Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sex and the holy city

Imagine the scenario. A small child is abused and raped by a relative. She's only nine, but she becomes pregnant as a result of the rape. Her mother finds out and arranges an abortion.

If there's a problem, it's that a child has been abused and raped.

But no. That's not the case. In what passes for the mind of the Catholic church, the prime problem is the abortion. And as a result, the doctors and mother have been excommunicated.

Flippancy kicks in. 'Screw you' should, perhaps, be the response to the religious sect in question. 'Fuck you' – and I'll get my strap-on ready to do just that.

But the trouble with that is that it would ignore the power and authority that that sect wields in many parts of the world.

How dare they. How dare they suggest that it is in any way appropriate for a victim of rape and abuse to be made to go through with a full pregnancy and childbirth! I don't like the idea of any sort of 'them v us', particularly when it veers into 'women v men' terrain, but in this case, it is women v religious fundamentalists.

Here we have shriveled up, old men, saying that a child – a victim of abuse and rape – should carry the child of her abuser to term.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine if someone came out and suggested that the victim of, say, a burglary, should entertain the burglar in their home for nine months and possibly beyond?

Can you imagine a situation where the victim of a crime is the one who is punished?

Yet this is what the church of fucked-up old men in frocks think should happen to a nine-year-old child – because the nine-year-old child, as a female, is not as important in their 'minds' as a potential male child. That's what it amounts to. Potential is more than what is already present – particularly since potential allows for a male.

This is the same church that spreads lies throughout the developing world about the efficacy of condoms. This is the same church that skates over the issue of child abuse and rape by members of its own priesthood.

We talk – quite rightly – of how Islam oppresses women. Because Islam is used to oppress women in a great many parts of the world. But we need to remember that it is not the only religion that does so – and this case is an example of just what the Catholic church thinks of women.

It wants to put them on pedestals and worship them (Mary). But don't dare allow women to be sexual themselves – or that reduces them from Madonna to whore. The all-male guardians of the Roman Catholic church wish, most of all, to put the clamp on female sexuality. It caused, through Eve, the fall of man. It is directly responsible for the idea of original sin. And now it has to be stopped again.

It's worth pointing out, at this stage, that the Catholic church is not unique – but merely the vanguard of those Christian religious groups that believe that women have to be kept in check; that women's sexuality is a bigger threat to mankind (the word) than global warming, HIV/Aids, nuclear warfare or anything else.

How on Earth have we reached a point where we tolerate this bunk – and even accord it some sort of respect? Grow up, people! Throw away your comfort blankets and your dummies – you do not need them. Learn to think for yourselves – and stop allowing a bunch of sad, shriveled old men to tell you how to run your life on the basis of a fictional authoritarian figure in the sky.


  1. Still Learning8 March 2009 at 01:37

    Seems to me that excommunication from a church like this one might turn out to be a blessing in disquise.

  2. Oh, I couldn't agree with you more. But what horrifies me is that this sort of attitude seems to be regarded, quite widely, as having some sort of legitimacy.

  3. I don't really know where to start on this post so I'll just pitch right in.

    Starting with your comment above - where exactly is there any evidence that "this sort of attitude seems to be regarded, quite widely, as having some sort of legitimacy"?

    Many Catcholics - maybe even the vast majority - enjoy the comfort of their church not for the absurd interpretations of scripture but for the feeling of simply not being alone in a difficult world: that they have a sesne of community. I would say there are far better and less ignorant ways to achieve that feeling but then I didn't grow up in the tradition. Call them 'Culutural Catholics' if you will. The vast majority of them will not believe this excommunication is in anyway justified or correct or humane, but they will probably feel helpless about how to challenge it. And challenges to Catholic authority move much slower than in say the C of E, and not everyone has the energy to take up the cudgels. So just where is this widely held view of legitimacy?

    I'm not really surprised that you've chosen to attack the men of the church. You say that it's about women v. religious fundamentalists, but then you get stuck into attacking "shrivelled old men" who seem to attract your most vicious venom. I won't go into the appalling ageism on display here or the use of the term 'shrivelled' which I imagine you are either using tautologically to hammer home the ageism, or to suggest (in the context of the sexuality argument that dominates your post) that they are sexually-inactive. Perhaps you are using it in a more imaginative way, but from the way you have written this piece I have to say I doubt it.

    What about women? Don’t they have a role in overthrowing this patriarchy? Isn’t it their obligation?

    But, of course, women are taking up the obligation and in a wide range of ways. Victory is some way off, but what are YOU doing about it? Yes, you’ve vented some spleen and linked to a report that I’m betting most of us had seen anyway.

    So – just a for instance - are you, like me, an active supporter of Abortion Rights
    Put a link on your blog why don’t you? Maybe – tricky one this for the monied commentariat - you could even donate to the campaign the cost of one your handbags?

    Equally, as an atheist, I am a member of the British Humanist Association (not too keen on the ‘British’ bit, but it’s still worth supporting).

    Finally, I’ll finish on a particularly nasty part of your post. The post starts off with an appalling story about sexual abuse and goes on to the abuse of power. So what imagery do you use to express your disgust? You in a strap-on fucking the church/the sect. You can’t over-ride this by prefacing it with ‘flippancy kicks in’. It’s a bad metaphor, and the whole tone is entirely disrespectful to the victim of the abuse. You know it and you should be apologizing. Maybe engage brain before blogging?


  4. Hi Jane.

    I've been working in the British labour movement for a few decades, including on issues such as equal pay and abortion rights. For much of that time, I was on such low pay myself that I couldn't afford any sort of a handbag. I'm also an active trade unionist and have been involved in grass roots politics in London for some years. Hopefully, that might address your concerns about what I've 'done'.

    As to Catholicism and the legitimacy of such views, there is a situation now where all abortion in Nicaragua is banned. Banned altogether – not even for medical reasons. Women are dying because the Roman Catholic church has convinced the Nicaraguan government that it must ban abortion altogether. If that's not an illustration of a fairly widespread view that the church's stance on the issue is legitimate, I don't know what is.

  5. A Government's opinion and enforcement of the law is in no way widespread legitimacy. It is, as ever, power over the people.

    Now if you wouldn't mind avoiding the other points I raised and also acknowledging
    the offensiveness of your ill-judged strap-on remark. Not that I'll be holding my breath.

    I suppose I'll just have to be satisfied you've responded in your own way to my comments by blogging on International Women's Day and (albeit in a perfunctory way)tagging on a reference to an actual campaign.

    I think I'll be sticking to blogs by people who do things rather than write about them.



  6. My goodness – so many assumptions from someone who has no intention of allowing actual evidence to get in the way of making them.

    You don't know me. You do not know what I do or have done. Yet you continue to make these snooty little comments.

    You found a comment personally 'offensive'. Fine. You're entitled to that opinion. You are perfectly free to post that opinion – and also to go elsewhere to find opinions that make you feel warm and fluffy inside.

    Have fun.