Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pope’s reaction to allegations is a nail in the body of the church

Pope’s reaction to allegations is a nail in the body of the church
Mar 30 2010 by Steve Dube, Western Mail
“PETTY gossip” will not intimidate His Holiness, who urges all of us to resist such a temptation. He even claims that it needs “courage” to resist the siren call that he and others covered up sexual shenanigans by men in cassocks. Alas, Pope Benedict’s reaction is the opposite of courage, and another nail in the body of the church he leads.

Some of us with an intimate past relationship of a wholly innocent nature with the Roman Catholic Church can confess that we have been taken in by such gossip, and it didn’t seem petty at the time.

As for intimidation, that definitely came from elsewhere, and it invariably ensured silence. To be precise, it came from many “brothers” in the religious order that made up most of the staff at my school more than 40 years ago.

Maybe some of my schoolmates, especially the boarders, were lying about what went on. But maybe some were not, particularly those suddenly removed from school by their parents.

And we knew enough about some of the brothers – and way they relished dishing out an unending torrent of physical abuse – to believe that they were capable of ungodly behaviour of almost any nature.

You had to watch your back with some of them, and petty gossip as well as direct experience taught you which ones to watch. They were bullies, and not to be trusted, even though we, and presumably our fellow Catholics, were assured that, having been anointed, they were men of God and more trustworthy than most.

Interestingly, when I scouted around on Friends Reunited once I found a whole batch of letters on the school site complaining about censorship of pupils’ memories. Some memories had simply been removed. I can’t imagine they have been erased.

My own memories crystallise on the day when, having survived into the Sixth Form and hearing the latest petty gossip, a group of us formed a deputation to the Brother Superior, as the head teacher was called.

He was not there, but we spoke to his deputy, a brother who petty gossip and experience informed us was a decent man. This happened on a Friday. On the Monday we were informed that the brother concerned had left on sabbatical leave. He never returned.

Much later we learned that he had featured in petty gossip of an identical nature at his previous school. It had not only been hushed up. It was ignored. Later still we were amazed to see him in religious garb on a television variety show, as “the swinging monk”, untainted by any rumour of wrongdoing.

The election of the present Pope was a great disappointment for non-Catholics as well as Catholics who had heard some intimidating petty gossip about him. It’s a pity that he keeps lending it substance.

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