Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sinead O'Connor and the Pope's Apology

Last night Anderson Cooper conducted an excellent interview, with Irish singer and mother of four, Sinead O'Connor.  See the interview here.

I have to confess that for an artist sometimes denigrated as being outrageous, (she tore up a picture of Pope Paul 11 on Saturday Night Live) she surprised me by presenting her case rationally and eloquently in her down-to-earth Dublin accent.

Sinead's article in the Washington Post is worth reading in terms of background. Here is some of what she relates:

I experienced this  [humiliation of children] personally. When I was a young girl, my mother -- an abusive, less-than-perfect parent -- encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored "Magdalene laundries," which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests' clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.

An Grianán was a product of the Irish government's relationship with the Vatican -- the church had a "special position" codified in our constitution until 1972. As recently as 2007, 98 percent of Irish schools were run by the Catholic Church. But schools for troubled youth have been rife with barbaric corporal punishments, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. In October 2005, a report sponsored by the Irish government identified more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Ferns, a small town 70 miles south of Dublin, between 1962 and 2002. Accused priests weren't investigated by police; they were deemed to be suffering a "moral" problem. In 2009, a similar report implicated Dublin archbishops in hiding sexual abuse scandals between 1975 and 2004.

....Why was such criminal behavior tolerated? The "very prominent role which the Church has played in Irish life is the very reason why abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked," the 2009 report said...

...To Irish Catholics, Benedict's implication -- Irish sexual abuse is an Irish problem -- is both arrogant and blasphemous. The Vatican is acting as though it doesn't believe in a God who watches. The very people who say they are the keepers of the Holy Spirit are stamping all over everything the Holy Spirit truly is. Benedict criminally misrepresents the God we adore. We all know in our bones that the Holy Spirit is truth. That's how we can tell that Christ is not with these people who so frequently invoke Him.

Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and in a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics -- even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore -- should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders. ...

There is much that the Irish singer says that I do not agree with. However, I respect her perspective and feel that it is worthy of consideration. Of course her opinions are colored by her experiences - but, to my way of thinking, that is what makes them valuable. She makes a compelling case for why victims require "acknowledgment" of their abuse. That alone is a powerful message. Sinead's perspective is useful in the context of abuse in general, of the Irish Church in particular and of the Vatican role in the investigation of Marcial Maciel, the founder of theLegion of Christ.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Whenever anyone says that the faithful should boycott Mass (or Baptism, or whatever Sacrament it is) I wonder what hope they can have for a church on this world in the sense Paul talks about it. And what hope they can have for communing in the body of Christ - for eating his body and drinking his blood - true food and true drink - for eternal life. The pain is clear (although she seems to assume the abuse of the homes unto herself) - where is the Spirit of which she speaks? Even if she had mentioned the Palmarians that would have given some hope, some sign of a Catholic understanding of the economy of salvation, even if the palmarians (the group that ordained her) are wrong.