Andrew Sullivan looks at the discovery of the bodies of 800 babies in a mass grave (they were stuffed inside a septic tank) behind a home for "fallen women" run by the Sisters of Bon Secours in Tuam, Ireland, and asks why such a kerfuffle ensued when the U.N. Rapporteur on Torture tried to indict the Vatican for "crimes against humanity" because of its cover-up of the mass rape and abuse of children. As he notes, what can possibly describe the story now emerging from Tuam except the term "crime against humanity"?
These children were born to "fallen women" who bore them while living at the facility of the Bon Secours nuns, and who were then left in the care of the nuns when these women moved on to new lives after serving a term of penance as virtual slave laborers for the nuns. Documents indicate that many of these children died of outright neglect and malnutrition — and when they died, their bodies were stuffed into a septic tank.
The heart of the matter for Andrew Sullivan:
To my mind, these foul crimes against women and children, along with the brutal stigmatization of gay people as "objectively disordered", remain a testament to how the insidious, neurotic and usually misogynist fixation on sex has distorted and destroyed Christianity in ways we are only now beginning to recover from. For what we see here is the consequence of elevating sexual sin above all others, of fixating on human sexuality as the chief source of evil in the world, and of a grotesquely distorted sense of moral priorities, where stigmatization of the sexual sinner vastly outweighs even something as basic as care for an innocent child.
It seems to me that we have to move past the church's current doctrines on sex if we are to fully seek justice for the victims of this pathology and if we are to ensure that never again is a phrase that actually means something. It is not enough to ask for a change in governance (and even that has been hard); what this evil signifies is the need to root out this pernicious obsession with sexual sin. This pathology – perpetuated by Benedict and the sex-phobic theocons – perpetuates the mindset that led to this barbarism. The nuns – and yes, this was abuse practised by women as well as men – did not ever seem to realize that Jesus himself was conceived, to all intents and purposes, out of wedlock – in a manner that may well have led his contemporaries to stigmatize him as illegitimate as well. They did not for a moment internalize Jesus' emphatic insistence on the holiness of children as those most likely to enter the kingdom of Heaven. No, these precious images of God were consigned, after years of abuse and neglect, to unmarked early graves in a septic tank.
That is not a sign of a church gone astray. It's a sign of a church given over to evil. A church that leaves young children to die of malnutrition and then dumps hundreds of them into a mass grave is not a church. It's an evil institution that robs the word "church" of any meaning, and twists the Gospels into their direct opposite.
We failed these children in their short lifetimes. Never, ever forget them if we are to have a chance at restoring a Christianity worthy of Jesus.
And, God, he's right.