To be honest, I have not been able to stop thinking about the atrocity just unearthed in Ireland, where 800 children were consigned to neglect, malnutrition and disease in an effective death-camp run by the Catholic church in Ireland – then dumped into a septic tank as a mass grave. This foul concentration camp was maintained until 1961. This abuse and incomprehensible evil went on for decades. Many must have known about it; the secrecy of the mass grave is proof that those overseeing this neglect knew it was unconscionable but sought to conceal rather than expose it; successive generations of leadership in the school were complicit; the men and women who worked there were complicit; the Church authorities, specifically the priests in charge, were directly responsible for the deaths of 800 children.
Does any serial murderer come close to this level of evil? The repeated treatment of children as sub-human because they were born out of wedlock until close to 800 were lying in rows, like some excavation of a Khmer Rouge atrocity: is there any parallel to this in our times outside of gulags and concentration camps? And all occurring in a quiet, picturesque Galway town – like some horror movie.
I blame the crippling, toxic, near-insane fixation on sexual sin as the core ideology at work here. A view of sex that is riddled with shame and disgust, in which simple human nature must be so expelled and exterminated it requires a secret mass grave to keep the lie in place. Rod Dreher cavils that my inference that it is the sex-phobia that is at the root of this evil is “mostly wrong, wrong, wrong, though wrong in a way we have come to expect.” He thinks believing that no sexual activity can ever take place outside of a procreative, monogamous marital bond is a perfectly workable idea, if not taken to extremes:
It is certainly not the case that observing Christianity’s sexual teachings inevitably leads to atrocities like that committed by the fanatical Irish nuns, and more than the idea that Christianity’s strong warnings against the corruptions of wealth must be resisted lest they lead to lynch mobs burning the wealthy at the stake.
It is undeniably true that to treat sexual impurity as if it were the worst sin distorts the Gospel. But the Sullivan solution, to treat it as if it were no big deal not only is a flat-out denial of the truth proclaimed by the Christian faith, but leads to the opposite kind of fanaticism, this one from the pro-sex side. You may find the bones of that fanaticism’s victims in many cases where those who partook of bathhouse sex and lay buried, dead from AIDS.
Let me just offer Rod a Biblical verse in response: “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Here’s what the ideology of sex-hatred has wrought in the Catholic Church: gay men were emotionally shut down and traumatized by their own nature in their adolescence and then persuaded or driven to become priests to conceal their sexual orientation, after which their sublimated, fucked-up and distorted sexual identities lead them to rape thousands and thousands of innocent boys and youths; young women who dared to explore their own sexuality in the absence of any “evil” contraception are wrested from their homes and lives, forced into effective labor camps, had their children brutally taken from them, and then allowed to die in a mass grave. At what point will the perpetrators of this insane sexual phobia come to terms with what it practically means in the lives of millions?
Think of the lives ruined for lack of simple mercy; think of the sheer psychic pain and utter desolation so many gay men and women have had to endure for millennia; think of the awful marriages and dreadful sex lives and terrible parenting that emerges from this attempt to deny core facts about human nature; think of the women turned into subhuman pariahs for daring to explore sexual pleasure and intimacy. You can make excuses and excuses, but at some point, given this level of atrocity and evil, you have to say: all of this is a grotesque distortion, a merciless imposition of an abstract ideology completely immune to life as it is actually lived. To give human beings an absolutely impossible goal – and then punish, torment, persecute, dehumanize and destroy them when they fail to live up to it is the definition of insanity.
Yes, Rod, sex is not that big a deal; it is not central to the core claims of Jesus; its pathological repression has wrought such incredible evil and perpetuated such unimaginable abuse it must be re-imagined and re-conceptualized if Christianity is to survive at all. And look, after all, at what this cruel ideology has done in Ireland. It has destroyed the Church in one of its previously strongest redoubts.
The neurotic suppression of sexual need and pleasure is not a virtue. It is a pathology that leads directly to vice – to the corpses of eight hundred infants in a septic tank and to the shattered souls and violated bodies of two hundred deaf boys in Milwaukee. If that does not prompt a reassessment, what would?