Sunday 27 March 2011

Collateral Damage just isn't good enough

To Anonymous – comment on “Commentaries on "The Bishop's Man": Reviews & Blogs

I wish that were true. An institution is only as good as the people who run it. When you focus on the people who run it, you are not criticizing the institution, you are criticizing the people. That is part of the problem - and part of what I am arguing in the numerous blogs that I have written on this book. See in particular "All the Usual Suspects" at, which was meant to begin a larger dialogue on the issue of the institution. (I have not followed up with the rest of my comments on the book because my personal life took a major hit last year – I am, for the most part, giving myself about a year to integrate the loss of my mother from Alzheimer’s – a horrible way to die)
Part of the problem is that the book is not a very good indictment of the institution. I am well aware that socialization into an institution creates great difficulties - people seldom question their socialization. There is no one in this book that challenges the institution - I reiterate that if that was McIntyre's point, he failed there and with his characters, none of whom question the institution.
Collateral damage happens - isn't that the claim? If what happens to the characters in the novel is collateral damage, then you are reading a book about how the institution is not the problem, it is the "flawed people" who run it that is the problem, and they are the ones that cause the "collateral damage". Thus it is not a criticism of the institution; it is a criticism of the people who run it.
The real question is when is someone responsible for their actions or, in the case of the Bishop’s Man, their lack of action. To the end of the book, he does nothing to stand up and be counted. If he did kill the abuser (there seems to be some question about that), so what? Even there, he is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. I have discussed other areas where I take issue with the structure of the book and its characters in previous blogs. Are you suggesting that because the Bishop’s Man had been damaged by the institution and, thus is collateral damage, he should be excused for his lack of moral fibre? He is a victim like Danny and that makes it all right that he didn’t do anything?
As I am writing this, I am struck by the fact that these characters are actually exactly what the Roman Catholic church is full of. McIntyre has said in an interview that he talked with priests who all said that this was a realistic portrayal of what it is like to be a priest. In that case, I will reiterate what I have said elsewhere – the sooner Roman Catholicism bites the dust and becomes a footnote to history, the better. If you read more of my blogs, there is a fairly decent critique of Roman Catholicism that is taking shape. It is the core of its belief system that is the problem, not the institution – the sooner people understand that, the better. Needless to say, I am not holding my breath waiting for that to happen – nor would I bet a plug nickel on it happening anytime in the near future. Christopher Hitchens may have an axe to grind but it is a righteous axe!
Since I am teaching WW2 right now, let me use that as an example. If the institution of the NSDAP government was all powerful (as I assume you might arguing that the institution of the Roman Catholic church is), then all those people who were damaged by the institution were "collateral damage" and that includes all of the members of the SS and the Waffen SS who ran the death camps and put millions and millions of people to death (and who brutally slaughtered Russian soldiers in their drive to destroy Russia). May I say, aw shucks and gee whillikers, those poor guys (please not the sarcasm). There were many resisters in Germany – not successful, but at least they tried – I cannot say the same for the Roman Catholics – priests or otherwise.
Over all of the years that I have been studying and writing about this issue, I have found a minuscule number of resisters to the Roman Catholic institution. There are more and more of them all the time, and I have highlighted a few of them in my blogs. Maybe, it would have been nice if McIntyre had showed the Bishop’s Man as just once trying to do the right thing – for example, telling the reporter the truth!
What the priests did (and continue to do) to sexually abused children is soul murder and all those people in the institution (many of whom you suggest are collateral damage) are accessories to that soul murder. To my way of thinking, McIntyre’s book lets them off the hook and ultimately, so do you, “anonymous”, if you consider “collateral damage” a viable excuse for doing nothing at the least and aiding and abetting at the most.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Christianity & Forgiveness from my dissertation

One of the concerns of the daughter is often the question of forgiving the abuser, of making some form of peace with him. Part of the reason for this is the need to find some external validation that the victim was not responsible for the abuse that she/he suffered or validation that it really happened the way she remembers it. This is seldom forthcoming and puts the victims in the position of having to find within themselves that validation. However, forgiving the perpetrator is not a necessity for recovery from sexual assault or any other form of child abuse. These fathers did not do the best that they could. They are not entitled to forgiveness, it has to be earned. Even then, the daughter should not feel obliged to forgive what may be for her, unforgivable and unredeemable. If she wants to forgive, it must be for herself not for the father, the family or her therapist. The daughter has another option. She can simply let go, a feat that is difficult for the daughter. When all of her anger is vented, when she truly understands what happened to her, she can let go of the resentment, rather than let that resentment and anger control the rest of her life." She has then become a survivor.

Forgiveness of one's enemies, of anyone who has harmed you, is one of the 'prime directives' of Christianity. It is not just encouraged but regarded as necessary that a Christian adult survivor of incest should eventually, not just come to terms with her experience of sexual assault, but also forgive her abuser. It is argued that without forgiveness the survivor will always remain unhealed. Christianity with its emphasis on loving one's neighbour and turning the other cheek, forgiving seventy times seven or forever, gives divine sanction and authority to the repression of that anger. It is axiomatic for Christianity that one is always striving to be like Christ, the 'imago dei' is placed as the epitome for which Christians should strive. Christians must emulate Jesus, who forgave those who crucified him even while he was suffering on the cross. There is little material written on therapeutic spiritual intervention for the incest survivor in terms of Christianity. However, a fair amount of material for battered women in abusive domestic relationships is beginning to accumulate. With respect to battered wives, it is argued that forgiveness requires that the abusive husband undergo true metanoia or repentance. These men must turn their lives around and truly understand the evil which they have committed when they beat their wives. At the same time, however, women are told to look to their 'sin of silence' and pray for forgiveness from God. But if the daughter speaks up, she is often not believed. Chaos ensues, and often the family is broken apart. On the other hand, if she forgives her father, maybe everything will be all right.

Christianity, with its emphasis on forgiveness can give the daughter the idea that she must forgive her father even while he is abusing her. And even more distressing, she may feel that she must continue to let him keep abusing her. Letting go is a difficult option for the Christian daughter. Jesus forgave his murderers even while he was on the cross, Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro while she was dying. All the daughter's training propels her to forgiving her father - to the detriment of her recovery. For forgiveness can be premature and impede recovery. To force forgiveness means that the daughter will have to stifle her anger at her father and her anger at god. To make the process that much more difficult, how would she go about forgiving the father god for his failure to protect her after he had promised?

NOTE: I omitted the footnotes from this - people can click on the link to the dissertation if they want to see those.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Forgiveness: a few relevant verses

I just received a comment on one of my blogs on forgiveness.

It is a rather problematic issue but my basic position is that the Christian concept of forgiveness is unhealthy for healing and positive growth for survivors of abuse. I will post the section from my dissertation on the blog. I will expand on it in more depth in a few weeks. It will take more time than I can give it at present. In the meantime, here are some of the verses that underlie the Christian conception of forgiveness.

A few verses from the Christian testament:

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col. 3:13b)

But I say unto you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; (Matthew 5:39)

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22)

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven ... (Luke 6:37)

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. (Matthew 18:32-35)

Just another comment!

One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged. (Heinrich Heine 1797-1856)

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