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Justice, not “Truth”

By Free From Faith ~

This letter is a response to the writings of Bishop Edward J. Burns, in the Juneau Empire, titled “Abuse Hurts and so does the “Truth”.

Mr. Burns, if I may, I’d like to take a moment to paint a historical picture. I believe this picture will illustrate the hypocrisy of your suggestion that “together we will do whatever is necessary to make our families, churches and societies safe places for our young people and those dear to us”.

Envision an institution that has centers established across a nation, several nations, in fact. People are brought to these centers because of their religious beliefs and the religious beliefs of those who imprisoned them. These centers are secured with high walls fortified with barbed wire and shards of glass. Well posted guards and heavy gates make escape unthinkable. Anyone who does escape is returned by the public or local authorities. This is not a prison in the legal sense of the term as all of the captives are here by mechanisms that are outside of the law.

During their incarceration, each inmate is completely dehumanized with any trace of individuality and self esteem removed. They are required to wear rough, drab, grey smock type clothing. Any relationship, conversation or even the slightest personal intimacy with other inmates is forbidden. Names are changed to something symbolic and more pleasing to the overseers. Name changes also make it difficult for family members that want their loved ones returned to find them. Brutal, tedious work is done without pay. The monetary benefits of these labors go only to the institution. Rape, beatings and psychological abuse are not uncommon. Of course, there is no medical care, no compassion and no logic to this situation. The inmates find themselves locked up without a term to their sentence. Often they are moved from one work center to another so that their relatives cannot claim them.

I will ask you sir, and the readers, to give a name to these insidious places. I think that most of the readers will be wrong. I think that you, sir, will know.

They are not the Nazi concentration camps of the Third Reich.

They are the Magdalene Laundries.

These centers, established by the Catholic Church in France in 1641, took the name from the biblical figure Mary Magdalene (who was supposed to have been a prostitute turned penitent in church mythology). Ostensibly and charitably, these institutions were first established as a refuge for “fallen women”, offering these women a place to reform themselves via hard work and religious instruction.

The orders that ran the institutions in Ireland, the Good Shepherds and the Sisters of Mary, shortly began to steer a new course. Induced by the profitability of the centers, the nuns began to evolve a process whereby the women would be intimidated to stay in the centers/asylums to prevent them from walking out. The women would be reminded that they must wash away their sins while earning money for their keep and for the maintenance of the convent that presided over them. The longer the nuns could keep them women at the institutions, the more thoroughly the life of drudgery and pain would break any spirit of independence. The fallen women would become a profitable means within the network of the Magdalene Laundries.

The cash flow potential of the laundries, combined with the unique anti-sex, misogynistic zeal of the catholic overseers, eventually encouraged mission creep. By the 19th and 20th centuries, the title of “fallen” had grown to include victims of incest, rape (violations by the church leadership were included), women who had children out of wedlock, young ladies who spoke back to their parents, the homeless and girls whose beauty was considered to be a potential temptation to men.

When confronted with the horrors of the Catholic Church’s Magdalene Asylums, the church found itself, after facing the truth of mass graves where the broken women were buried and the consistent testimony of many survivors, unable to ignore it. So the church took the next step and denounced it. True to the church’s nature, the descriptions in the media, however factual and well substantiated, were described and misrepresentations and anti-catholic propaganda.

Mr. Burns, your writings seem to hope for some variation in the Stockholm syndrome in which the victims of sexual abuse by the church will embrace their captors to help the healing process. In fact, your article reeks of cognitive dissonance, dissimilitude and obfuscation.

Sir, no one, absolutely no one, and no member of a clear thinking society, would regard the perpetrator of a vicious and sadistic sexual attack as part of the healing process. There is no togetherness in the way that you describe it. The acts of a pedophile priest maim and injure their victims for life, often leaving them unable to trust, embrace their families and communities, enjoy intimacy and live spiritually. These evil men have taken something that can never be given back. In short, they have murdered the soul.

Mr. Burns, the only contribution that is required of rapists that pose as members of the community is their absence, preferably while serving lengthy prison terms. Their actions are not “inappropriate”. They are not sins. They are felonies. We have laws to protect us from these evil people. And these people deserve to go to jail.

I remain, sir, your vigorous opponent.