women, after paying a penance of indentured servitude for their out-of-wedlock pregnancy, left the Home for work and lives in other parts of Ireland and beyond. Some of their children were not so fortunate.

More than five decades after the Home was closed and destroyed — where a housing development and children’s playground now stands — what happened to nearly 800 of those abandoned children has now emerged: Their bodies were piled into a massive septic tank sitting in the back of the structure and forgotten, with neither gravestones nor coffins.

“The bones are still there,” local historian Catherine Corless, who uncovered the origins of the mass grave in a batch of never-before-released documents, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “The children who died in the Home, this was them.”

The grim findings, which are being investigated by police, provide a glimpse into a particularly dark time for unmarried pregnant women in Ireland, where societal and religious mores stigmatized them. Without means to support themselves, women by the hundreds wound up at the Home. “When daughters became pregnant, they were ostracized completely,” Corless said. “Families would be afraid of neighbors finding out, because to get pregnant out of marriage was the worst thing on Earth. It was the worst crime a woman could commit, even though a lot of the time it had been because of a rape.”

According to documents Corless provided the Irish Mail on Sunday, malnutrition and neglect killed many of the children, while others died of measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia. Infant mortality at the Home was staggeringly high. “If you look at the records, babies were dying two a week, but I’m still trying to figure out how they could [put the bodies in a septic tank],” Corless said. “Couldn’t they have afforded baby coffins?”

Rest here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

June 3, 2014 at 17:03

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Plans for First Mixed Catholic and Protestant School in Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland’s first shared education campus for Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren has been granted planning approval.

Up to six schools with 3,700 pupils are expected to be based at a former Army barracks in Omagh, Co Tyrone, Stormont’s power-sharing government revealed today. The relic of the region’s 30-year conflict is to be transformed into a 126-acre development to educate the next generation together…

SDLP Planning Minister Alex Attwood said: “The new campus will be at the forefront of shared education in Omagh and the North.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers this week said renewed efforts should be made to tackle sectarianism which has characterised much of the region’s past. The Stormont Executive is still considering a cohesion, sharing and integration strategy…

Rest here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 3, 2013 at 21:09

Israeli Embassy: If Jesus and Mary Were Alive Today, They Would Be ‘Lynched in Bethlehem by Hostile Palestinians’

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Israel’s diplomatic corps finds itself in hot water after posting an inflammatory message on an official Facebook page. Although the message has now been deleted, this is not the first time Israel has used social media to post controversial views.

The message appeared on the Israel in Ireland Facebook page – which is linked to on the official embassy site – on Monday morning. The post comprised a painting of Mary and Jesus, accompanied by the following caption:

“A thought for Christmas… If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians. Just a thought…”

The message sparked immediate heated debate, but was taken down within hours.

“An image of Jesus and Mary with a derogatory comment about Palestinians was posted without the consent of the administrator of the Facebook page. We have removed the post in question immediately. Apologies to anyone who may have been offended,” said an official statement from the Israeli embassy in Dublin.

Since then, the Israel in Ireland page has been shut down altogether, and the link on the official website has been removed…


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 18, 2012 at 13:07

Irish Archbishop Loses his Crook

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News from Ireland:

The Most Reverend Doctor Richard Clarke was striking the West Door of St Patrick’s Cathedral three times as part of the traditional ceremony when his staff snapped in two.

However he took the mishap in good humour and held the broken staff together as he was welcomed into the cathedral to deliver an address.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 18, 2012 at 07:05

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: Religion and Atheism in Ireland

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Vatican Radio:

A survey published this week has revealed that only 47% of people in Ireland consider themselves to be religious. Responding to the findings of the Global Index of Religion and Atheism, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin says the data is a further reminder of the need to take religious education – particularly among adults – seriously. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:


In a letter published on the Archdiocese website Abp. Martin states that “Catholic Church…cannot simply presume that the faith will automatically be passed from one generation to the next or be lived to the full by its own members”.

