The mother-and-baby homes are institutions administered by Catholic nuns, where pregnant women are invited to give birth. In almost every case, the women involved were unmarried and couldn't take care of their child, due to economic difficulties and social pressure, since, in deeply religious Ireland, illegitimate children were frowned upon, even if the pregnancy was the result of rape. Conditions in these institutions were however abysmal. Women were verbally abused and children malnourished. During the '40s, around half the babies died, before they reach their first birthday, but, even in later decades, the mortality rate was approximately double that of the national average. In the most notorious case of abuse, a mass-grave was found with tens of children skeletons, dropped there unceremoniously by the nuns of the Bon Secours order. The surviving infants were sent for adoption, often under illegal circumstances, in a process that has been labelled as human trafficking. There were even instances of nuns embezzling the money mothers dedicated for the care of their children.

The commission tasked by the Irish government with investigating the abuses occuring in mother-and-baby homes in Ireland finally released its findings to the public. Its conclusions confirm the previous observations. Mortality rates were extremely high and, although physical violence was very rare, nuns were apparently not very worried at the prospect of illegitimate babies dying due to criminal neglect. A bit weird, given how adamant the Christian clergy usually is, when it comes to abortion. Anyway, I'm glad that these abuses finally came to light, but it's also a pity that the culprits won't face justice for their murderous behaviour. The hiearchy of the Catholic Church of Ireland was not directly implicated in the affair, but, since they authorised the functioning of these institutions, they are still responsible for letting this abuse go unnoticed for tens of years.

Nowadays, the situation has improved consierably. The Catholic Church is not as influential (even the blasphemy law has been gradually removed from the Constitution) as it used to be and the legalisation of abortion, as well as the more relaxed moral stance on unwed mothers, means that the necessity for these institutions is also much smaller. Still, the tragedy of Bon Secours shows what can happen, in the context of an intolerant society, when important institutions are allowed to operate without any supervision whatsoever, despite being run by staff that is often untrained, bigoted and corrupt.