A few of us who chat here just spent the last two days without power, the fall-out from an ice storm. The temperatures have been in the teens and low twenties, and now I’m sure we all have a renewed appreciation for heat and lights. I hope everyone is safe and warm, here and across the country where the storm is heading.
A weather crisis is always a good litmus test of our character and of the character of those around us: Did the neighbors with power open their homes to those without? Did we check on our elderly neighbors, who could not step out of their homes without fear of falling? Who are we when times are difficult, when we have nothing personal to gain?
It reminds me of a movie I saw, Philomena, which is based on true events. If you want to see it and haven’t, stop reading here so that I don’t spoil it for you.
At 18, Philomena became pregnant. Her father sent her to a convent in Roscrea, Ireland, that took in unwed mothers. He then washed his hands of her.
Thousands of girls were sent to Roscrea, where they were shamed and put to work, used as slave labor 7 days a week until their “bill” to the nuns was paid off. The young mothers were forced to give up their parental rights, and wealthy Catholics, mostly from America, “donated” money to adopt these children.
In other words, the convent sold babies.
And then they did everything possible to stand in the way of mothers and children who tried to reconnect. The nuns deemed this as penance, as what these mothers must suffer for the crimes they committed: having sex. Of course, if they had properly become the property of a man first, taken his surname and had sex out of duty, then they would not have been sinners–or saints. You can’t be a Christian rockstar mom like Mary if your loins have been infiltrated.
But here is the most fascinating part of this story. Through the two main characters we see the intersection of faith and reason. Philomena forgave the nuns for taking and keeping her from her son. To this day, she remains a staunch advocate of the Church. On the other hand, the researcher who helped her, atheist and former Catholic Martin Sixsmith, was not so forgiving. He did not want to let the nuns off the proverbial hook.
Does this mean that the religious are “good,” more forgiving while people who do not believe in god are hard-hearted and unforgiving?
What it means is that, in addition to the brainwashing many believers receive from birth, the emotionally-destructive programming that has made them believe they are dirty and sinful and not worthy of justice, religion discourages followers from holding others accountable. The nuns did what they were supposed to do: they were godly and pure, and they were carrying out god’s will. He’s the boss, the rule-maker.
Sure. There are times when we should forgive: when reparations have been made or wrongs have been righted. There are times when we should let go: when nothing can be done and the anger is killing us. But there are also times when we should not forgive. Forget the blather that it’s not healthy. It’s constructive when used to hold others responsible for injustices.
Apparently, in the case of the convent at Roscrea–and in many cases every day, all over the world–you’re not held accountable unless you are one of the poor, unwed girls who were only doing what nature had programmed them to do: procreate. Otherwise, you get to pretend that you’re not really the judge and jury—you’re only god’s henchman.
If you have no personal sense of right and wrong and you’re only doing what you think someone else wants you to do so that you can gain personal favor, then what does that say about your character?
(Perhaps you have none?)