I HAVE encountered many women who have felt guilt and shame due to the teachings of the Church. These have included victims of abuse, single mums, and those who have divorced... to name but a few. 

My mum was a single mum. Every time she would share tiny snippets of her story, I could always detect her sense of shame. I remember in my teens asking my mum why she never remarried. She answered: “The church said I can never remarry because I got divorced.” 

Growing up in the Church, I remember being taught such teachings regarding the ‘expected’ role of women in the home, church and society. Such poor and appalling theology still exists today. I have often wondered what a different life my mum might have lived had she not been made to feel such shame by the Church. These teachings have been ingrained in Irish society for far too long.

As I read the recent report regarding the Mother and Baby Homes my heart is broken. I’m heartbroken for every mum, child and family affected. Nine thousand precious children lost their lives at Church-run homes.

We have just celebrated Christmas. The Church accept and honour the unnoticed, unmarried teenager – Mary (and her child, Jesus) and yet they have a horrific history of rejecting and abusing many unmarried pregnant teenagers and women.

The very place that should have loved and protected women – failed miserably.  I believe the ancient words of the prophet, Amos, are timely.

I can’t stand your religious meetings.                                                                                  I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.                                                                 I want nothing to do with your religion projects,                                                                    your pretentious slogans and goals.                                                                                     I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,                                                                               Your public relations and image-making.                                                                            I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.                                                                 When was the last time you sang to me?                                                                                    Do you know what I want? I want justice – oceans of it.                                                                I want fairness – rivers of it.                                                                                                    That’s what I want. That’s all I want.                                                                                 (Amos 5 21-24)

Each family deserves justice. Each family deserves answers. Each family deserves redress. I appreciate that the Churches’ released statements in response to the Mother and Baby Homes. But we must do more. We must strive to make sure women are treated with equality.

The Church cannot apologise for their involvement in the Mother and Baby Homes, and yet continue to turn a blind eye to the treatment of women in Church today. Maybe the Irish Church should seize this opportunity to rethink their teaching regarding the role of women.

We cannot deny that patriarchal structures still exist and these are filtered into our communities. I have often said that the Church will never reach her full potential if it continues to deny women equality. The gospel is about love, grace and acceptance – not shame, guilt or condemnation. Let’s remember, there is no such thing as a Godly abuser. There is no such thing as a Godly oppressor. There is no such thing as a Godly misogynist.