Archbishop Barry Hickey
Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey says he has "little evidence" of forced adoption practices in Catholic hospitals despite a national apology delivered by the health arm of the Catholic Church yesterday for "unethical or unlawful" adoption practices of the past, reports the West Australian.
Archbishop Hickey said if the Church had forced young women to give up their babies for adoption against their will, then it was right for the Church to apologise and offer counselling and support.
But he said Church adoptions in WA were arranged privately through a lawyer and the consent of the woman had been a requirement.
"However, I have heard of unfeeling comments made by priests to pregnant girls that may well have caused them to give their babies up for adoption," Archbishop Hickey said.
"If that was the case, then I do apologise sincerely for their insensitivity."
His comments have angered groups working for the rights of women and children separated through forced adoptions and fly in the face of an official apology for past adoption practices made by the State Government in October last year, the paper said.
Catholic Health Australia's chief executive, Martin Laverty, publicly apologised this week for the role of Catholic hospitals in adoption practices that he said would not be tolerated today.
A Senate inquiry is investigating former forced adoptions and has been told that thousands of babies were taken by government and church authorities from unmarried mothers and put up for adoption in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The ABC reports that co-ordinator of Adoption Jigsaw, Isabel Andrews, said there is no doubt that the practice did occur.
"I'm concerned that Archbishop Hickey isn't aware of the commissions, both in New South Wales, the federal inquiry, the hundreds and thousands of women who've presented evidence across Australia as to some of the treatment they received," she said.
Convener of the Apology Alliance Christine Cole told The West Australian there was a mountain of evidence that showed the practice of forced adoptions.
Ms Cole said that last year the Catholic Sisters of Mercy apologised for their part in the illegal adoption of Albany woman Judith Henriksen's newborn son in 1973.
Archbishop Hickey told the ABC he has spoken to the Sisters of Mercy: "The Sisters of Mercy have said that it wasn't their policy to do that but you can't control everybody I suppose," he said.
"What they think is that in many cases it was the parents who put the pressure on."
Archbishop Hickey says the sisters insist there were no such forced adoption practices at Saint Anne's hospital which is now known as Mercy hospital.
The ABC also reports that a former nurse who saw dozens of babies delivered at Saint Anne's says she did not see nuns forcing young mothers to give up their babies.
73 year-old Wendy-Anne Baston trained as a mid-wife at Saint Anne's Catholic hospital in Mount Lawley between 1962 and 1963.
She says society was to blame for the forced adoptions.
FULL STORY AND RELATED COVERAGE
Archbishop doubts all adoptions were forced (The West Australian)
Anger over Archbishop's forced adoption comments (ABC)
Church entities apologize for forcing adoptions on single mothers (Catholic News Service)
The Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia