Catholic Childhood Abuse

Regarding childhood abuse, I think the prevailing attitude toward it is that at some point you should just get over it.

And I agree, mostly. Full-grown adults who talk about their childhood traumas, and never seem to get over them and just move on, well, you get tired of listening, don’t you?

But then again, I can’t help but think of bonsai trees.

Miranda Celeste opens a window into a type of childhood abuse which, because it is so socially acceptable, is often overlooked.

… year after year, children continue to experience the indoctrination that, in one way or another, will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Until we as a society admit that childhood religious indoctrination has serious consequences and begin to give those consequences the consideration that they deserve, those of us who struggle with such issues will never be able to heal, even in some small way. And, more importantly, until society stops treating serious issues like Catholic guilt as a cliched joke, childhood religious indoctrination will never be seen for what it is: emotional and psychological abuse. We cannot even begin to fight back against childhood religious indoctrination until we admit that it does real damage and has real consequences, consequences that millions of people struggle with on a daily basis.

You might be born to be a soaring redwood, but if a bonsai specialist cuts at your roots and branches early in your life — even if you one day get free of his influences and go your own way — you’re never going to be as tall or as impressive as one of your fellows not subjected to that early influence.

Of course humans are not trees. Obviously the situation is considerably more complex with humans than with bonsai trees. It might even be that certain early difficulties make it MORE likely some particular human will reach great heights later in life.

But the metaphor — and Miranda Celeste’s experience — does make me wonder:

If childhood religious indoctrination IS abuse … can it ever be justified?

  • drlake

    I’ve long argued that children should not receive religious instruction on the grounds that their critical faculties are too undeveloped for them to properly understand what they are being taught, so I’m on board with this argument.

    Of course, no church will refrain from indoctrinating children, because if it did so it would quickly wither away. Not a bad outcome to most who read this blog, but rarely does any institution deliberately commit suicide in that way.

  • http://www.patrickomalley.com Patrick OMalley

    Spoken heartlessly. You should become Catholic – you would fit right in.

    If a 12 year old boy believes in God, and the way that he learns about sex is that he is anally raped by a Catholic priest, he never gets over it. He spends every day of his life trying to figure out a world that makes no sense, and he knows he has no one to turn to.

    If you knew anything about psychology, human thought, or children, what I said would make more sense. If it doesn’t, become Catholic. You have the heart to be one of them.

    • Hank Fox

      Patrick: It appears you misunderstood me. It may be that I didn’t explain myself well enough, but I agree completely with your middle paragraph.

  • http://scientopia.org/blogs/thusspakezuska/2011/03/08/the-parable-of-the-wise-and-foolish-engineers/ Zuska

    Maybe this is the part of your post that Patrick finds heartless:

    “Regarding childhood abuse, I think the prevailing attitude toward it is that at some point you should just get over it. And I agree, mostly. Full-grown adults who talk about their childhood traumas, and never seem to get over them and just move on, well, you get tired of listening, don’t you?”

    I have to admit I am not sure what to make of this. People should just move on from childhood abuse, but religious indoctrination is a form of abuse that we need to recognize and take seriously? Really? Person X should stop nattering on about having been sexually abused by an adult he/she trusted as a child, but let us take up the crusade for Person X having been subjected to Sunday morning Bible school classes???? If I am to take seriously the opening lines of your post, then why wouldn’t I just expect people to stop nattering on about their religious upbringing and get over it already? Your post could come across as really insensitive and offensive to someone who was a victim of childhood abuse. And it’s just internally incoherent.

  • http://www.mirandaceleste.net Miranda Celeste Hale

    Thank you for this, Hank. I really appreciate you quoting/discussing my post. And I think the bonsai tree analogy is very apt. I’d never thought of it before.

    • Hank Fox

      Miranda, thank YOU!

  • Luna_the_cat

    From http://thecommandmentsofmen.blogspot.com/2011/08/you-need-to-just-let-it-go-and-move-on.html#more :

    One thing I see there occasionally is something I’ve dealt with here, too – the idea that I (and others who’ve suffered trauma from spiritual abusers) need to just “move on with life”, “put all of that behind you”, “stop reopening and rehashing old wounds”, “close the wound and let it heal”, “stop dwelling on it”, and my favorite, {CLA} “quit bitching, pissing, and moaning about it.” Specifically for those who pull out that last little ditty, a word directly from me…”Listen up, you selfish dumbass…” (I think you can see that it makes me more than a little angry)

    Saying those kinds of things tells me a few things about you. For starters, you’ve no understanding of the damage spiritual and emotional abuse does to some people. Heck, the majority of the people I see those kind of comments from usually qualify their opinions with something like “My family didn’t experience anything nearly as bad as most of you when we were in Gothard/Vision Forum/whatever group” or “My family didn’t get as deeply involved in Gothard/VF/whatever group as some of you”. Ok then. So shut up about it, because you just disqualified yourself from offering an educated opinion on the abuse the people you’re talking to have suffered. Shut up before you thoroughly prove yourself ignorant. Most of all, shut up before you, in your ignorance, diminish the pain and healing process of others.

    What I would just like to add: This applies equally to every kind of abuse, spiritual, emotional, physical, or sexual.


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