“Let The Little Children Come To Me…”

… may be close enough to pass as a Bible quote, but I don’t think it says, anywhere in that book, that clerics get to say that to kids so they can rape them with impunity, with the aid of the Church in keeping them out of prison (or other trouble)… and I don’t think it’s specified anywhere that when this institutional crime comes out, the biggest cleric of them all gets to pretend nothing’s going on.

I want to leave aside the fact that this is an obvious, and pathetic, public gaffe which can only serve to harm the Church’s reputation more. Not much more, mind: Catholic laypeople have long known to be cautious of priests alone with little children. Having been raised Catholic, I was quite aware enough to be careful. (Though, I can happily add, I was lucky in never meeting a pedophile priest myself.) Yes, the ball has been dropped. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What I want to highlight here is the internal hypocrisy. Faithful Catholics are expected to do penance, and at least in the Catholicism in which I was raised, penance involved at least a little effort towards making things right. If you punched a friend in the face, and confessed it, you had to apologize to the friend. If you stole something, you’d have to return it in person and tell the owner you were sorry. That’s the kind of “reconciliation” penance I was taught to perform: you had to make things right, not just “apologize” or say a few prayers in solitude and feel sufficiently guilty. Penance and reconciliation were public affairs, relatively public anyway. And yet, when there is an institutional sin — and if aiding and abetting the abuse of children isn’t a sin, what is? — the penance the world gets is… what? A big beaming smile and not a word of apology? No, wait, apparently there was some sort of apologetic text included in a letter sent to Ireland. As if Ireland’s the only place this hasn’t exploded into scandal.

That’s not making it right, because it only addresses a small number of those wronged (if, of course, those most direly wronged).

Think about it. Everyone knows that in our world, there hasn’t been an apology until it’s onscreen. And the Church has yet to apologize to Catholics in general — let alone perform any sort of make-it-right penance — for making them look and feel like fools for trusting and following an organization whose appointed representatives could behave so utterly wickedly. There is a much bigger trust that has been betrayed than the safety of those long-ago children in Ireland (and many other places, to be sure): it is the abuse of power, a long standing tradition which led to the hoarding of property, the co-opting of all culture, the unimaginably widespread control of everything possible — even ingredients for the brewing of beer were at some points in European history Church-controlled — and flat-out murder of people for their ideas.

Giordano Bruno is but one example, but he is enough. He was murdered, for suggesting (utterly presciently) that if other worlds exist out there in space (and we know now that they do) there may be life there. Of his brutal murder, for having ideas the Church had not scripted for him, what has the Church to say?

On the 400th anniversary of Bruno’s death, Cardinal Angelo Sodano declared Bruno’s death to be a “sad episode”. Despite his regret, he defended Bruno’s persecutors, maintaining that the Inquisitors “had the desire to preserve freedom and promote the common good and did everything possible to save his life” by trying to make him recant and subsequently by appealing the capital punishment with the secular authorities of Rome.

Put in terms more familiar to us? “He was asking for it.” Just as a disturbing number of Irish folk still recently believed women who were raped were asking for it and, one supposes, the children raped in Ireland were “asking for it.” Or, so seems the logic of the statement above.

It’s no more a “sad episode” than any other murder, except we don’t cheapen murders by calling them “sad episodes” as if they just sort of happened: it was a murder, plain and simple, carried out by representatives of the Church as part of the duties given them by the Church, with the Church’s approval. It was a Church-sponsored murder. And far from the only such one. Though, when your hands are as bloody as the Inquisitors’ were, I suppose one gets a bit jaded by all the killing, torturing, maiming, and brainwashing.

It was a long time ago. Apparently, a long time ago doesn’t have to be 400 years, either, judging by the response to what’s going on now.

And by the way, when it comes to tyranny, to helping child-rapists, to exploiting the masses? Just like with murder, “sorry” doesn’t cut it, and never has.

Where’s the penance of the Church that parallels the one so heavily prescribed, for so very long, to the masses? What’s good for the sheep is good for the shepherd, I say.

One thought on ““Let The Little Children Come To Me…”

  1. By the way, someone pointed out on the LJ comments that I had left out all kinds of things, like for Magdalene Asylums. Oh, yes, indeed. Residential Schools is another awful Canadian-devised example. (And IIRC they and the wider assimilation policy they were part of was copy-pasted down in Australia, sadly…)

    Lots of crimes and sins to be atoned for, and not all of them are 400 years ago. Far from all of them.

    Having been raised Catholic, I’m surprised more people who are still in the Church are seething with rage at how they’re being made to look.

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