Thursday, March 15, 2012

Deliver Us from Evil

A Documentary about Oliver O’Grady
Catholic Priest and Pedophile
Currently at Large in Ireland

But is it? Evil? Is the problem the Catholic Church? Is the problem ever the church? Any church?

Is our problem with the Muslims, the Mormons, the Fundamentalists, or the Jews? The Jains, the Buddhists, the Hindus, or Voudoun?

Should we be concerned about the Unitarians?

What should be done with Oliver O’Grady? Hundreds of children? Their mothers? What should be done with Bishop Mahoney (who protects pedophiles) or the Pope?

What should be done about people who blow themselves up, just to kill you? Is there a source for evil? Is there a source for good? What is evil and what is good? How does a person do one or the other? Who is judging? What are the rules?

It’s not so easy, is it?

It begins with babies, no? Either they start out evil or something along the way makes them do evil things. Either they have crossed wiring or bad chemistry, or experience taught them evil was the best solution.

But then, is it evil if they think it’s the best response available? When we confront evil, our instinct is to punish it. Besides correct it, of course.

We rarely look beyond our instinct. Punishment gives us satisfaction, it gives us revenge, which is what we want. We have been injured and we want someone to pay for it. We want, at the very least, the satisfaction of revenge.

That’s usually where we stop thinking. We rarely ask, do we want to change the evil behavior? Do we want to protect our society from evil?

As to the first question, we don’t have much interest in that other than how it relates to the second question. We mainly care about evil when it affects us. We’re only interested in redemption so far as it offers us protection. Unfortunately, instead of redemption we offer more incarceration. We’re more willing to try deterrent than reform, which may be an economic response rather than a rational response.

But punishment, aside from the satisfaction, implies that those babies had a choice about their wiring or their life experience. I don’t know about that; I just don’t know. My gut feeling says that, when evil shows up, something went wrong. Some connections were loose or somebody got a bad education.

How willing a choice did Father O’Grady make? It’s true, he molested hundreds of people, both sexes; and it’s true, he disassociates himself from his crimes (at one point he wanted to have all his victims—in California—come to Ireland together so he could say he was sorry); but what kind of punishment makes sense? Whipping? Stocks? Emasculation? Throw him in a hole at our expense?

Or the Church? What should we do about the Church? Were they not complicit? Didn’t they hide him and shelter him? Didn’t they sexually abuse him when he was a child?

What about his brother or his sister with whom he had sex? Are they complicit, too? What should we do about them?

It gets sticky, doesn’t it?

A suggestion, if you will:

Regardless of the origins of O’Grady’s evil, it was able to spread and go on for so long and still be protected, because of the authority and power of the Catholic Church. Yet the Catholic Church is only one of many churches and mosques and synagogs that operate in essentially the same way: they all require a suspension of rational observation in favor of faith-based belief. The crucial element is not in what you believe, but rather that you are willing to believe in the irrational. The goal is to get you to give up your powers of observation in favor of the party line (herd instinct). Once you believe in the unbelievable, you’ll believe in anything. And once you believe in the unbelievable, you are united with all other people who share the same belief; and those who don’t are your enemies. That’s a vital power for any oligarchy to have over its tribe. It’s so powerful it’s universal and ancient.

What it leads to—and one sees this time and again in the documentary—is people, unthinkingly giving their powers of observation over to other people, to designated authorities. These people really believe in the cloak of piety. These people invited Father O’Grady into their homes to rape their children. They couldn’t believe God could be the source of evil.

That’s the same God who sends children strapped with bombs into crowded marketplaces or sends teenage girls into polygamous marriages or butchers homosexuals. Once they believe…

Can anything be done about it?

Well, not very quickly. We could start by talking about religion. We could put two and two together and see how religion runs as a common theme through so many of our national and international problems that we might want to start taking a closer look at the role religion plays in our communities.

We could start in the schools. We could start in the grade schools. We could have comparative religion taught from kindergarten on. We could teach little kids about the many varieties of faith as an element of culture, and we should treat it as a folk art, along with songs, dances, art, etc. We could teach little kids about the differences between belief and non-belief. As they got older, we could teach students about the role of religion in society; how different societies incorporate religion into their structure. How, for example, does religion affect international alliances? How do religious charities affect the government’s need to supply social programs? Why are some religious issues settled at the ballot box?

Is there any chance of this?


But it would be a good start. And, I believe, it would work. But, then again, I believe in the Enlightenment and I believe in the Emancipation Proclamation. What a fool I am.

On the other hand, I’ve got two things going for me: time and truth. Time will tell.

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