Been reading a lot of posts about the recent Ferns report on other blogs. The State We're In at Thinking Out Loud, Richard Delevan's No More Mr Nice Guy, Irish Corruption's post, Irish Holocaust? - Monday, 24th October, 2005.
Bertie Ahern, The Prime Minister, (An Taoiseach) of the Republic of Ireland, commented recently on the Ferns Report. He expressed "disappointment". "Mr Ahern said that while there was a genuine sense of disappointment at the revelations of child abuse, without the input of the Church, Ireland would not have come as far as it has in recent years". - RTE. In Roget's, some of disappointment's other meanings are listed as: sad, bitter, cruel, blighted hopes, hopelessness. I imagine these could be the feelings of those who were abused. But disappointment....
In a devout Catholic country, those who transgress the Church's repressed teaching on matters sexual, who are illegitmate, who's parent's are absent, or are orphans, are imprisoned.
Total control of these institutions is in the hands of a Church, (who also has total control of the education system), powerful enough not to have to answer to Civil Law, Government, or it's congregations.
Within the walls of these institutions, Orphanages, Industrial Schools, Magdalen Launderies, it's occupants are treated as non-persons. They do not exist, have no recourse to the law of the land, are used as cheap labour, their condition is ignored by both government and the general population.
They have been taken "into care" for their own protection. They have been "sentenced without trial". They were "disappeared". There is no known date of release. And how are they cared for and protected? They were not. They were often abused, subjected to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
Perhaps this sounds like some Kafkaesque sceneario? No, this was the Republic of Ireland.
Of course there were priests, nuns and brothers, who took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to heart; and because of their love for God, were able to love and show compassion to the children in their care.
But did they speak out when they witnessed brutality to those in their care? Well that's the worry, that many people, knowing the truth, did nothing.
Did we imagine that those who abuse would restrict their violence to those they had imprisoned, if we remained silent?
Silence is collusion, silence allows the abuse to continue, silence makes all of us in some measure responsible.
Silence outside the walls, created an atmosphere of fear, and a lack of trust.
Some years back, a young Irish woman, who became pregnant through sexual abuse, attempted to go to the UK for a termination; the government became involved and forbade her to travel. At that time in conversation with a relative, I was shocked when she said: "Why didn't she just stay quiet, it's what we did".
Yes, the words "it's what we did", that told me so much more.
So maybe at this moment in time, we could and should expand our focus outward from those priests found to have committed sexual abuse, to the entire Church organisation who have now lost the trust of the Catholic population of Eire, for in their silence they are also responsible. And then expand that further to an entire population silenced and fearful of the Church's power, who also share some of that responsibility.
In Eire, 95% of the country's educations system is in the hands of the Catholic Church. Is that situation to continue in the face of this massive betrayal of trust? Or will the population now take the responsibility to ensure that the Church is held accountable for it's actions? And the Governments that stood by and did not a lot over the years.
And I remember well the response to one who told of a priest's actions, "I'm sure he was just trying to be friendly, best to forget it".
Edna O'Brien, writing in Mother Ireland (1976) expresses not disappointment, she expresses "pity for a people reluctant to admit there is anything wrong."
"The real quarrel with Ireland began to burgeon in me then: I had thought of how it had warped me, and those around me, and their parents before them, all stopped by a variety of fears - fear of church, fear of gombeenism, fear of phantoms, fear of ridicule, fear of hunger, fear of annihilation, and fear of their own deeply ingrained aggression that can only strike a blow at each other, not having the innate authority to strike at those who are higher. Pity arose too, pity for a land so often denuded, pity for a people reluctant to admit there is anything wrong. That is why we leave. Because we beg to differ. Because we dread the psychological choke.
.....It is true that a country encapsulates our childhood and those lanes, byres, fields, flowers, insects, suns, moons and stars are forever re-occuring and tantalizing me with a possibility of a golden key which would lead beyond birth to the roots of one's lineage. Irish? In truth I would not want to be anything else. It is a state of mind as well as an actual country. It is being at odds with other nationalities, having quite different philosophy about pleasure, about punishment, about life, about death. At least it does not leave one pusillanimous".