Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Ireland my one, my only love, where Christ and Caesar are hand in glove" - James Joyce

Today I was reading the Irish Times letters on line all of which were about the Ryan report. The majority of the letters expressed a belief (shared I am sure by any sane person) that the abuse of children by the church, and allowed by the state, has no place in a civilised society and called for compensation to victims. However, a number of these letters also expressed the opinion that these abusers were only a handful and that the good work of the church within the schools and hospitals needs to be acknowledged. This is were I start to have a problem.

That emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children was carried out by a minority may be true but none of these abusers were working within a political or social vaccum. They were working alongside other religious and secular people who, while maybe not taking part in the abuse, were aware that it was going on. The very fact that these children were ALL to scared to tell someone and that nobody watching the abuse stepped forward to speak of it shows that the whole of Irish society is implicated in this scandal. One letter writer pointed out that the compensation to be given to victims will work out at €400 per taxpayer, and doesn't the Irish person get off lightly.

All I can hope is that the danger of allowing one ideological system to control a state will be remembered from this harsh lesson. That a huge number of children suffered, and still suffer today as adults, needs to be acknowledged but cannot be changed. These victims need to be given an opportunity to tell their stories and rather than becoming jaded Ireland needs to continue to be outraged from each new detail that is learned but what we then do with this new information and outrage will define us as a nation.

In my eyes there has never been a clearer argument for the separation of social services and the church. It is time or the state to take control of schooling, religious orders have proved that they have no place in education. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past we will never learn at all. How right was Joyce?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blasphemy or heresy

So...welcome all to my first blog post.

I was at a meeting last night and it got me to thinking that I had so many thoughts about this (and indeed other) matters that I should create a blog that would allow others access to my insane ramblings.

Basically for those of you who do not know...the minister Dermot Ahern so proposing a new blasphemy law to be introduced in the defamation bill as the old one cannot be used (something about the vague definition of blasphemy meaning that it cannot be used in court). The resulting discussion was very interesting and raised a few thoughts around the nature of blasphemy that I would like to share.

Basically what is blasphemy. It was suggested last night that the new law could be used by Christian extremists who wish to be martyred for their cause but how would a Christian go about blaspheming. To my way of thinking blasphemy would be using the name of God in vain, denying the existence of God or breaking an oath that had been sworn under God's name...what sort f Christian fundamentalist would be prepared to do any of these things. A really pretty bad one I would think.

On the other hand heresy is a different matter and one that every single believer and non-believer of religion is guilty of. Heresy is expressing a belief that is contrary to the dogma of a religion. If a Christian was to sat that Mohammad was not a prophet, that's heresy. If a Buddhist is to say that Jesus was not the son of God then that too is heresy.

Within the new bill blasphemy is described as “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.” This sounds more like heresy to me. If the minister suggested the intention to introduce a law against heresy people would be outraged but that is in essence what this law is. As well as being anti-freedom of speech this law would be a regression to the totalitarianism of the middle ages and a step away from enlightenment thinking.