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Hey Preacher - Leave Those Kids Alone
Why the church should stop telling parents how to raise their children.
Eamonn McCann, 25 Aug 2005
Given the dire deeds which took place on their watch, you’d think that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry would proceed with caution when dealing with the difficulties children face in early encounters with adult Catholicism. But no. The shamelessness remains stunning.
The episcopal pair marked something called “World Youth Day” with a duet lamenting the fact that increasing numbers of four-year-olds are presenting themselves at school not knowing how to bless themselves. Parents are falling down on the job, suggested the bishops.
The implicit demand is that parents ensure Catholic beliefs are ingrained in their children’s minds before delivering them up to Church-controlled institutions.
The reason bishops want toddlers brainwashed is that, if people first encountered the teachings of the Church at a point when they were able to assess these teachings rationally, the game would soon be up. The same goes for other Churches, too, of course.
Certainly, fantastical notions like the Trinity, the virgin birth and the eucharist wouldn’t be accepted on trust. Which is to say, they wouldn’t be accepted at all. Churches concentrate their efforts on innocent children in order to take advantage of childish innocence. This is one of the keys to religion’s survival.
To induct children into an irrational system of belief before they reach the age of reason is to abuse their minds.
It’s intended to nip in the bud the potential for individual rational thought on the great questions of human existence. On whether life has purpose and what this purpose might be.
It’s to see children most importantly not as human beings with vast potential to make sense of and to change the world, but as fodder for replenishing the ranks of the faithful, with no function on earth other than to serve the Church’s interests – usefully defined as “doing God‘s will”.
It would be stretching the point to say that it’s a small step from abusing children’s minds to abusing their bodies. Not every doctrinal disciplinarian of children is a potential abuser. Some are tortured souls who harm only themselves.
What can and should be said is that the induction of toddlers into the belief system of the Catholic Church involves putting total, unquestioning trust in the Church’s authority.
On what other basis can a three-year-old meet the requirement spelt out by Martin and Hegarty that they signify acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity by being able to make the “sign of the cross” in prescribed, ritual fashion?
Is this unquestioning trust in the authority of the Church not a factor in virtually every story we have heard of children acquiescing in demands by priests for access to their bodies?
Is there not an obvious connection between the willingness of children in west Belfast or the Creggan to yield to the sexual demands of Fr. Brendan Smyth or Fr. Gerald McCrossan and the fact that, just a few years earlier, they had been required to defer to the rulings of the institution symbolised by the rapists’ dog-collars?
It is a commentary on the unwillingness of the political and journalistic mainstream to face this aspect of the matter that Martin and Hegarty can issue their pronouncements without incurring public derision and wrath.
There is an upside. The fact that the bishops felt it necessary to issue their statements suggests that fewer parents are complicit these days in the brainwashing of their children. We should all applaud, pour encourager les autres.
One of the great things about the Catholic Church, I was told in junior infants, is that it’s the same the world over. And so, in all essentials, it is.
Word reaches me from Brazil of the sacking of Regina Soares Jurkewicz, a professor for the past eight years at the Theological Institute of São Paulo. She’d just published the results of a major research project on sexual violence by Catholic clergy against Brazilian women.
The key finding of her report, Uncovering the Policy of Silence – Sexual Abuse of Women by Priests in Brazil, was that Brazilian bishops have systematically kept abuse cases within the church by following procedures which will readily be recognised here. These include keeping complaints hidden from the civil authorities, using Church power to silence victims, moving perpetrators from parish to parish, and so on.
The report, launched in Sao Paulo on June 28, was extensively covered in the Brazilian daily press.
Two days later, Jurkewicz received a letter from the Institute, dismissing her from her teaching position. There had been no prior dialogue, no discussion of her report, no suggestion that her research was unreliable or her conclusions false. Her eight years of incident-free service to the Institute and to Catholic theology in Brazil was acknowledged in the most cursory way.
The case is worth mentioning here for three reasons.
One, it illustrates that, just as the Catholic Church is global, so is the spread of the canker at its heart.
Two, the sacking letter received by Jurkewicz conveys perfectly the perverse thinking of Catholic bosses everywhere:
“In order to preserve your right to free thought, guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution as well as by divine law, we hereby notify you of your removal from the teaching staff of our Theological Institute, effective June 30, 2005.”
This decision is due to the fact that this institution, although honouring your right to free thought, does not accept nor agree with your thoughts, thus resulting in an irreconcilable impasse.”
“Wishing you happiness, we thank you for your work to date.
Prof. Fr. Edmar Antonio de Jesus – Director of Teaching Staff
Prof. Fr. Pedro Teixeira de Jesus – Rector of the Theological Institute.”
And three, I want to disabuse Seamus Hegarty of his belief, expressed to a number of diocesan priests, that I am operating a “personal vendetta” against him.
There’s nothing personal about it. I don’t believe and have never suggested that Hegarty is anything other than fairly representative of the Catholic hierarchy worldwide when it comes to dealing with the Church’s treatment of children and women.
I filled a largish lacuna in my cultural life by heading along to the Nerve Centre for Damien Dempsey. True enough, live he’s the legitimate offspring of Bob Marley and Luke Kelly. He had a terrific band with him.
With no bass in the line-up, the drums had to dictate the underlying colouration of the sound, while orchestrating rhythms at once subtle and emphatic. Momentarily, I imagined Robbie Brennan had hit town without telling me. Brilliant.
Just one thing. Half way through, Damo, as I believe he’s to be called, recounted that, “I was in Offaly last week and women were throwing knickers at me. But they were cold. So, I threw them back and said, ‘Hey, put them on for a bit and throw them at me again…’”