He notes that “the emphasis on religious education in schools – vital as it is – has perhaps taken attention away from the need for adult religious education. By adult religious education I mean religious education of such quality that it treats men and women as adults, addressing the questions which adult Christians have to face as they live their faith in today’s changing world”.

The Archbishop of Dublin also points out that Church leaders need to garner the visible enthusiasm for strong catechesis that they encountered among ordinary Catholics during the recent Eucharistic Congress, before it’s too late. He urges parishes to redouble their efforts in applying the National Directory of Catechesis Share the Good News suggesting the upcoming Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI presents the perfect opportunity of this.

Global Index of Religion and Atheism
Comments of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

The findings regarding Ireland of the Global Index of Religion and Atheism, while they still require closer critical reading, remind believers of the challenges facing people of faith in a changing Ireland. The Catholic Church, on its part, cannot simply presume that the faith will automatically be passed from one generation to the next or be lived to the full by its own members. This survey is just one further reminder of the need for strong on-going education in the faith.

In my recent talk at the recent MacGill Summer School I drew attention to the fact that the Catholic Church in Ireland is far behind other European Churches in the way it addresses the formation of people in their faith. The emphasis on religious education in schools – vital as it is – has perhaps taken attention away from the need for adult religious education. By adult religious education I mean religious education of such quality that it treats men and women as adults, addressing the questions which adult Christians have to face as they live their faith in today’s changing world.

The excellent and stimulating National Directory of Catechesis Share the Good News was launched some years ago by the Irish Catholic Bishops but its application has been very slow and it has not yet made the inroads into popular catechetics and parish life that it needs to.

However, findings such as those contained in the Global Index must not be read in isolation – but as another signpost of the reality of our journey of renewal in the Irish Church. The enthusiasm and joy expressed by people who attended the recent Eucharistic Congress in their thousands is another – more positive – signpost.

The forthcoming Year of Faith announced by His Holiness Pope Benedict gets underway in October and provides the Irish Church with another opportunity, just months after the moment of renewal that was the International Eucharistic Congress – to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith.

There are, without doubt, many in the Irish Catholic Church willing to take up the challenge of turning the corner of renewal and to witnessing in the Ireland of tomorrow to the hope that comes to them through their faith in Jesus Christ.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 10, 2012 at 14:05

Ireland Abandoning Religion Faster than Almost Every other Country

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nullSad news:

The Republic of Ireland is abandoning religion faster than almost every other country worldwide, a massive global survey on faith reveals.

Only Vietnam has seen a bigger drop in people declaring themselves to be religious over the past seven years, a period when the Catholic Church in Ireland has been rocked by sex-abuse scandals and a crisis of leadership.

Red C interviewed more than 51,000 people worldwide, including just over 1,000 people in the Republic.

An overwhelming 69% of Irish people declared themselves to be “a religious person” in the last survey conducted in 2005, but this has now plummeted to 47%.

Last night the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said the results of the global index required “closer critical reading” but he acknowledged that it highlighted the challenges facing the Catholic faith in a changing Ireland.

“The Catholic Church, on its part, cannot simply presume that the faith will automatically be passed from one generation to the next or be lived to the full by its own members,” he said last night.

There was a need for strong ongoing education in the faith, he said, with a growing need for adult religious education to stop people drifting from the faith as they got older.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office said faith was not a “numbers game”.

And it said the latest survey contrasted sharply with last year’s census in the Republic, which found that 84% described themselves as Catholic, and just 5% said they had no religion.

But according to the latest research, the Republic is now in the top 10 for the number of people declaring themselves to be “a convinced atheist”.

Although this is still a minority group at 10%, it puts the country high in the global league table, and is a stark rise from 3% seven years ago.

The poll asked people, irrespective of whether they attended a place of worship, if they considered themselves to be religious, not religious, or an atheist.

However, the nature of the question may have affected the results — something the pollsters themselves admit.

They said that while there had been a 9% drop globally in the number describing themselves as “religious”, most people still felt part of the faith they grew up in.

However, it will still come as a blow to the Catholic Church in Ireland, and is the second survey in recent months to show massive alienation among the population.

