DUBLIN – Pope Francis on Saturday met eight survivors of clerical abuse for 90 minutes during his 32-hour trip to Ireland. The group included not only those sexually abused by clergy, but also people who spent time in industrial schools and mother and baby homes, all of which have been the settings for abuse scandals.
According to victims who took part, Francis condemned corruption and cover-up within the Church, using the Spanish word caca that was translated by a papal interpreter as “filth one sees in a toilet.”
A literal translation would be “shit.”
The meeting took place in the home of the papal representative in the country, on the first day of the pope’s 32-hour visit to Ireland.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke released a statement soon after the meeting, saying Francis “met early Saturday evening for an hour and a half with eight Irish survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse.”
Among the survivors who met with Francis were Marie Collins, a survivor herself who resigned from the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in protest over slowdowns in reform; Clodagh Malone, a survivor of St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home; and Paul Jude Redmond, who was born in a Mother and Baby home and has written a book entitled The Adoption Machine.
Also present were Patrick McCafferty; Father Joe McDonald; Councilor Damian O’Farrell; and Bernadette Fahy. The eighth survivor, abused by Father Tony Walsh, requested to remain anonymous.
Soon after the meeting, Redmond and Malone put out a statement defining the meeting as “cordial and polite,” and they were the ones who reported the pope calling abuse and corruption caca.
Malone asked the pope to “clearly and publicly state that natural mothers who lost their babies to adoption had done nothing wrong and call for reconciliation and reunion for these families broken by the Catholic Church, both in Ireland and around the world, in countries such as Spain where approximately 300,000 single mothers lost their children to adoption.”
According to the statement released by the “The Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors,” Francis agreed to include a message to this end when he says Mass in Phoenix Park on Sunday before heading back to Rome.
Redmond, who was born in Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home and adopted at 17 days, said he “asked the pope to publicly call upon the orders of nuns who ran the Mother and Baby homes to immediately accept their responsibilities for the horror that went on for generations in the homes, issue an unqualified and sincere apology and, pay the full costs of Inquiries and Redress in Ireland as a matter of urgency.”
“The pope did apologize to all of us for what happened in the homes,” the statement said.
The survivors handed a letter to the pope, in English and in Spanish, telling him that an estimated 100,000 mothers were forcibly separated from their babies in Ireland.
“As an act of healing, Pope Francis, we ask you to make it clear to the elderly and dying community of natural mothers and adoptees that there was no sin in the reunion,” says the letter, quoted by the Irish Times.