Monday, September 21, 2009

Care About Cats or People? Do Not Read This

The August 2009 Harper's (subscription req'd) includes several excerpts from

statements by men and women who attended Catholic Church-run state schools for the poor in Ireland, in a May report by a government-appointed commission. The 2,600-page report documents claims of abuse from more than a thousand former students at more than 200 institutions between the 1930s and the 1990s. The 2,600-page report documents claims of abuse from more than a thousand former students at more than 200 institutions between the 1930s and the 1990s.
The following is the last of the excerpts quoted in Harper's; I reproduce it here in hopes that by doing so I can somehow purge it from my thoughts. I have no genuine expectation that this will succeed, but wishing I had never read it is proving an utter failure. Read only if you dare:
I was an animal lover. There were wild cats and kittens going around starving, and I used to sneak them into the dormitory. I had a kitten. This nun called me one night. She said, “You see that kitten you have there?” She got me out of my bed by the hair and brought me down, they had one of those stoves that you put the coal in the top. She said, “Take that top off.” I had to go up on my knees. I had to put the cat in there and put the lid on it—and the screams. Then she said, “Go back to bed.” The next morning, she got me out of bed and she made me rake that fire out. I think I was about twelve at the time.
Whatever the cathartic value of revealing this staggering cruelty, it adds to Ophelia Benson's rejoinder to the notion that "compassion is the heart of every great religion."

The nuns who did these things lived swaddled in religious devotion under which they considered themselves brides to Jesus himself. If they were doing their faith a disservice with their savagery, their all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful celestial husband was curiously mum and inactive about it. The entity who declines to rouse himself in the face of these cruelties either does not exist or has nothing to do with compassion.

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