I was in Galway 16 years ago when the bishop there was exposed as having had a mistress for many years. His congregation was furious. But, the bishop may have been a better man due to his double life.
Charles Darwin told us long ago that humans are just another species of sexually reproducing animals. It follows that those who are forced to live the lie that humanity is not, will suffer the psychological consequences. And yet the church continues to insist that its priests, nuns and teaching brothers take the vow of chastity. The vow even extends to exclude having any sexual feeling.
The grip of the Catholic Church in those European countries such as Hungary and Belgium where it was the state religion has faded away almost to vanishing point, but the Republic of Ireland may actually become the first anti-Catholic country due to the misery the church has caused its citizens. This is the country where the power of puritanical bishops was the most powerful. They waged on the people what one priest described on the BBC as “anti-sexual terrorism”. It was an angry Irish film industry which produced for the world to ponder the disturbing films: Song for a Raggy Boy and The Magdalene Sisters.
In 1987 when the evidence was there that many of its clergy were sexual abusers of vulnerable people, the Catholic Church in Ireland managed the situation by moving the offenders to new fields of opportunity and then buying commercial insurance against possible future litigation. In the opening years of this century the lid has been lifted and the apologies began. Now in November 2009, from the bishops of Ireland we hear yet again profuse apologies for the sexual abuse about which the lid could no longer be kept on.
The siege mentality of the Irish
The devastation of the Irish countryside by the “Curse of Cromwell” is now in the distant past and was rooted in the power play between Catholic and Protestant aristocracies. The behaviour of the Black and Tans is still within living memory.
Until 1922, Ireland was an integral component of Britain and many Irish volunteered for military service in the Great War. But for many other Irish, there was resistance to helping the war effort in any way. Rumours spread among miserable English troops in the trenches that the Irish people were aiding the enemy. At the completion of the war, London decided to exert increased control over the rebellious agitators in Ireland and sent over more than 9,000 of the English veterans of the trenches. These were the notorious Black and Tans. The cost of this mistake to the British treasury was the decades-long action against the reactionary IRA.
Why the historic English lack of empathy for the Irish Catholics? In the eyes of many Protestants, the modern progressive society we have today is entirely due to Protestant values. Until the mid-20th century there was a Protestant perception that Rome’s agenda was to swamp the hard-won system with its own sexually fertile but “backward” faithful. (Today in this country, some have the same fear regarding Muslims.)
The English Protestants had reason to feel threatened. While we in this country fear an influx of a few hundred boat people a year arriving from Asia, in the one year of 1846, 280,000 Irish arrived in Liverpool.
The real curse of the Irish was not Oliver Cromwell. It is the Catholic Church
Resurging in 1969 were “the troubles” in Northern Ireland. If there was any one cause of the tragedy then it was the Catholic school system which separated the young plastic minds of Catholics from the young plastic minds of Protestants - and which then reinforced the them-and-us perspective. Tribalism is built into our DNA as a survival mechanism. Evolution by natural selection is a process of hits and misses. We evolve as the hits are slightly favoured over the misses. Nevertheless, there are a lot of misses - and “the troubles” is an example of the survival mechanism gone wrong.
I was a victim of the Catholic school system which was introduced into this country from Ireland. I must state emphatically that in seven years of my victimisation, I had not experienced myself nor saw one hint of sexual abuse of another boy from a teaching brother. But, the cruelty was something else. I did not judge at the time that the public humiliation and canings I received for my learning problems (and which simply made the metal blocks I was having worse) were manifestations of sexual tension in my guilt ridden and emotionally deprived teacher.
While the media focus is on the sexual abuse, the physical cruelty (especially in the orphanages) is also, at long last, now out in the open.
My school experiences were in the 1940s and 1950s. Just prior to puberty I was instructed that I must not have impure thoughts. Daily I was warned of the sins of the flesh. I had no idea what they were talking about. I was receiving my instruction from men who went straight from school into the all-male environment of a seminary for several years. I was being instructed by the neurotic graduates of these highly aberrant places.
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