Ireland has been anxiously anticipating Pope Francis' upcoming visit, and this woman has something to say about it.
Helen McNamara recently shared a powerful testimony about her experience with the Catholic Church and titled it an “Open letter to Pope Francis”.
The aggrieved mother shared her journey from womb to womanhood, explaining that she had been born inside a religious institution in the village of Castlepollard in Co. Westmeath.
The woman was a 'nameless' baby when she was adopted by a loving family, who christened her 'Helen'.
Now a mum with a family of her own, she returned to her birthplace to seek answers about her biological mother. “Forty-seven years later, I went to the exact same address in Castlepollard,” Helen wrote.
Now owned by the state, she was led to the chapel nearby where an employee explained: “how things had worked in Castlepollard in the days of the nuns.”
Young women felt compelled to give up their babies to “wealthy Irish women and foreign people” or families simply wanting to provide a safe and loving home.
After hearing the hardship of women in this position, Helen completely understood when her own birth mother, Bridget, confessed that she never told a soul of her existence.
Bridget was too terrified to even consider meeting her grown daughter.
And Helen has some words to say about her mother's experience to not only Pope Francis but to those in attendance of his visit as well.
She dubbed the church’s acts “disgustingly shameful” and called for more than an apology: “I just wonder what good an apology from you is to the thousands of victims of the institution of the Catholic Church.”
Helen calls out Pope Francis for his €30 million, all-expenses-paid visit to Dublin and asks why the church, that she claims makes over €4 billion, cannot fund its own “publicity trip”.
The mum continues by shifting her focus to those who have obtained tickets to see the pope. She asks if the "half a million planning to attend" have forgotten about “the baby trafficking, the systemic demoralisation and shaming of women for doing something as natural as eating and breathing.
“Have they forgotten about the divide the behaviour and teachings of this church caused in our land, and most importantly, have the WOMEN attending this event, have they absolutely no soul at all.”
While Helen may be spot on naming the atrocious acts the Catholic Church has been accused of, not everyone agrees with her attack on the women planning to be present for his visit.
One commenter replied: “I do also believe Francis is a good man. Much has improved but more can be done including helping victims. The law must also step up to the mark in all of this.”
He argued that wanting to see the pope does not mean that people condone the church’s past actions.
Helen concluded her letter with a call to action, demanding that Pope Francis take action instead of merely apologising to the public.
“Why don’t you, Pope Francis, offer to fund counselling to the thousands and thousands of people who have been affected by the churches actions. We don’t need meaningless apologies [..]
“We need for you to help repair the damage done to the victims, and this is best done by counselling which can then hopefully help them to learn to forgive – both themselves and your church.”
Many have called Helen's bold letter a “nail on the absolute head” and “well said”.
Like Bridget, women and mums have been deeply affected by the horrific institutions and conditions for young girls during those times.
A few months ago in June, 230 Magdalene survivors travelled from all over the world for commemoration. The survivors were finally able to share their tragic experiences and start their process of healing as a community.
“We're being heard after all these years,” one woman said.
It is inspiring to see victims of clerical abuse, like those mentioned in Helen’s letter, band together, and start healing old wounds.
The pope’s visit has caused widespread controversy about the Catholic Church’s actions and its interwoven threads throughout the country’s past.
Helen’s words have moved many, contributing to heightened tension nationwide, especially as we wait to see how the public will react to Pope Francis’ arrival.