Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anatomy of Abuse

Fr. Blake opens a discussion on the Irish scandal. There are some excellent points made in the comments. As one person says:
Fr Ray,
I am an Irish reader and I read your blog regularly. This litany of abuse is truly shocking and I myself think it was perpetuated because of our history and culture of secrecy. Ireland has a very difficult and painful history and sensitivity to pain and abuse was not high as the Ireland I grew up in was a cold and poverty stricken place where surviving and keeping things to yourself was the way to go. I think many people entered the church then because it was a job. The other options were emigration. Obviously a lot of people were in religious institutions that should have never been accepted. I think the most damming thing is the secrecy and culture of cover up. Its devastating for the many good catholic clergy and laity. There is untold damage done to the faith particularly of the young. We are on the floor.

Further perspective on the scandal, HERE.

UPDATE: More reflections from Fr. Blake, HERE. Share


Kirt Higdon said...

It's a good idea to open a discussion on this matter, especially given the influence that the Irish clergy have had in the US, in particular with respect to Catholic education.

From time to time, I heard internet and other rumors about this but ignored them, no doubt in the subconscious hope it would go away. It hasn't and it's a gigantic black mark for the Church. Mr. Donahue and the Catholic League do no one any favors by down-playing this.

Here are some of my random reflections. The Irish Church and the people of Ireland need our prayers. No doubt these grave injustices account for a lot of the decline of the Church in Ireland in recent years. But the Irish have played a great role in the Church in the past and may again in the future by the grace of God.

Those who tend to blame everything wrong in the Church on the Second Vatican Council should note that this Irish situation was in full swing well before the Council and actually started being alleviated in the Council's aftermath, although by that time enormous damage had been done already.

Finally, I would say that I and my friends who were the products of some of the harsher discipline of Catholic education in the US were probably a bit flippant about the long term effects of such discipline. Conversation of the "my Sister was way tougher than your Sister" variety ignores the effects of constant harshness on the more fragile and vulnerable. Many of these kept their silence, possibly out of fear of being called sissies, but left the Church at the first available opportunity. We need to reach out to them and bring them back.

St. Patrick, pray for us and for the Church, especially the Church in Ireland.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Kirt, for making such excellent points. I don't often link to the Catholic League. In this case, I do not see them as downplaying the horror of the scandal but rather counteracting some of the press reports that try to make it sound like all the Irish priests were going around raping children, a disgusting calumny.

I also think it is probably the case that many of the children who were verbally abused and beaten sadly received similar treatment in their homes~ such "disciplinary" measures were not unique to church institutions. The religious who were the abusers were probably likewise beaten in their homes as children. Neither is such abusive behavior unique to the Irish, as anyone who has ever read Dickens' novels would know.

Of course, we hold Catholic nuns and priests to an infinitely higher standard of behavior than we do secular, Protestant teachers. I do wonder if there are any comparable cases of physical abuse and sodomy in the English public schools?

The truth of the matter is that there are sick people (of every creed and nationality) who should not be trusted with the education of children.

There are some aspects of the Irish scandal that are cause for weighty pondering. I think that the discussion of Jansenism on Fr. Blake's blog is compelling. It reminds me of my Irish Canadian Catholic relatives, most of whom now never set foot in a church. From many conversations I have had over the years with various relatives, I am struck by the preoccupation with guilt and sin that often crept out. I think that there was a Jansenistic emphasis on guilt that colored the education of some people of my father's generation. Unfortunately, it made many of them throw the baby out with the bath water. Only love can win souls, not guilt or punishment.

Terry Nelson said...

As you know I am Irish heritage. As the commenter on Fr. Ray's blog noted - the Church offered a job as well as prestige for a family, therefore unsuitable candidates may have sought the religious life and/or Holy Orders, and admitted. There was/is definitely a cult of secrecy, cover-up, and denial within Irish families and culture. Why do the Kennedy's come to mind right now?

The Jansenist (Calvinist in the U.S.) angle only goes so far, Fr. Blake is English, right? the Irish were always the underclass.

I also believe pederasty and abuse of all sorts is fairly common amongst the desperate poor.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree, Terry, with all you say.