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Friday 22 May 2009

Scandals and Power-Seekers

The appalling stories coming from the inquiry into child abuse in Ireland are utterly stomach-churning and heart-rending; and who could fail to feel for those children and all they suffered at the hands of those in positions of authority? Moreover, who could fail to be disgusted at the way in which the culprits were simply moved from one parish or school to the next, shielded by their 'badge of office' and the tacit support of those with greater authority who lacked the courage to remove them? That being the bottom line, the utter scandal of this only coming to light now (as happened in America some time ago, and will probably go one happening as more countries open their closets to let the skeletons out, and more people have the courage to speak of their horrific experiences) cannot be underestimated.

However, as someone raised as a Catholic in the late 60s and 70s - how ever far my beliefs now differ from my upbringing - I feel a need to say that, without for one second negating or denying the horror that others suffered elsewhere, my own experience of nuns (and some priests) in England was quite different. My Convent Grammar School - Notre Dame, Leeds - was a place where I felt truly valued. There was no corporal punishment in that school and there were so many opportunities of finding self-expression. The place, to me, felt hallowed in that it seemed to be built - in some way - on the idea that we could all make something of our lives, and, whether we did or didn't, it was just okay to be who we were. I was never hit or abused in any of the Catholic schools I attended and I am very grateful for the atmosphere of love and acceptance throughout my education. My mother, who attended the 'rival' Catholic convent school in Leeds - St. Mary's - in the 1930s/40s has the same feeling about her school to the extent that she went to a reunion not long ago and is still in touch with people she knew there 60 years ago.

That having been said, I am equally aware of the depths of brain-washing that goes on in any religion in which a few people claim to speak with the authority of God. On the radio, people have spoken of the reason why this abhorrent behaviour was allowed to continue in Ireland, and it is usually put down to the enforced celibacy, but I think that misses the point completely. It's not enforced celibacy that is the problem, but the fact of any enforcement at all! If someone is bullied, chances are they will either become a victim or a bully, or will learn from what has happened to them and treat other people differently. If someone is told they must suppress their own nature because some weird God despises his creation, what a mess they are in and they might act out their mess on other people. Those who step out of the pattern and treat other people differently are the real heroes in my view, and they are the trail-blazers because they don't see the need to have someone in authority telling them what is good or bad or what will get them to heaven or damn them.

It really seems to me that left, right and centre, institutions are falling to pieces. The disgust we feel about our English politicians right now...the exposure of the abuses in Churches...maybe we just don't need authority figures anymore. Maybe, if we look inside, we see that we all have the Kingdom of Heaven within. The Wizard of Oz was nothing when Dorothy eventually met him. Authority figures have lost their way. Why don't we all grow up, take responsibility for ourselves and move on?

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