340: ANTI-CATHOLIC ? PHILOMENA AND FATHER TED

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, 7000 hits old and enjoying every moment of life. In this blog I attempt to make sense of the peculiar claims of the Christian religion as well as the strange behaviour of believers; but it’s all done in the spirit of enquiry. Is Jesus an asset or a liability in the struggle to make sense of life, to behave appropriately, to express solidarity with the oppressed. If I come to the conclusion he’s simply an irrelevant historical figure with nothing to teach us, you don’t have to think the same. If I decide somewhere down the line that his insights into the human condition are a blazing signpost for all mankind, feel free to think differently. Whatever, enjoy the rest of today!
By the way, as an adopted child myself, one who has been unable to trace his ‘real’ parents, today’s story has particular resonance for me.”
Peter Turner M.A., M.Sc.

The following brilliant article was written by Paddy Dollard for the left wing UK paper ‘Solidarity‘ in September 2014

The film “Philomena”, released in late 2013, has been criticised as an “anti-Catholic” polemic by people whose own allegiances invite the comment: “you would think that, wouldn’t you”?

In fact it is not a polemic in the sense of being one-sided or tendentious. It is a dramatisation of a true story, a story more or less typical of many thousands of stories and many tens of thousands of lives damaged or destroyed by the ill-treatment of children in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland. (And a story recounted again in a recent TV documentary, “Ireland’s lost babies.”)

Philomena in her teens, in the mid-1950s had an “illegitimate” child, a boy,. She was abandoned by her parents, and imprisoned in an institution run by nuns. She was forced to work there without pay for 4 years, told that she could not leave unless she paid the nuns £100 – a vast sum in the money of that time to someone like her. Philomena and the others like her were, to put it plainly, forced into a form of slave labour, working in such enterprises as nun-run laundries (profitable commercial operations, many of them.)

Her child, a boy, was put up for adoption, against Philomena’s will. He was adopted by prosperous Americans and taken to their own country.

The child was not given to the Americans but sold. The trade in such babies waas commercial, a business run by the Catholic church for profit.

Fifty years later, Pholomena, with the expert assistance of a British journalist,tried to find her son. Those are the hard facts of Philomena’s life, and of the story the film tells. With one exception, the nuns here are not the “nice”, “good”, “benign”, “nurturing” humane creatures they all too often are in films, even now. But there is no lack of “balance”. The point of view of the nuns and of the Catholic Church  is presented vigourously. That may be one of the things its Catholic critics object to.

For there is of course a great lack of “balance” in the facts and what they say to us about those who ran such institutions and about those whose lives they blighted, wrecked or destroyed outright.

Apologists for the catholic Church might indeed think that some of the “balancing” elements in the film speak in fact for the anti-Catholic side. One of the nun-villains of the 1950s part of the story, now an old woman living in retirement, vigorously asserts that what was done to people like Philomena was not wrong. it was just. it was punishment, deserved and properly meted out, for the sexual sins of the young women whose children were taken and who were themselves pressed into years of slave labour for the financial benefit of the church.

The nuns believed when they did terrible things to young women like Philomena, they did God’s work, acting as God’s representatives and instrument.

This character is very vigorous and forceful, speaking from her deepest conviction and intact self-righteousness, telling the truth as she had it then, and has it still. She knows nothing to apologise for or feel bad about.

She herself has lived her entire life in chastity and sexual abstinence. She thereby gained the right, and as God’s instrument , the duty to punish those, like the young Philomena, who transgressed sexually.

Thar is how such people thought, and many still think. That is the doctrine. (Philomena herself, so she tells the journalist, felt  guilty and sinful because she enjoyed the sexual activity. She deserved punishment. In her view too, the nuns acted on behalf of God. That is the attitude that lead the many Catholic lay people who knew something of what was being done to accept it.)

The film’s main “anti-Catholicism” consists in letting the  villains of the story it tells speak the self-justification  that motivated, justified and guided them. It consists in having them defend their behaviour in terms of their basic religious convictions. Tat is telling it how it was.

On that level of course it is “anti-Catholic”. How could it be otherwise? The facts themselves are profoundly “anti-Catholic”.

And therefore? The truth should not be told? If the truth speaks against some institution it should be classified as “anti-” that institution, as “prejudiced”, and dismissed and discounted for that reason?  Some such belief is the only basis on which this film can be denounced as unfairly or unjustly anti-catholic. it is the implicit demand that the “anti-Catholic” truth should be repressed.

One of the main reasons the Catholic church in Ireland got away with monstrous mistreatment of children – and adults – for so long was that the Catholic Church and nuns and priests were immune from criticism. immunity backed by the power of the state.

Renowned writers such as Frank O’Connor had some of their work banned in Ireland simply because it depicted members of religious orders in their commonplace human terms and concerns.

From that to “Father Ted” with its priest protagonists, one a sweet natured idiot and the other a conniving dishonest chancer, was progress. It was one of the greatest revolutions in modern Irish history! (In fact, “Father Ted”, though written by Irishmen, was produced outside Ireland, for Channel 4.)

One of the liberating changes in Ireland in the last two decades has been the loss of the Catholic church’s immunity from criticism.

Such a viewpoint might be defended by people other than religious apologists for the catholic Church. try translating it into current “left wing” parlance and “politically correct” preoccupations.

After all, vast numbers of Catholics are oppressed people. Think of the millions of”illegal immigrants” from Latin America working in the USA. Think of Polish and other East European migrants in Britain. Think of the Northern Irish Catholics. Think of the prejudice which generations of Irish Catholics in England had to face, and to a lesser extent still face. Think of British imperialism in Ireland now.

The truth here is not just “anti-Catholic church”, comrade! If you see it in proper perspective this truth is “racist”. Therefore it should not be told, or, anyway, should not be dwelt upon, as this film dwells on it.

The parallels with the conventional left’s attitude to criticism of Islam and observations about the attitudes of Muslims are all too obvious.

For instance, it is a fact that a wide spectrum of people from a Muslim background are culturally conditioned to think of the typical behaviour of women in Britain as the behaviour of, or indistinguishable from the behaviour of “prostitutes.”

This atttitude will naturally affect the behaviour of some Muslim men towards such women, including young women and girls. men from all backgrounds abuse young women. But, recent “exposures” make it plain that a factor in abuse  is religious upbringing. fear of being “racist” made it difficult to discuss such things publicly for a very long time. it is still difficult.

so too for a long time with the fact that a lot of “mugging” street crime was the work of (poor) young men of Afro-Caribbean background. Official statistics did not take account of such things. Generally it was not reported or discussed. Even so, the truth was widely known, and the effective embargo on telling that truth allowed racist agitators to talk about the establishment’s conspiracy to suppress this truth. That is, fear of being “racist” allowed the hard-core fascists to be more effective racist agitators.

Whether it is “anti-Catholic” or not, the horrible truth dealt with in Philomena should be told. not telling it, for many decades played a major part in allowing it to go on.

The truth, and the right to tell the truth, are immensely important.

Source:
Anti-Catholic and “anti-Catholic” by Paddy Dollard in Solidarity. For social ownership of the banks and industry. The paper of the Alliance for Workers’ liberty no.337 p.8 (24/9/2014)

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Alphabetical index for ‘Dear Pope’ series of Posts
Red Christians #31: Catalan nun Teresa Forcades for a more positive view of nuns

 

[339, i&l, t&c]

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