Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The curse of Eve

A few more thoughts on the recent release of the Cloyne Report in Ireland.

So damning is the revealed connivance of the Irish hierarchy and Rome in the cover-up of child abuse that some members of the government here are talking about expelling the Papal Nuncio from the country and closing the Irish embassy to the Vatican in Rome. A generation ago such ideas would have been unthinkable.

As I was growing up, Ireland was presented to us by Irish priests and nuns of the Irish diaspora as God's favorite place on Earth, a land of blissfully happy Catholic families kneeling by the turf fire reciting the rosary - praying together, staying together -- an aura of sanctity enveloping father, mother and the half-dozen kids. Yes, many were poor, and, yes, many had to emigrate to less Godly lands, but those who stayed behind rested sublimely in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, watched over with particular solicitation by the Holy Father in Rome.

As it turned out, as the Cloyne Report was released last week, I was reading Diarmaid Ferriter's Occasions of Sin: Sex & Society in Modern Ireland, a big jumble of a book that documents what was really going on in Ireland when I was a kid. In particular, there was a collusion of church hierarchy and government to keep the Irish free from any taint of sexual sin, an enterprise that seems only to have exacerbated what it was meant to control. What comes across strongly in the book is the degree to which women bore the brunt of blame for any lapses from chastity.

In case after case where unlawful sexual relations came before the courts or to the attention of the Church, it was the woman who was assumed to have led the man astray -- the occasion of sin. Into an asylum or Magdalen laundry went the (often pregnant) girl; the male as often as not walked free. Ferriter quotes the regard of the courts "for the reputation of innocent men."

The virtuous woman was the emblem of Irish specialiness; the wanton woman was the cause of whatever was amiss. None of this, of course, was unique to Ireland, nor has it yet been expunged from Catholicism. Might I suggest that the proximate origin of the Church's perverse concept of the feminine can be deduced with a glance at the photograph in yesterday's post.