Friday, May 22, 2009
The Catholic Church's torture chambers
I was traveling between Colorado Springs and West Hollywood yesterday so did not have a chance to blog about a front page story in Thursday's New York Times that is well worth taking note of. Sarah Lyall writes about a 2,000 page report by an Irish state-appointed commission, released in Dublin on Wednesday, that details 60 years of abuse of children by nuns, priests and others who worked in the Church's schools for poor and unwanted children. It is worth reading all of her story, but one quote out of the report about the treatment meted out to the children was particularly striking:
“Punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.”
Does this sound a little familiar? Just think about the activities that Dick Cheney thinks are perfectly legal and you will see what I mean (by the way, since Cheney has confessed numerous times to supporting war crimes, is there any reason he should not be transferred to The Hague post haste?)
But back to the Catholic Church. I have written before that the Catholic clergy, by all indications, has in the past seemed little more than a glorified pedaphile ring. And while we have all heard anecdotal stories about the cruelty dished out by nuns and priests in Catholic schools, reports like this seem to provide evidence that the brutality was at times very systematic. It is almost as if the Catholic Church has taken everything that Jesus reportedly preached (according to the New Testament, anyway) and did the exact opposite. Catholics today have only two morally defensible choices: Work actively and tirelessly to reform the Church, beginning with the Vatican, or chuck the entire enterprise.
A hard job, to be sure. For one thing, it means abolishing the office of Pope, a man who wears ridiculously funny hats and robes and claims to be God's word on earth (a claim that should make any sensible person laugh out loud.) Next, allow priests to marry (including marrying other men) so they won't take out their sexual frustrations on children, something which is no doubt still going on and which the highest levels of the Church have condoned and covered up.
If there is a Jesus, one wonders why he allows such barbarity to be carried out in his name.
Update: Writer John Banville comments on this story in Saturday's Times, saying that everyone in Ireland knew but looked the other way:
Amid all the reaction to these terrible revelations, I have heard no one address the question of what it means, in this context, to know. Human beings — human beings everywhere, not just in Ireland — have a remarkable ability to entertain simultaneously any number of contradictory propositions. Perfectly decent people can know a thing and at the same time not know it. Think of Turkey and the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century, think of Germany and the Jews in the 1940s, think of Bosnia and Rwanda in our own time.