Behind Those Walls

Last night I was reading the April 2 Bookreporter.com Newsletter, one of my favorite sources for discovering new releases.

Their reviews included the usual assortment of mysteries and suspense novels for my “Must Read” list, but this one stopped me cold:

THE GUILT PROJECT: Rape, Morality, and Law by Vanessa Place (Criminal Law)
Assuming a society can and must be judged by the way it treats its most despicable members, THE GUILT PROJECT looks at the way the American legal system defines, prosecutes and punishes sex offenders, how it has transformed our conception of who is guilty and how they ought to be treated, and how this has come to undo our deeper humanity. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

By coincidence, my television, sound muted, was showing footage of a Good Friday procession of  Cardinals and the Pope in their white lace vestments and fancy shoes and headgear in the Vatican City.

The irony really hit me.  We have released sex offenders and predators in Florida living under bridges because a state statute prohibits them from being within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, etc., not to mention the city and county ordinances which add even more bite.  Slow-witted, horny doofuses, who thought that a 14-year-old flattered by the attention of a ‘man’ was fair game,  now live in rodent-like conditions with depraved and demented deviants and perverts.   No matter how sickening and disgusting the lot, this is no solution.

When I was a child, I took piano lessons at the small Catholic school where the nuns lived upstairs.  When whacking my knuckles with a hickory stick didn’t stop the wrong notes,  Sister Carol would take me to the foot of  the stairs and call out, “Sister!” and another nun would eventually appear from behind the curtain at the stair landing.

Sister Carol would tell her, “Set another place for dinner.  Mary Alese will be staying over this evening to practice her lesson until she plays her lesson satisfactorily.”

Of course the threat was never carried out, but I still remember my anxiety  from simply seeing that mysterious curtain,  of imagining my walk home in the dark… if they allowed me to leave.  I was six years old.

It is with this limited perspective that I think about the children in real peril, who learned in the most horrifying way possible what can wait behind curtains and in dark corners, children who experienced trauma, pain,  and terror in what they believed were holy places.  The very thought gives the Matthew 19:14 admonition of Jesus to Let the children come to me a creepy overtone.

The response of the Vatican to the growing list of abuses has been not just underwhelming, but sometimes downright disgusting… like the Good Friday service where a senior Vatican priest, in the presence of the Pope, compared the outrage of the world about the scandals to the persecution of the Jews.  Later, of course, another official made a statement to distance the Vatican from the remark, even as Vatican lawyers worked on their legal defense to prevent the Pope from having to testify in an Arizona abuse case where one of the pieces of evidence is a 2001 instructional letter from the Pope (still a Cardinal at his writing of the letter) to report all abuse cases to him and keep them secret.  There is more to read about Arizona abuse cases here,  this one concerning a priest so swarmy even his bishop thought him “satanic.”

I know that no legitimate church, Catholic or Protestant, condones such, but it happened… is still happening somewhere.  There must be millions of beleaguered Catholics who are heartbroken over these incidents, but so far, the financial costs and the reputation of the Church seem to be first and foremost in the reactions of the hierarchy. Some have condemned the press.  The children, by comparison, seem to be collateral damage.

Protestant Churches have similar issues.  Many of the justifications and obfuscations done in the name of “Christianity” turn my stomach.  But the Catholic Church stands alone in its influence on the world.   Decisions which affect the poorest church member in a third world village are made by men in a magnificent city, walled away from the realities of everyday life.  Made by men.  Only men.  Decisions they expect to be accepted without question even if they appear, to some members, in conflict with Catholic doctrine.

I could not help but superimpose the two images that have been smoldering in my brain.

Bring the Vatican assemblage over, white lace frocks, leather loafers and all, to spend time in the cesspool beneath those Florida bridges, with the deafening roar of traffic overhead, the malodorous fumes and the filth and insects all around them, so they can view of a world beyond their own marbled palaces,  a world inhabited by men who have committed the same crimes that they conspired to keep hidden.

And those homeless sex predators and offenders living under those bridges?   A civilized society cannot treat even the most despicable human beings (and some of them are exactly that) in such a manner.  They must be housed, but it is understandable that everyday citizens would like to have them walled away from children and the day-to-day lives of regular families.

Send them to live at the Vatican.

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9 thoughts on “Behind Those Walls

  1. My thoughts exactly. I read where the Pope only had one year as a parish priest in his whole career in the church. The rest of the time he was in academia or otherwise isolated from contact with regular people. No wonder he still doesn’t get it.

  2. The Vatican response has been sad but predictable. The politics involved is horrendous. What happened to Boston’s Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law? Documents proved he helped cover up priest abuse of children. So he resigned as Boston’s Archbishop when the scandal unfolded. What happened after that? He remained a Cardinal and an Archbishop of the church and was appointed to a Vatican post!!!

    In addition to the children involved, the big losers are the priests of the Catholic Church who have never and would never sexually abuse anyone. The Vatican does them no favors by stonewalling about the small number of priests who do.

    Too bad the nuns frightened a little six-year-old. On the other hand, my husband attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school and has nothing but good things to say about his education and the nuns who taught him.

    1. PEA, Knatolee, NCM: My brother went to that Catholic School until 8th grade and had very good experiences there. As far as I know, he liked all the sisters who taught him. I mentioned my fright just to say that if I became so terrifieid during that experience, I can’t even imagine. . . .

      HereinFranklin: Remember the hymn, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”? IF ONLY. . . ! The “Christians” who stand outside military funerals shouting and holding up hate signs, or praying for the President’s death, or cloaking themselves in piety. . . arrrgh!!! Child molestation and abuse is interdenominational. Protestants have more and more that seems indefensible to me.

      Jane: yes, the politics of religion. . . Oh, MY God!

  3. I still say they should allow priests to be married and maybe you wouldn’t see them abusing children. I agree with everything you said, though, and like you, I’m not too happy with the way the Vatican has handled the growing list of sexual abuse accusations towards various priests. It sickens me that they can teach the word of God and yet treat children that way. We were taught that a priest was the person to go to if you needed any help, that they were the most trustworthy people on earth…boy, have they proven that wrong!! As for the nuns, when I was in grade school we had a nun as our principal and as mom always said, she was the meanest and most miserable person on earth! I know they’re not all like that but when you have experiences with them like you and I have had, it really makes you hesitate to trust them.

  4. An excellent and thought-provoking post!

    My mother had lots of stories of being whacked by nuns as a child. As for your sad experience, I must say, that’s no way to encourage a kid to love playing piano. :(((

  5. The first time I went to Versailles, I understood more clearly why the French Revolution happened. The idea of one family living in all that splendor while everyone around was in squalor is mind-blowing. The same can be said for the Vatican. It’s simply hard to fathom all the art, the history, the influence, the jewels and the wealth. I seem to find myself defending my Christianity more and more lately. The sins of the Catholics are making it hard on us Protestants.

  6. The Vatican’s response is just sickening to me. That they can turn their backs while the destruction and exploitation of innocent children happens daily…in THEIR house, under THEIR watch….grrrrr.

  7. Send them to live at the Vatican.

    LOL. Well said!

    Look at that massive political and bureaucratic structure! Although I am saddened and outraged, I am not surprised by its lack of response, and when it did respond, the ineffectualness of it. Although I am apprehensive (understatement of the year?) towards the bible-based sects, sorry, denominations, I could see the attraction of Pentecostalism: a direct link to God, let’s cut out the middleman!

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