An order of nuns headquartered in Maryland has apologized for its role in Irish laundries depicted in the controversial film The Magdalene Sisters.
The movie, which has been criticized by conservative Catholic groups, was released nationally last week and tells the story of three women who in the 1960s were forced to work under abusive conditions.
In a statement issued from their Silver Spring headquarters, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, with 5,000 members in the Americas and Asia, said the laundries represent "a time in the history of the Catholic Church and religious orders of which we are not proud.
"As women religious committed to mercy and justice throughout the world," the statement continues, "we grieve with all victims of the Magdalene Laundries and pray that they experience God's comfort and healing in their lives."
A spokeswoman for the Sisters of Mercy said the apology was an attempt to "fully disclose" what happened.
"It's not proper to hide from anything," spokeswoman Stacie Royster said. "We're all human, we've all made mistakes. ... We do reach out and apologize to anyone who may have been abused at the hands of our sisters, or any sisters."
The Sisters of Mercy operated at least three laundries in Ireland, all of which are now closed; other laundries were operated by other orders, Royster said. The order also operated a Magdalene Asylum in San Francisco; responsibility for the facility, which was not a laundry, was turned over to another order in 1932.