Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Irish Blasphemy

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

It's par for the course when the Pope bashes openly gay people in Britain for having consensual homo sex, yet in Ireland refuses to fire the criminal bishops that covered up child abuse for several decades.

Apparently all that you need to make things right is a few stern words against rape and torture, a couple of Hail Marys and a "journey of repentance, reconciliation and renewal," as Irish Archbishop Sean Brady described the Pope's current visit to the Emerald Isle. Almost nobody in the hierarchy even got fired. Four Irish bishops offered their resignations, but Benedict only accepted one.

Maybe because the cover-up's not done yet and they need to reinforce the rewards of loyalty and teamwork. The papal envoy continues stonewalling investigators pursuing the conspiracy between the Catholic hierarchy and Irish cops. Imagine the scale of collaboration required to hide decades of systematic abuses by parish priests, and in Catholic-run residences where nuns and Christian Brothers got in on the act, too.

Victims told the Commission how both girls and boys were raped. They were humiliated, beaten and starved. Children had to scavenge for food in garbage cans, eat food meant for farm animals. They were badly flogged, purposely scalded and held under water. A boy was forced to lick shit from a priest's shoe. And it went on for generations.

How can you reconcile that as long as the Church is still ducking and running? "I wish to inform that it is not the practice of the Holy See that apostolic nuncios appear before parliamentary commissions," Cardinal Giuseppe Leanza wrote in a letter dated February 12.

Earlier, a successful suit by the Christian Brothers, which controlled most of the residences for boys in the country, forced the investigating Commission to withhold the names of the accused, thus preventing prosecution. It's the same silence, the same cloak of power that allowed the abuses in the first place.

In January, just a couple of months after the publication of the report, the Church got yet another tool. Since January, when a new blasphemy law went into effect, it's been illegal to say or publish anything that might provoke "outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion." You can torture children or cover it up with impunity, but draw a rude cartoon about priests and you could be punished with a fine of up to 25,000 euros.

In response to this attack on freedom of religion and of speech, Irish Atheists posted a webpage offering twenty-five blasphemous quotes from authors as diverse as Jesus, Mohammed, Mark Twain, George Carlin, and Bjork who in 1995 revealed she had been tempted by Buddhism, but "I've been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren't lesser beings, they're just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists."

Taken together, the list of quotes seems strangely anodyne, as if were calculated not to offend, except maybe for the James Kirkup poem, "The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name," that had the narrator sucking the dead Jesus' cock.

It was comprised mostly of the typical denunciations of Judeo-Christian religions and their warmongering god as a "vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Believers were dismissed for being rubes. "Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!" "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day."

The site avoided the far more common, more inflammatory "blasphemies." There was no drawing of Mohammed with a missile in his turban. Catholic priests weren't portrayed groping their choirboys. Nope, the Atheists didn't dare touch any of that. Not with Jesus' ten foot pole. In this era of culture wars, some blasphemies are cooler than others. Keep your snipes and god-bashing in the sphere of literature, art, music or comedy. Though not Danish cartoons.

When it comes to censorship, people seem to believe we can separate the baby from the bathwater, good speech from bad, ignoring how easily the brain grows accustomed to limits. And how these restrictions, heralded by some as a safeguard preventing descent into the filth of racism and homophobia, affect the entire play of our thoughts, damaging our capacity to question, judge, also to transcend. Keep your laws off my brain.

It is only blasphemy when challenges from heathen mouths are worse than torture and rape. Sleep soundly, assured that I cannot destroy your church just by thinking of priests touching children while others watch and approve, or I certainly would. The words on this page do nothing but impotently denounce the likes of Pope Benedict, and Cardinal Giuseppe Leanza. Every word out of their mouths is a offense.

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