Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

17 November 2011

On Purity & Perversity

"'t'will out! 't'will out!" (Othello  V:ii)

There is a point where the pure
meets the perverse,
and that is the place
                   of secrecy --

The place of hushed whispers
and slapped hands,
the place of shame
                                      and private penance.

The insiduous shadow of sin
creeps in
when childhood curiosity
meets adult greed, revenge
and guilt.

Come here,
little boy or gilr,
come here.
I know you just discovered
the feelings in that part of you
that no one ever talks
You can talk about it --
             you can show it
                                        to me.
and I'll show you
            what I have, too --
just as someone
once had me do,
              I'll do
                   unto you.

But keep it quiet.
No one will know.
We live in a world,
                                          after all
where we all are led to believe
that only what we see
is true.
There is a point
where the pure
meets the perverse,
and that is the place
                         of secrecy.

I woke up this morning to this story on the radio:

(click on radio for story - thanks to
NPR Morning Edition)

The recent revelations that a university football coach could abuse a child have yielded more admissions of childhood abuse then the pedophile priests ever did.  More and more men (and women) are coming forward with stories of how they, too, were abused -- by coaches, troop leaders, neighbors, uncles, friends.  Why does this incident spur this wave of admissions when pedophilic priests did not?

NPR claims that having this vice discovered in a college football locker room brings it into a more familiar realm and treads into the domain of what I would call secular manhood -- a sacred domain all its own.  In the USA in particular, the altar of the Sunday Football Game is visited far more regularly than the corner parish, and the communion of beer and chips shared with more reverence and passion than a thin tasteless wafer claiming to be the body of One Who Died For Our Sins.  Instead, the average American male opts to view the carnage of their favorite sport, again and again, sanctified and revitalized by those who live through it, week to week.

The Penn State story tears a hole into the ritual of manhood and carnage we call American Football, and this NPR story seems to suggest that, thanks to this, during those commercial breaks, more men, women, boys and girls are finding words for secrets they've hidden far too long.  In some cases, these secrets may have festered and produced self doubt and castigation, and ultimately created more victimizers, and more victims.  Seeing not only the perpetrator but also other coaches and a university president pay the price for this indiscretion helps the victim see that they were indeed a victim, and that society will sympathize with them.  There is something terrifically refreshing about this, because once a victim can identify his own victimhood, and realize that those who victimized them were indeed wrong, then that individual can take positive steps down the path of healing.

Meanwhile, as the NPR story says, there was little to no retribution in the church.  Pedophile priests were "outed" and for a day or two, they were the talk of the town, but then they were shuffled back behind the sacred veil of secrecy and silence.  Some returned to active congregations.  Some may have been defrocked, but no charges were filed.  Most recently, the Vatican initiated liturgical reforms that some argue reinstate language that takes steps back towards obscuring what is happening in the mass.  Language itself can be a barrier to hide behind: cryptic language makes true understanding and personal interpretation less possible for the average church goer, and restores the power of translation and interpretation to the priests, thus diverting attention away from those nasty little stories about priests and altar boys and replacing it with a reverence for the priest's specialized access to sacred knowledge.

~ ~

( christmasideas )

Meanwhile, a wounding contradiction festers.

At the core of Christianity is the fetishization of innocence
and purity :  the return of the child who can save
the world.  The story
that is so adored
and repeated because it is adored
looks to the Innocent - to a Child - for redemption.

the Christmas story is a beautiful vision,
for only in our children can we find
our better selves.

So why must we maintain this secret place where, even as the innocent is adored,
it can be defiled?  If the great men of football can man up enough to punish those who hurt our children
then why can't the Church?
So much healing could begin, if the cycle of abuse
in that oldest of abusive institutions in the world could be broken.  Both abusers and abused (many of whom may be one in the same person) would benefit from a public confession and atonement.

with every new story of abuse that we learn of,
the finger points back to the abuses that have yet to be punished.
The truth will out, for
the secret is tired of being kept --
Every secret ultimately longs
to be told, and

purity is demanding its time again


laurak@forestwalkart said...

i have never been able to comprehend WHY the child molesting priests were NOT allowed to 'be arrested and gone on to trial'?!! the church is not the military....where they have their own court system. i don't understand. we don't put up with other religions in this country that have their own laws...cults where the Leader/FATHER of the group gets CHILDREN pregnant. so what makes the catholic church so special? why do they not have to live by the law? why do they just cover it up? because they're afraid they'll lose $$? support??
just like Penn State...this went on...for HOW LONG?? and why?? because they didn't want to lose $$$ their precious football team!

it's sad. and sickening. stuff like this really makes me wonder about PEOPLE. not just the ones taking the innocence...but ALL the others...who have turned their heads...put blinders on...stuck their heads in the sand and hoped it would just all go away.
it's frightening...

it's time for secrets to be told. healing to begin. but will this ever REALLY stop?!

(gobble gobble...have a nice holiday)

Makropoulos said...

Thanks, Laura, for your thoughts -- and happy thanksgiving to you, too! So sorry I haven't been by your blog -- I've had two very busy weeks! Will be visiting more soon --

In the meantime, yes, we need to talk about this issue, I think, and how long it has been going on. Way too long. And our culture has hidden it, too. Everyone ends up being a victim, in the end, even the victimizers, because they too were once victims.

have a great day!