Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Who takes away the sins
Just back from USA and pretty much over my jet-lag! I had gone to Boston to support my survivor friend Helen who was in a documentary "Who takes away the sins" and asked me to go to it's first showing.
Great to meet her, after SKYPING and e mailing for a while, and of course, great to catch up with my SV USA colleague Gary.
I really did go with an open mind, I didn't know what the documentary would be like, who had done it, and Helen hadn't seen the final result. It was to be shown twice, first night at the Boston museum of Fine Arts and the second evening in the Boston College (B.C. as it is known, which Gary quietly informed me is a Jesuit college and should read Boston catholics!)
The first night was in a beautiful auditorium and there were quite a few people there, a couple of lawyers who work in this field, a few "survivors" and others.
John and Susan are the ones who created the film, he is an ex-jesuit, she an ex-nun, married to each other and both work at BC. Introduced by them, and quite self congratulatory and just a tad smug, but Hey Ho , they did make the film.
The film was similar to most of its kind, "Victims " paraded, talking graphically about their nightmare, interspersed with clergy and ex-clergy giving their thoughts on the issue. Quite condescending I thought, but the people who had told their stories seemed grateful ( a little too grateful) for the opportunity to speak out.
The panel that followed was made up of people who were in the film, and there were the usual questions asked. Of course no conclusions reached.
My friend was a little nervous ,but she dealt with it all admirably. There was one particular survivor who's "testimony" had stuck out for me, he had been an orphan in a catholic institution throughout his appallingly abused and damaged childhood. He was very distressed and also looked quite ill. He was seated ,somewhat insensitively I thought,next to an elderly priest who was shown in the film wearing an open necked shirt, but chose bizarrely to wear full clerical " power dress" for the evening. Jerry found it difficult to be there and even more difficult to speak.
The whole thing ended and we went back to our hotel , chewing over what we had just seen.
The following evening was very different, the same film, but this time in "B.C" surrounded by crucifixes similar effigies. A smaller crowd this time, and a different atmosphere entirely.
This time John introduced the film, once again the two of them in self congratulatory mood . Now I was made aware of their agenda! He was clear that this was made from "within the church" because after all "WE ARE the church"
He went on to say how he was sure that this was going to be able to afford "closure"
How patronising and condescending can you get?
It set the tone, and I watched it again with different eyes. I saw it for what it actually was, smug exploitative patronising victim porn. I was angry!
I was angry for my friend who I felt had been duped, I was angry for the other survivors who were re-victimised by the whole procedure, and I was bloody angry that smug self satisfied catholics thought this could offer "closure" as if they are still in charge! And not the bloody problem.
The clerical gear was still being worn, the survivor Jerry didn't come, he was apparent;y traumatised by the triggers the previous evening. When I challenged the wearing of clerical garb in the midst of clergy abuse survivors and how that was a real trigger, it was as if I was speaking in Chinese, for all they could comprehend the insult.
At one point one of the ex-clergy said "I encourage you to actually talk to these people" I wanted to add "Some of them can actually speak, and some are even potty trained and have stopped biting"
The film is called "Who takes away the sins" and there was a shot of a stained glass window of jesus depicted as a lamb, as a cello churned out religious music . From my old catholic indoctrination days I remembered the prayer the "Agnus Dei" or "Lamb of god" the next line being "Who takes away the sins of the world"
I think it was actually quite disgusting.
It was a naive and patronising attempt to seem compassionate and concerned. But it was clearly an attempt to convince others that there was something being done. The healing they talked about was for a damaged church!
Later I heard a lot about the filming, it seems there was a great deal "edited" out, for example one of the priests ,who has been openly gay, talked about how homosexuality is rife within the priesthood, and is an open secret among them, - that found it's way to the cutting room floor!
More disturbingly, the survivor Jerry talked about how he so badly wants to die that he has "committed suicide" by deliberately going out and contracting AIDS. That bit of his interview was nowhere to be seen.
So the sanitisation was complete and the real severity of the crimes was never aired at all.
Some people said they are "well meaning" but I do worry about that excuse, we know for example there are graveyards full of people who were the victims of others doing the wrong thing for what they consider to be the right reasons.
I came away knowing categorically that the church can play NO part in any solution, it is after all the problem, and it is crucial that we see all of these abuses as the crimes they are and get the lawyers to bring these criminals to book and put them in prison where they belong.
The healing for survivors can only come from a safe source and the catholic church is very definitely NOT one of them.
Healing for the church is of no consequence to me and so I would not comment, save to say that if decent human beings want to change it, they should walk away from it and allow it to become extinct.