Monday, August 27, 2018

Polly Pontificates upon His Holiness & Other Related Matters


Warning: this post is long & wordy.  This is a personal reflection on the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, the impact of the current global extent of the clerical sex abuse scandals & was precipitated by a post which popped up in today's Facebook feed which hit a chord. It's also a reflection on modern society...

The post itself makes sad reading but some of the comments it provoked strike me as being judgemental, unjust & generally unkind. Unfortunately Facebook being what it is has prevented me from sharing the link due to its having closed itself & the post disappeared from my feed! The gist of it is that the poster shared the harrowing experience of a young nun whose  teaching post in a parish in Australia a number of decades ago which resulted in her shocking discovery of paedophilia involving her parish priest who was in the habit of calling 5 & 6 year old boys to the parochial house to 'pray' with him.

Having been warned to say nothing she took the child home to his parents & reported the incident to a nun in her parish & was again threatened to keep silent. Her next port of call was the bishop who promptly defrocked the poor girl & sent her home to Ireland in disgrace.

When dealing with such an atmosphere Of denial & disbelief how could anyone expected to have the wherewithal to pursue the issue she'd uncovered? She did so any way & it cost her dearly. We don't know whether or not she told the parents of the boy or if they would have believed her...

We live in a free thinking society with the luxury of free speech, no longer repressed by the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy & its self censoring, often hypocritical congregation. Nobody seems to care about anything much these days but we still get our kicks by scandalising the innocent. This used to be done in the pews but with mass attendance at an all time low they've taken to the airwaves instead. 

Shopping being the opium of the people, retail centres are modern day cathedrals and the gossips & the wags of old can now be found alive & well on social media doing what they've always done. Trolling decent ordinary folk as they express a sincere opinion on a matter deemed important enough to write upon seems to be an international sport! 

In the old days that sort of thing was generally kept local & a robust character generally threw it off  & carried on regardless. Yes it did harm, yes, I have the scars & yes, I have grown into a woman who'll have little to do with those that spoke ill of me nor those who did nothing yet listen intently & not speak out. I'm not deeply damaged but I'm hurt & fail to understand nearly forty years on how the innocent victim of bad minds & foul mouths can be the true villain of the piece as opposed to those who indulged in mortal sin in the process. I was calumniated* by my church (remember that the church is not comprised of bricks & mortar rather it's people, ie congregation) within the church & yet I'm the sinner?

(*https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/calumny-and-detraction.html) 

A friend of mine was abused physically & sexually by an ex Christian brother in a village not far away from me. In the late eighties/early nineties he revealed the dreadful secret he'd carried with him for years only to be called a liar by family,  friends & no doubt church representatives too. Slowly three other boys came forward & confirmed his story, one thing led to another & due process was served with the result that the culprit was sent to prison for a few years. One has to wonder how many others had suffered the same misfortunes at his hand...

Years before the perpetrator was called to justice he was transferred to an all girls convent secondary school & continued his reign of terror minus the sexual abuse. We  obviously didn't fit the preferred profile although some of the less pretty, dare I say more masculine girls were treated roughly.  It wasn't quite to the point of physical abuse (although it would probably be considered as such today.) That the man was abusive, a bully & a coward was without doubt & thankfully we were ignorant as to his other predilections. The powers that be transferred him into another teaching position in which they figured HE'D be SAFE. They were complicit. They relied on the fact that any child harmed would  continue to be silenced by his powerful personality & probable threat of further violence. They relied on the fact that such revelations would never be given credence as they involved a respectable member of the community who would be considered to be beyond reproach.

We all knew that there was something off about him from the day we first encountered him. His teaching abilities were  reasonably firm but unsuited to a modern secondary education & like all humans he made mistakes which being an impudent pup I took pleasure in pointing out to him - the only reason I wasn't manhandled (& I knew it at the time) is because daddy would have killed him plus we knew where he lived & where he came from. We knew who he was! Other less fortunate girls got it because they got the football scores wrong but  despite the bad memories we got of lightly...

Ten years after our experiences rumours began to circulate about my friend who was now in his 40's, with a number of children & a failing marriage. Given the shocking nature of his claims the prevailing attitude was that The VICTIM was lying. He was making it all up, it was shameful, out was inconceivable that a man of the cloth (ex Christian Brother) could possibly behave like that, a degree of success had gone to my friends head, these people think they can say what they like rather than accept responsibility for their failures & so on. The list of disbelief & shame was endless & resulting in long standing friends beckoning estranged. Thankfully the other men corroborated his story...

The world was an unimaginably different place back then, still largely governed by fear. Mass attendances were high & folk flocked in their thousands to the Phoenix Park, Limerick racecourse, Knock, Clonmacnoise, Maynooth, Drogheda & Galway to see His Holiness Pope John Paul II. A measure of just how much this world has changed is our attitude towards the present pontiff & his attendance at this weekend's World Meeting of Families.

From being devout & godfearing Ireland is a place of open hostility & protest, resulting in papal apologies for the abuse scandals unfolding not just in this country but globally. It's a sad reflection not on our times but on the horrors of the past...

Until the next time,

Polly