This morning, my mind is like a caged and confused and still-wild panther ... unable to escape, yet trying, trying, trying. Fragments and shards of thought whiz like shrapnel. I don't want sympathy. I don't want agreement. I don't want to get involved in some white-whine pity party ("Ain't it awful and ain't it grand that we all agree with eachother?!"), but I do want to barf. Since this blog is my location for barfing, I will give my panther some leave to roar.
-- In nature, when the undergrowth and brambles and cast-off limbs become too many -- when strong and healthy trees are threatened by mounting detritus the trees have cast off ... then nature takes its course and burns the forest back to a charred and empty plain. The inferno is vast and consuming. Death is grim and certain. Burn it all down ... and watch the new shoots poke tentatively and gaily through the blackened char.
-- In the long ago, a shrink I visited weekly for seven years once observed, "If a man punches you in the stomach, you do not ask if he lives in a rat-infested apartment."
-- Last night I watched "Deliver Us From Evil," a very quiet, very thorough, documentary about sexual abuse by Roman Catholicism and its priests. This was not some two-bit, Pulitzer-Prize-winning newspaper expose. This was just a description and therefore the horror and rage it evinced in me went deeper ... it was inescapable and yet I longed to escape, longed to sum up the issue in some sound bite of logic or psychological observation or equally controllable and distancing Tinker Toy. But the movie's bars were too wonderfully, horrifically strong and I was left, like a raging panther, to rage and rage, try and try. I could not put the shards of this exploded grenade back together again.
-- It was not until the fourth century that the Roman Catholic Church instituted celibacy. Up until that time, popes had married and had families and children. But in the fourth century someone recognized that a pope with a family was likely to leave his possessions and wealth to that family after his death. As with all institutions, income was a consideration and papal wealth was a rich vein that had not yet been tapped. Celibacy solved the matter ... if the pope didn't have kith and kin, he would be forced to leave his wealth to the church. So the church swathed the issue in legitimacy (Jesus was not married, but the majority of his ace disciples were), and raked in the the proceeds.
-- Written into canonical law was a view of the church hierarchy as more exalted. The congregation's role was to pray, pay and obey. The hierarchy held the keys to heaven and the human longing for heaven ... well, it was a sweet bit of leverage.
-- When the church abuse scandals made their Pulitizer-Prize-winning debut in 2002, the church tried numerous tactics to blur and avert and save itself from the issue. One of the tactics was to lay the issue off on homosexuality. It was the queers who queered the religious waters and, although Jesus never specifically condemned homosexuality, homosexuality was culturally abhorrent enough to divert the focus from things like a priest who inserted his penis into the vagina of a nine-month-old baby.
-- In the movie, a psychologist noted that priests preyed on children in part because they viewed children as their sexual equals. Having entered the seminary as early as 14, 15, or 16, priests were denied the sexual flowering that generally occurs around such an age. They were, in many cases, stalled and stunted in a juvenile world. Priestly predations were thus, in some gruesome sense, understandable.
-- In the movie, a priest willing to talk about his own abuses is both attractive and horrific. He admits his wrong-doings and claims to seek resolution to the lifelong hurts he inflicted. He seems to confess in a way that his mother church will not ... to come clean. He has a kindly face and delivery. He is someone you would probably like to meet. His humanness is palpable... as is the humanness of the victims and their families who also fill the movie. But besides moving this priest from parish to unsuspecting parish as his abuses became known and besides, in the end paying him a monthly stipend and shipping him off to Ireland, the church -- the same church whose tale made use of the human need for loving kindness -- did nothing to actually help their priest. The heart-breaking hypocrisy doled out to those who prayed, paid and obeyed was likewise lavished on a church man living in a church-inspiried hell. If a church cannot enter and still the flames of the hell that it envisions or creates ... what substantive value can it possibly have? It is heinousness heaped on heinousness.
-- The church elders who are deposed in the movie are ... well, they are who they are. Like all corporate elders who find themselves in trouble, they seek ways to 'solve' the problem while preserving the institution that created the problem. There is something worth saving. There is some good that deserves to be protected and furthered. It's just a little accumulated underbrush, after all. In the movie, the church elders are abundantly evasive and suave. They are exalted and assured. They lounge behind their goodness in the sure and certain knowledge that those who pray, pay and obey will forget or be forgotten. Honesty and contrition may be a rule of the church, but the rule is laid down for those who pray, pay and obey. The church elders shown in the movie partake of the same powerful assurance shown by corporate, banking and religious institutions everywhere. Of course some will be hurt, but you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. Broken eggs are not our concern. The greater good (money and power) are the important part ... and the church elders, and those of a lower rung ladder-climbing inclination want a bite of the omelet. Others may have faltered, but I will speak for the goodness, for what deserves to be preserved; I will be truthful and true; but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. It's all as slimy as it is common. Broken eggs are not our business.
-- Step by step, quietly and without the self-serving rage the movie evoked in me, the film connects the dots. It does not weep as the parents of one victim wept and I wept with them. It does not insist that its good vision is 'good' vision. It does not fall down and have a well-deserved tantrum. It reaches no idealist conclusions. It offers no wall against which to line up the perpetrators and hypocrites prior to an execution.
It was a hell of a good movie and it moved me.
My panther paces and snarls and claws the bars.
It enrages my panther to think that some circle-jerk of agreement might convene and weep. It enrages my panther to think that sweet reason or spiritual nostrums might litter the heavens... asserting 'peace' without making it. The bars of a humanity I decline to paper over or release enrage the panther within me. I am content to be enraged and enraged that I cannot stop being enraged. How I hate what I love! How I love what I hate! I refuse to overlook humanity as a means of laying claim to that humanity. Fuck 'meaning' and 'explanation!' Just keep that shit away from me. I will stick with what facts I can see ... and roar ... and cope, if that's the right word, with the roaring.
He's a good panther.
Why in the wide, wide world of sports would I deny him?!
PS: A little panther music.