A survey in February by market research group Amarach found the public at odds with the church hierarchy on a range of issues, including women clergy and married priests.

That survey, which questioned more than 1,000 Irish Catholics, found that 77% believed women should be ordained.

Nine out of 10 said priests should be able to marry. It also revealed just 35% went to church on a weekly basis.

However nothing has been done to address the crisis in the church in the six months since the Amarach survey was carried out.

The Catholic Communications Office was asked what actions had been taken by the bishops since the survey was published.

But a spokesman declined to comment, saying the study had been commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests, a group of 800 clerics who are critical of the hierarchy.

Asked about the new Red C poll, the spokesman queried the language used by the poll.

“The word ‘religious’, if left unqualified, is too general to be used as the keyword in a survey questionnaire — especially in the Irish context — where people prefer words such as ‘spiritual’. Being ‘religious’ is a very subjective measurement,” said a spokesman.

“For example, in the Catholic Church, someone who attends Mass on a daily basis may not describe themselves as ‘religious’, yet they are outwardly a person of deep faith.”

Fr Brendan Hoban, a spokesman for the ACP, said the Red C results were “predictable enough” given the fall-off in Mass attendance and the drop in interest in the Catholic Church in recent years.

However, he said Irish Catholic numbers were “holding up markedly” and pointed to the Census figures and the 35% attending Mass on a weekly basis.

He suggested that the Catholic Church was “almost traumatised” by the scandals of the last 10 to 15 years, and this was affecting its ability to take steps to address declining religious observation.

“It’s so difficult for the bishops to provide leadership because, on the one hand, if they speak out, they are criticised, and if they don’t speak out, they are also criticised.”

Meanwhile, Michael Nugent of Atheism Ireland said the Red C poll showed people were rejecting the idea that atheism was an “extreme position”.

He said the figure of 10% of the population being atheists could be an under-estimation, as there were still people who did not believe in a God, but disliked the “atheist” label.

The Red C global poll also found that the richer you got, the less religious you defined yourself. Religiosity was higher among the poor, with people in the bottom-income groups 17% more religious than those in the top-earning groups.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 8, 2012 at 15:57

Al-Qaeda Official: Catholics in Ireland ‘Fertile Ground’ for Conversion

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The Catholic Herald is reporting:

A US al-Qaeda official concluded that Catholics were “fertile ground” for conversion, “particularly after the rage expanding against the mother church [Vatican] as a result of its scandals and policies refused by many of its public”.

American al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn wrote to Osama bin Laden in January 2011 and laid out reasons for reaching out to Catholics, particularly the Irish. He urged bin Laden to use public anger at the Church’s mishandling of clerical abuse to encourage Irish people to convert to Islam, according to newly declassified documents.

The letter was contained in files allegedly found at bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout after he was killed by US special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, last May.

The Combating Terrorism Centre, a privately funded research base at the US Military Academy at West Point, posted a number of declassified documents belonging to bin Laden on its website yesterday.

They were taken in the raid on his house.

The letter from Mr Gadahn particularly highlighted the reason for approaching the Irish, noting Ireland was not a participant in “Bush’s Crusade wars”.

It noted “the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals and others” and speaks of the hunger of youths because of the economic downturn in Ireland.

Mr Gadahn wrote that Irish people, “who were the most religious of atheist Europe”, were moving toward secularism.

“Why do not we face them with Islam?” he asked.

He said he considered preparing a similar message to Catholics living in Arab regions, calling them to Islam: “Catholics were historically the prominent enemies of the Jews, among the other Christians. They were also the original enemies to the evangelist Protestant[s] who were the vanguard of the Crusades.

“Their public in general, these days, is more sympathetic and understanding of the Muslims, than other Protestant and Orthodox Christians,” he said.

However, he said he put off his message following backlash from an attack on a Catholic church in Iraq.

Fifty-eight people died in an attack on the Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad on October 31, 2010, after military officials tried to end a terrorist siege of the church.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 4, 2012 at 14:37

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