Friday, May 22, 2009

What in God's name

I sent this to a number of bishops of the Catholic Church, one of whom, Bishop Pageter, is someone I know. It is a reaction to the recent report concerning the abuse of children in Irish reform schools that were run by Catholic priests and nuns.

If any non-religious organization had enslaved, brutalized and raped on the scale that the Irish Church has, its entire governing body would be on trial. Any surviving perpetrators of these atrocities would now be in jail. I imagine that faithful Catholics reacted in horror at the case of the Austrian man who imprisoned and raped his daughter. Any sane person believes that surviving Nazi camp guards who raped and tortured should be held to account, no matter how long since the atrocity was committed. In what Universe, in what deranged part of any supposedly sane person's psyche, is there one second of sympathy, one grain of understanding for this sort of institutional eradication of other people's lives and spirits? On which day of which bizarre other-worldly week is there one nanosecond during which any man or woman could possibly think that any of this is understandable or forgivable? Every Catholic office, every Church computer, every scrap of paper ever generated in a Catholic Church, should be in the hands of the police and the entire organization should be shut down until all defenders and perpetrators of these crimes are brought to trial. Strange as it may seem, I find myself deeply saddened by this in a way I never expected. In all these years of revelation about these crimes I truly thought the Catholic Church was probably no worse in its treatment of children than any other institution. Not that the crimes were not heinous, whether committed by a Boy Scout leader or a Rabbi, and institutional reaction is always the same - circle the wagons, defend the criminals, avoid paying money or admitting guilt. But this. This. I cannot stop thinking about my parents and how they are among those, perhaps, trying to find some light in all of this, struggling to find a reason to go to Mass this weekend, trying to remember a priest who did a kindness - there were and are some - to find some kernel of decency that tells them that a lifetime of devotion to this religion has not been entirely wasted. My father was taught by the Christian Brothers and they beat him mercilessly and they belittled him and they bequeathed him a life of fear and cowering before their deity. The worst of it is that my father has nothing but good to say of them. You see, my father, a man who was as good at what he did as any man has ever been, who is a gifted and brilliant carpenter who taught himself engineering, believes that he would not have been those things if the Christian Brothers had not beaten him and belittled him and forced him to his knees. That is what I can never forgive. If I cannot forgive these men for their brutal way of teaching another person, imagine the feelings of those imprisoned and raped by these men. Out of shame alone the entire institution should close its doors by choice. In the name of decency, can they not hide themselves in some deep shadow where we shall not have to look upon them?

With deepest regret and unutterable sadness

No comments: