25 March 2014

Abuse

Father Brendan Smyth - abuser of over one hundred children
in Belfast, Dublin and America. He died in Curragh Prison, Kildare in 1997
Perhaps I was just lucky but I come from a family in which there was no abuse - well certainly no sexual abuse and if, as boys, my brothers and I received any physical chastisement it was probably because we had earned it. And I was a choirboy in the village church with a choirmaster and the local vicar often in attendance but they were happily married men and didn't abuse me. In fact, back then I had absolutely no idea that there was such a thing as child sex abuse. I must have been fourteen years old before I heard about this secret aspect of human behaviour and even then I could hardly believe it. Such a thing seemed as believable as "Desperate Dan" in the "Dandy" tucking into his giant cow pies - with horns sticking through the pastry lid.

Though personally I eschew religion of all varieties, I would have thought that men who dedicated their lives to a particular church or creed would have done so with a holy sense of vocation. There would be reverence for their particular deity and a quest for moral goodness in daily living. If there's anybody you should be able to trust it should - theoretically at least - be a man of God. And yet...and yet...all these stories continue to come out - especially surrounding Roman Catholic priests. We're not just talking about a handful of priests whose wicked sexual abuse of children has now been unearthed but literally thousands. The Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, has "considered sex abuse allegations concerning about 3,000 priests dating back up to 50 years" according to the Vatican's Promoter of Justice. The words "iceberg" and "tip" spring to mind.

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests has happened in just about every country on the planet where the tentacles of this mammoth organisation have spread but the most noteworthy legal investigations have happened in the developed world - USA, Great Britain, The Republic of Ireland, Canada, Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Norway. Heaven knows what priests have done in South America, the Philippines, Africa. You almost have the sense that part of a priest's training must have concerned the conduct of surreptitious sexual abuse of children and how to exploit your power as a priest to achieve sexual gratification. So widespread has been this terrible, cruel and selfish behaviour.

As a secondary school teacher, I learnt never to touch children and if alone in a classroom with a child I made sure that there was a colleague very close by or actually in the room with us. My job and income were at stake. The idea of hitting a child in anger seemed like an admission of failure to me. As well as sexual abuse, thousands of Catholic priests (and nuns) involved in teaching were guilty of cruel physical and psychological abuse. They belted or belittled children, made them shiver in the cold, punished them with unsuitable physical work. This behaviour hasn't made the headlines as much as the sexual abuse cases but physical and psychological  torment can mark people for life as much as illicit sexual activity.

In these awful matters,  I am sure we are talking about the minority of Catholic priests and I am equally sure that many thousands of priests have been kindly, wise and holy men who have lived blameless lives of service. Even so many of them will have been party to the cult of secrecy that continues to surround accusations of sexual abuse made towards particular priests.

Sexual abuse of minors is not the exclusive domain of the Roman Catholic Church. Rabbis, Buddhist monks, Church of England vicars and even Muslim immams have all been outed and brought to justice. In Swindon, Wiltshire for example - Immam Ebrahim Yusuf Kazi abused young girls in his charge over twenty seven years and was jailed in 2011 for a paltry two years as women he had wickedly abused wept openly in the court. 

That's the trouble with child sexual abuse. It lives with victims forever. It affects their daily lives and their relationships. It's there when they go to sleep at night and because it has happened to them it can conceivably turn them into abusers too. It is more than likely that a victim of childhood sexual abuse will be reading this blogpost. I can only begin to imagine what it did to you my friend but through this blog I would like to give you a huge non-sexual hug and reassure you that it wasn't your fault. No way. 

19 comments:

  1. I know it was thrown in to the discussion lightly but I do feel uncomfortable you mentioning homosexuality in an essentially " abusive" and " child abusive" thread YP
    Just a thought

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    1. Okay John. That was thoughtless of me and I will alter the text. Sorry.

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  2. In my wildest dreams or in my most despicable fantasies, I cannot imagine how anyone could desire sexual contact with a child. I just cannot wrap my mind around the thought. And the fact that so many persons in positions of authority and trust as regards children can and do abuse children (whether sexually, mentally, emotionally or physically) makes me wonder about their reasoning. Perhaps as young people, those abusers sought out those positions for the soul purpose of gaining access to children.

    You and I have spoken before about how sad it is that good teachers and good coaches and good community leaders and good neighbors become aware that they must not touch children in any way for fear of the loss of a job or that they could be brought into the legal system for doing so. So sad that we have reached this point because of a few truly awful people and so much political correctness. So many children could benefit so greatly from just a warm hug and a caring touch. I understand it but still think it is horrible.

    And, don't even get me started on the other sins and atrocities that have been committed by "the church."!!

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    1. Okay MT, I will not get you started. It would be like poking an angry Rottweiler with a stick! But you are so right about those hugs and paternal/maternal touches of reassurance and support. Human nature says that that physicality is right and proper so when we don't touch or hug we are going against the grain. Once a boisterous girl bumped into me in a school corridor as I was just walking along minding my own business. She turned and snarled that she was going to get me "done" for touching her. Nothing came of it - it was an empty threat but she had that unhealthy mentality - absorbed from parents, pals and media hype.

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    2. Another reason I was glad to get out of teaching. In my earlier days when I still loved the job I would often put my arm around a student needing a bit of reassurance. I can't teach kids and keep them at arm's length too. It just doesn't work for me. The world has become such a sad place.... and don't get me started about priests and the type of education handed out by nuns in the old days (when my mum was at school) !!

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    3. Yes "sad" is the word. Death by redtape, inspection and mistrust.

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  3. You mean Desperate Dan's cow pies were fake! Damn, that's another childhood memory destroyed.

    I think you know my thoughts on abusing children. To this day I have never laid a hand on one. Inappropriate sexual behaviour with children is far more widespread than people are comfortable admitting. You just need to see the behaviour of a bunch of expats let loose in a whorehouse in some impoverished country and see how they snap up girls they know can't possibly be more than fourteen. I was an armed bodyguard and you should have seen some of the scumbags I had to look after.

    There were only two men of the cloth I had any respect for, both of them ex Army officers who took holy orders after WWII, one Polish who must have seen unimaginable horrors, the other British who had a claim to fame: he was the young subaltern facing down a German tank armed only with a service revolver while defending the British Embassy in Athens and the German Officer tank commander pleading with him to give up as he really, really did not want to kill him. Those are the sorts who make good priests.

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    1. Sounds like you should really have "looked after" some of those scumbags by leaving them floating face down in a swamp. Sorry to disappoint you about Desperate Dan. I know you have modelled your character on his. Maybe you should have picked Jesus instead. He was real...wasn't he?

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  4. I read a book recently that touched on it in passing recently, but I thoroughly recommend the book anyway. I almost think it should be compulsory reading in schools, for the older pupils. It's called Maps for Lost Lovers, by Nadeem Aslam. As for the catholic priests - enforced celibacy never did work, did it? Someone, somewhere, has always suffered for it throughout the centuries.

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    1. Thank you JR. I will order that book.

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  5. Paedophiles are the lowest of lowest; they are the most depraved, despicable human beings. I find if very difficult referring to them as "human beings". They would get no leniency from me. They are unable to be rehabilitated. Our justice system (speaking for our own here in Australia) is far to lenient in their sentencing of these monsters. They should be named and shamed; there should be a public register naming the lot of them! A petition is happening as I write, in this country, for this to come into being.

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    1. In America it is possible to locate the current home addresses of known sex offenders just by clicking a few times with your mouse button. Why do people become paedophiles? Often it can be traced back to their own upbringing. What goes around comes around. They need to be spotted early, monitored and re-educated before they can destroy children's lives.

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  6. This is an evil I cannot comprehend.
    I very much doubt it is a minority of priests who are involved. They all must be aware that abuse goes on and ignoring and hence condoning it is almost as bad as indulging in it.

    Window

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    1. The Vatican may have admitted to investigating 3000 cases in 50 yrs but in Ireland alone 10,000 cases were declared in recent decades and Ireland is a small country.

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    2. Sorry about the link. It is a very serious subject.

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    3. "See it or Not"? Have you got shares in this organisation or something Adrian?

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    4. Click on 'Window'.

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  7. It's a sunny afternoon. I was having a Good Day. I have just started reading the blog posts I missed whilst I was in Northland. Now I have been brought down to earth with considerable jolt. I suppose it is the case that, like many, I just ignore the horrendous atrocities around us on an everyday basis. If we didn't we would go mad.

    I went to a small private prep school run by Roman Catholics (although I was brought up in the Church of England). The regime was cruel and harsh both physically and mentally although the majority of the teachers were absolutely wonderful and caring. The Headmaster was a kindly and ineffective old man of Irish stock. He liked children (a bit too much sometimes). The Headmistress was an abusive tyrant. I escaped virtually unscathed but reading the accounts of many fellow pupils I seem to have been exceedingly lucky.

    Like most (all?) of your commenters on this post I have no time for organised religion and have commented in my blogs on the millions upon millions killed in the last century alone in the name of one god or another (and often in the name of the same god on each side). It is not, however, religion per se that is the cause of the particular evil of paedophilia or child cruelty. It just happens to provide a rather convenient vehicle for many who want to indulge in that particular evil.

    The problem then becomes the same as those faced by teachers and just about any other person who works with the young, the old, the infirm, those with mental or physical disabilities and so the list goes on. The problem? Fear of being tarred with the same brush. Fear of being bullied by those who believe anyone doing good is doing it for the wrong reason.

    I am essentially an optimist who sees good around me. I play the Glad Game constantly. I am a Thankful Thursday person (though that's being sorely tested by the lives of those around me at the moment). However this afternoon, having read your post and been given an injection of reality which didn't come from a journalist trying to improve ratings but from a person I 'know', I am not exactly the happy bunny I was an hour ago.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.