Ripping extracts from a greater whole is tricky. So much context is lost.
I write this, as – not without some trepidation – I present the first major extract from my upcoming book The Gentle Traditionalist at this site.
By contrast, we offered a very small extract last time (here), where we we also introduced the conflict between the book’s two main characters: GT – the Gentle Traditionalist himself – and GPL his sceptical, secular interlocutor.
In today’s extract, GT and GPL are discussing evil and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. (The subject is one of many themes in their wide-ranging dialogue which includes everything from the crisis in the Church to secularism, 1916, the New Age movement and much else besides.)
We shall just explain that my story is set in Ireland and is written in the first person – from the sceptic GPL’s perspective. And here, GPL, is beginning to lose his cool, after long patiently listening to GT’s disconcerting perspectives.
Let us join GPL then, as he struggles not to explode …
The Gentle Traditionalist on Sexual Abuse and Catholic Ireland
Until now, I had been polite. I had held my tongue. I hadn’t told GT I wasn’t just some simple-minded dupe of the global elites. Or Freemasons. Or Space Invaders from Planet Zok. Whatever.
Because whoever you blamed, surely the Catholic Church had serious problems of its own. And it had done for centuries. The Crusades. The Inquisition. Now, it was sexually abusing children. Whatever next?! Why was I putting up with all this? …
GPL: … Some people would say Christianity—not just the Catholic Church—has lost all credibility for the crimes it’s committed. You sound like there’s just this terrible, decadent modern world savaging your poor, innocent Church!
GT: None of us are innocent since the Fall. The Church is both a transcendent mystery and a very human, broken thing. At one and the same time. The human side of the Church is far, far from innocent. At times, it’s been positively, diabolically evil.
He shuddered once more. So violently, I couldn’t help but reach out to him again.
GPL: What is it? Are you okay?
GT: I couldn’t help thinking of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
GPL: I’ve heard of that. It was in France wasn’t it?
GT: Yes, on the Feast of the Saint, 23rd August 1572, during thle French wars of religion. Thousands of French Protestants massacred. Evil, unspeakable evil . . .
GPL: So you can understand it when people get angry at Catholics?
GT: I understand the pain, certainly. I promised you we’d talk about these things. Every Catholic needs to confront them. We need to face the suffering of everyone who has been molested, raped, tortured, slaughtered at the hands of Catholics. St. John Paul II saw that clearly and he repeatedly asked for forgiveness—
GPL: Isn’t that a bit late now?
GT: Nothing can ever undo the agony those people endured, of course. But it’s no good if we Catholics deny the truth. We need to confess that in countless ways, people have suffered at our hands and still do today. Here in Ireland, we had sickening abuse of the young. And it was denied. Covered-up by the bishops.
GPL: Exactly. And not just in Ireland.
GT: No, it happened in other countries, too. But in Ireland, it affected maybe as much as four percent of the priesthood. Some of the crimes were monstrous beyond belief. Others somewhat less so. They range from savage rape and violence to touching children through their clothes. Of course, one can never know the psychological damage inflicted by any of these acts. But four percent overall is very high, if true. It was similar in America. In certain other countries too. It may not be as high elsewhere.
GPL: It’s bad enough wherever it happens.
GT: Amen. There is no justification anywhere. There’s no defending the indefensible.
GPL: Absolutely not!
GT: Look, do me one more favour. … There are some newspaper clippings [there]. If you look, I think you’ll find one about Pope Benedict XVI.
I looked … curious.
“Here it is.”
“There’s something there he once said on this topic. I marked it. Would you read it, please? I think he expresses what I’m saying much better than I can.”
“All right,” I said and read it aloud:
That the power of evil penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering. On the one hand we must accept that suffering, and on the other, at the same time, we must do everything possible so that such cases aren’t repeated. It’s also not a motive for comfort to know that, according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories. In any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism.
This surprised me: the former Pope claiming other professional categories were no better than the Catholic Church. It sounded suspicious to me and I told GT so. “I hope you’re not going to tell me it’s just the media picking on the poor Catholic Church again?”
GT: Well, in part, it’s just simple mathematics.
GT: Let’s say for the sake of argument that other professional categories do have similar rates. Or institutions besides the Church.
GPL: Okay, for the sake of argument . . .
GT: Maybe we could even name some of those institutions. Just hypothetically. Have you ever heard of the state of Florisota in America?
GPL: Well, I’ve heard of Florida, Minnesota . . . Not Florisota, though. No.
GT: That’s good. Because I just made it up. What about the ECB?
GT: I just made that up, too. It stands for Eternal Christian Brethren. But I remind you, there’s no such thing as an ECB.
I felt irritated. Why was he playing these word-games? “I don’t mean to play games,” he said, as though he’d just read my mind.
