"I'm gonna say a few things; I'm gonna say some bad words and you're just gonna have to deal with it." --Tony Soprano, in The Sopranos.
Let the epigraph warn you. I am going to say a thing or two, so if you happen to be squeamish, sensitive, or PC, you may want to skip reading this blog today.
Shortly after my mother passed away, my father and I were talking, and I don't quite recall how it came up, but he wondered how come his boys grew up to be non-religious. You see, we were raised Roman Catholic, and we were sent to Catholic schools. We do have to note that Catholic schools were a better choice, in terms of the education, than public schools back in Puerto Rico. That is not too different from people in the States choosing to send their kids to private schools because public schools in the area are bad assuming they can afford the choice. My parents probably could not afford it per se, but my father worked very hard to get us that education. The point is none of the three brothers has remained with the religion of their parents. I can't speak for my siblings, but I can certainly speak for myself. After a lot of searching, not to mention getting a higher education and then working in higher education, I have pretty much moved to a stage where I consider myself somewhat spiritual, but I have no use for organized religion. My philosophy on that is pretty simple: if your religion (whatever it may be) moves you to be a better person and to make the world a better place, good for you. If your religion (again, whichever you follow) moves you to be a bigoted, ignorant, self-righteous, judgmental asshole who condemns anyone who is different, then your religion and you can go fuck yourselves. Period. That I have had the time and inclination to study and find that so many of the world's atrocities continue to be committed in the name of religion because one side thinks their fairy in heaven tells them to kill the other side who believe in a different spirit certainly does not make me any more kind towards the religious.
So why am I bothering to write about this? I certainly do not owe anyone an explanation. My father was curious, but he was quick to add he was not asking us why we made our choices, though I would have been glad to tell him. The reason I find myself blogging now is that I just finished reading some of the accounts of the scandals in the Irish Catholic Church that recently came out revealing the endemic abuse of children by their clerics. Now this by itself would not have been a big deal. I have also read about the scandals in the U.S., like in this book I read a while back. What I mean: it is a big deal, but it would not have moved me to blog about it. I try to avoid blogging about the stuff not mentioned in polite company. However, when I did look over the report itself. Yes, when a report is available, I usually make it a point to at least scan it. This is something most people do not do by the way, and it is the kind of thing we teach as part of information literacy. And then I heard that William Donohue's Catholic League were pretty much doing their best to defend the clerics and lessen the suffering of the victims, well that finally blew my gasket. Now before someone out there decides to send me a note or comment that the Catholic League does not represent the church as a whole, you may want to consider what is your role in reigning them in. I don't exactly see the church hierarchy condemning them, but in fact they are more than happy to have the league around. And I do not respect so-called moderates who say such and such organization does not represent us, but aside from saying that tacitly agree with whatever said organization does it be it the Catholic League or Al-Qaeda. Anyhow, let me pull a couple of things from the league's press release, or rather ask some questions about said press release:
- Does the fact that many of the children were considered deliquents somehow excuse the abuse and atrocities stated in the report? Given the time frame between the 1920s to the 1980s or so (The Guardian reports that the last of the facilities was shut down in the 1990s), many of those so-called delinquents were likely to be just children taken away from single mothers for no other reason than their mothers were single. Not that it excuses it any more if the kids had been actual criminals. They were in the care of the Church, and the Church basically abused and exploited them at their most vulnerable. To label this disturbing and disgusting is to put it mildly. Just look at the rhetoric of the press release: "More than 30,000 children, most of them delinquents. . ." So, this is less grave because most of them were (or not) delinquents? Why the negative label on the victims?
- So the fact that it happened long ago somehow excuse the crimes? The fact that the victims are now themselves in their 70s somehow means their perpetrators should not pay? That their suffering should be discounted? That this should be denied? Again, from the press release: "Not nice, to be sure, but hardly draconian, especially given the time line: fully 82 percent of the incidents took place before 1970." Not nice to be sure? Not getting an extra roll at dinner may be not nice. Getting molested by an authority figure that is supposed to protect you is a horrible crime. So the fact the incidents took place before 1970 mean the criminals should go scot-free?
- And of course, since they were delinquents, abuse was fine. After all, going back to the press release, "and quite frankly, corporal punishment was not exactly unknown in many homes during these times, and this is doubly true when dealing with miscreants." I am sure voyeurism, inappropiate touching and fondling, neglect as well as right out physical abuse and rape were not exactly unknown back then either.
- Donohue and his ilk claim that the report cheapens rape. No sirs. It is you with your hypocrisy, lack of charity, insensitivity, and obsession to defend a morally bankrupt and corrupt church hierarchy that cheapens you and those you seek to defend by demeaning and reducing the victims of abuse. That you dare to minimize and excuse what are grave and serious charges so your precious church can maintain its tarnished image is disgusting and inexcusable.
Now, someone else might say I sound angry. You bet I am angry. For one, I was raised religious. I did learn some positive things from that experience such as learning to ask questions and a good basic education; I can say that I actually got a lot if not most of my moral values elsewhere (family certainly was one source; Scouting was another, at least before they started their nonsense against gays, but I digress). But second, it was the tradition of my parents, and my mother, rest in peace, was very devout, which is something I respect even if I grew up not to agree with it (the religion, not her). So in some way I feel they have betrayed my mother's faith, and that does make me angry. But in the end it is the self-righteous pretentious arrogance that somehow the rules of law and common decency do not apply to them that angers me the most. They are lucky I am not some emperor or dictator because if I was throwing them to the lions for what they have done to those children would be too good for them.
They should be denounced for the hypocritical people that they are. And I am certainly not shy about doing that. I have had my thoughts or two on religion before today. A few more thoughts here too.
And dad, if you ever find your way to this blog, this may be some small answer to your question. There are a couple other reasons I could name, but this certainly would be the top one. It does not mean you did anything wrong in raising me. On the contrary, the fact you always taught me to never be afraid to ask questions, to always stand up for what is right, and to never back down from bullies as well as just how to be a decent man go to show you certainly did well. And for that, you have my gratitude.
With a hat tip to Pharyngula, who looks at the issue and summarizes very nicely here and here.