Dara Molloy comments on the issue of sexuality within the Catholic church in the context of the latest scandals in Ireland.
Tess Harper comments on the war on terror and the psychological complexes that lie behind it on both sides.
CHRISTIANITY AND CLERICAL SEXUAL ABUSE
Ireland is engulfed, as I write, in the shock and horror of clerical sexual abuse. Coincidentally, I am reading a book at the moment on Women and Christianity, by Irish historian Mary Malone. Understanding the history reveals to me the roots of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.
St Jerome in the 4th century believed that sexual urges could be completely transcended and put to rest by the practice of asceticism including celibacy. He argued that ascetical men and women could live together without sexuality becoming an issue. Marriage to Jerome was a cesspit of lust and, for those who were married, there was little hope of salvation. He described a widow remarrying as being like a dog returning to its vomit.
St Ambrose of the same period rewrote the biography of Mary the mother of Jesus. He needed her to fit the model of the urban, aristocratic, 4th century ascetic virgin with whom he was dealing. To Ambrose, neither Mary nor Jesus had ever experienced sex, their bodies had never been stirred by lust. Both were totally pure, a model for all men and women. For Ambrose, to be married was to be immersed in a continuous struggle against sensuality, whereas virginity was the public sign of the church’s victory over sensuality.
St Augustine, also of the same period, lived with a concubine for 13 years. In the early stages of this relationship he fathered a son, and from then on practiced contraception. After his baptism, Augustine turned his back on marriage, on sex and on women. He surrounded himself with men, would not allow women, even his relatives, into his company, and struggled unsuccessfully all his life with sexual urges. It led him eventually to conclude that all of us are scarred with the sexual sin of Adam and Eve, Original Sin.
These three men together were the giants of the patristic period of the early medieval church. Together they laid the foundations of the Christian church’s theology in relation to sexuality and marriage. They also clearly mapped the way for all priests, nuns, monks and brothers.
Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine all believed that men were superior to women. All three believed that virginity was superior to marriage, and all three believed that sex was sinful.
This is the inheritance that Christianity has bequeathed on today’s world. The disfunctionality of the clerical sexual abuser is rooted in the systemic sexual disfunctionality of Christianity that has a sixteen hundred year old history.
Add to that the sexual disfunctionality of monotheism itself and the problem becomes global. Monotheism places before us one god and one god only. That god is male, is not married, and does not practice sex. In the case of Christian monotheism, that male god had a son without there being a mother goddess. God the Father is a single parent for whom mentioning the mother is taboo. We are required to believe that the child was conceived without a sexual act taking place.
Since the time of Moses, about four thousand years ago, we humans have refused to relate healthily to our own sexuality. We have ignored it, condemned it, repressed it, distorted it, belittled it, forbidden it, tried to control it. But we have never faced up to it. Now we have the opportunity to do so.
by Dara Molloy
*Women and Christianity, Volume I: The First Thousand Years, by Mary T. Malone. Columba Press, Dublin, 2000. ISBN 1-85607-285-1.
*A World Without Women, the Christian Clerical Culture of Western Science, by David F. Noble, Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-508435-7
PSYCHOLOGICAL COMPLEXES AND FUNDAMENTALISM
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychotherapist, coined the term 'complex'. A complex is like an engine of the psyche. Each of us have many complexes. They reflect the archetypal energies we experience in our lives; mother, father, hero, saviour, martyr etc. To not have any complexes is to be dead! Ideally, all our complexes work like little engines in the psyche channelling to us energies of the collective unconscious. What happens in most people, however, is that one or two complexes become over enlarged and they skew the overall balance of the psyche. So, for instance, someone with an overactive mother complex will experience everything in their life from within that complex until such time as it is named and curtailed.
Jung stated that once a person is in a complex then the complex has them. They cannot see outside of it. Everything in their world is filtered through the complex and their entire reality is dictated and interpreted through it. To depower the complex one must firstly see it for what it is and then one must 'walk around the walls of Jericho' (i.e. the complex) until it becomes smaller and smaller and finally is a normal non-destructive size.
I speak of complexes because I find the concept useful in trying to understand what is going on in the world. We, as individuals, get caught up in complexes all the time and our major work with regards to our psychological hygiene is to name these complexes that 'have us' and to attempt to break their hold on our perspective on life. Nations also can get caught up in a complex and few within that nation have the power to see beyond it. Sometimes a whole series of complexs sweep up a nation and dictate the behaviour of the people of that nation. Ireland has had many complexes play out throuhout the centuries, such as: spiritual complex, victim/persecution complex, martyr complex, mother complex, poet complex, catholic church complex, to name a few. England has gunghoed on a conquering/conquesting complex for centuries. Once a complex is over-activated it is very difficult for people to see outside of it. Perspective is lost. This is when the complex can become out of control. It is when the complex 'has you'. It acts like a type of possession and one is convinced that one is right and that what one is seeing and doing and how one is interpreting things is absolutely correct. Needless to say, someone outside of the complex sees a very different reality.
When George Bush was re-elected with an American majority there seemed to come an audible groan from the rest of the world. It seemed to me that few in the rest of the world, outside of America, would have re-elected him. Yet there was America with all its States crammed full of people and a huge number of them were giving him the 'yes' vote. I can only explain it by thinking that they are caught in a series of national complexes. Firstly, a religious, Bible thumping fundamentalism, which states that they are involved in a holy war against evil and that Bush is their leader and hero. Then a second, a hero complex. America can and will save the world. These beliefs are made possible only because some genius found an enemy against which America can fight. Falling far short of Independence Day and aliens from outer space (who ironically acted exactly as the humans did - i.e. take over a planet, squeeze it for what it was worth and move on), there is this universal terrorism that is now the target. With it, Americans can be frightened and Big Daddy government with that wonderful army (now weren't we right to spend all them billions on arms rather than healthcare, education or social services?) can protect and save them.
Those Americans who are on the outside of these complexes are despairing of the country they are living in. We know many personally who are seriously alarmed with how they are caught in some collective insanity. Those of us further away are also alarmed. The election of Ratzinger as Pope to the Roman Catholic Church demonstrates that a similar conservatism is entrenched in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Fundamentalism is rife in Islamic countries and is, ironically, driving the terrorism that is haunting Bush in his polarisation of the world into good and evil. Like attacks like. It is alarming.
This issue of The AISLING looks at these various manifestations of fundamentalist thought that are dominant in our world. They need to be analysed. From where will come the pinprick that will burst the bubbles? Is the ground swell of people who are thinking outside of these complexes going to be enough to stave off disaster? One can only hope that it is and that in the free space outside these complexes there is a healthier way to be in the world. I look to indigenous spiritual traditions for a safer more respectful way of being in the world.
By Tess Harper
| This magazine was put together by Marlies
Smit, with assistance in its earlier stages from Martin Hernando. It
was co-edited by Tess Harper and Dara Molloy
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