GT: What we’re talking about is terrible, too terrible for games. At the same time, I’d rather not use real names. Or point the finger at anyone. It’s all so appalling. Will you bear with me?
GPL: I’ll try.
GT: Good. Now imagine there’s a secular juvenile detention system in Florisota that suffered the same terrible thing in the past. Which is not so far from the truth. Because terrible things happen in secular systems too.
Anyway we have the FJDS—Florisota juvenile detention system. And the ECB. And they have the same awful thing—professionals who, within those systems, have destroyed children’s lives.
GPL: And the point to all this is . . .?
GT: Mathematics, like I told you. Please bear with me. My point is the Catholic Church is a gigantic thing all around the world, at least compared to the ECB or the Florisota juvenile detention system.
So people hear this terrible drumbeat: “Catholic-Catholic-Catholic-Catholic . . .”
But if there were an ECB or a Florisota, they’d never hear “ECB-ECB-ECB” again and again—or “secular detention system in Florisota” again and again. Relative to the whole, they’re too small to be noticed in the same way.
Sexual abuse of children happens everywhere. But it occurs in countless different settings. A borstal in Scotland. A nursery in Texas. A school for the disabled in Minnesota. A small congregation with a name that is much less recognisable than “Catholic.”
The amount of abuse may be similar—but it’s divided between different institutions. That’s what I mean by mathematics.
When it occurs in small, particularised, little known settings like a Minnesota nursing home or a Scottish borstal, it’s less easy to categorise. But if it happens in a vast monolithic institution like the Catholic Church, the name is on everyone’s lips. Especially in our media age of sound-bites. Of course, in Ireland, the Church once ran everything. Schools, hospitals—all sorts of things. There was no “FJDS” or “ECB.” It was all Catholic. So in Ireland, you just heard “Catholic-Catholic-Catholic-Catholic,” because hardly anything else existed.
In fact, I had an American friend in Minnesota. He once did jury duty there. And most of the cases he heard involved sexual abuse. He told me some of the sordid, miserable details. And none of them involved the Church. They were either in the home or secular settings. Grudgingly, I admitted GT did have some kind of point. But I still wasn’t sure I liked his attitude.
GPL: I hope you’re not saying the Church is okay, because everyone’s doing it these days—molesting children.
GT: The human side of the Church is guilty of evil. If four percent of priests in Ireland were involved in any sort of abuse, it’s terrible. The cover up is just as sick as well—even if thirty years ago, we didn’t know what we know today about paedophilia or, better, ephebophilia. People did genuinely think it was curable. Still, it’s no excuse. What motivated the cover-ups was not curing the priests, but shame. Priests and bishops cared more about saving face, than young people’s lives. So they covered up the paedophilia or ephebophilia.
GPL: Ephebophilia —what’s that?
GT: Well, it’s the more accurate term. It refers to abuse of adolescents, rather than children. Most often, teenage boys. That’s what it was most of the time in Ireland. It’s no less sickening, of course.
We have sinned. We have hurt the young. Innocent lives have been ruined. And we cared more about preserving our reputation than them. Nostra Culpa. Nostra Culpa. Nostra Maxima Culpa.
GPL: Well, it’s good to hear you say this. I’m glad you say it’s not just the media.
GT: Reality is a complex thing. I won’t deny the media has exploited the situation to its own ends.
Look GPL, you want me to be straight with you, I think. From where I’m sitting, there’s clearly a New World Order that wants to destroy the Church and institute the New Secular Religion. The media is the greatest tool it has. I refuse to whitewash all this. Playing along with it, pretending the media is innocent, certainly isn’t going to help those children who suffered.
It’s very difficult to talk about this properly. A small percentage of Catholic priests, men who should never have been priests, have committed dreadful evil. That’s a fact. But it doesn’t automatically imply the media is pure and noble, either. We shouldn’t forget the other ninety-six percent of priests who are innocent, but now live in fear of a witch-hunt.
The numbers are similar in secular settings—my hypothetical FJDS for example—but it never results in a witch-hunt against the secular world. Secular morality has led to our incredibly sexualised society. It’s not just pornography. All kinds of things are now eroticised. All these things certainly increase the threat to children. Nobody’s innocent here.
GPL: OK. You’re right. Obviously, the situation is tremendously complicated. Media sound-bites don’t help. Still, I’m glad you don’t deny your Church has a real problem.
End of extract …
The Gentle Traditionalist will be published in the next weeks by Angelico Press (by whose permission we have published this). Watch this space for more details and extracts!
And for a little more on the subject of sexual abuse and the Catholic Church in Ireland, I also want to point the interested reader to one of the personally most important pieces I’ve yet published on Catholic Ireland (here). I pray that it might help, in its own very small way, to bring clarity and balance regarding some of the tragic and appalling things invoked above.