Religion Doesn’t Have A Prayer - 2
Shaming You to Nothing
They say that abusers are often abuse victims themselves. In my experience, abuse victims of all categories emerge in one of two ways. They will identify themselves with their abuser who appears to have all the power; or, they identify themselves as victims, with no power at all. Psychologists call this "learned helplessness." It's what happens when the abuse originated in childhood.
In my case, I saw myself as a victim and unconsciously followed the powerless route. The constant shaming, verbal abuse and general belittling I suffered at the hands of my religious teachers conditioned me to believe that I was no good and needed to be repaired. I felt anger over this, which I repressed and relegated to my growing inventory of rage.
In contrast to this steady diet of derogatory remarks, I had begun receiving notice for academic and musical abilities, which were widely praised. I quickly learned that if I performed well in these areas, I could get both my parents and my teacher nuns off my back for my alleged shortcomings. That's when I became a trained monkey, always seeking attention, hungering for approval and hoping to make up for my litany of faults. Not a great tradeoff, but sufficient to keep me from falling into total despair.
When you are taught that you are no good by your religious teachers, and your parents are themselves infected with the same negative self-image, the trap is slammed shut. The punishing effects of being constantly reminded of your so-called dark side takes its toll. In no time at all, you are on their side, condemning yourself as well. The part of you that naturally wants to strike back at any form of abuse has been properly identified as bad (in their eyes) and is relegated to the dark nether reaches of your mind.
The fact that you may occasionally exhibit even the tiniest inclination to protest their treatment of you becomes proof positive of your overall defectiveness. More reason, in their minds, why you have to accept their conditioning and brainwashing methods. And sadly, you have begun to agree with them. The negative reinforcement buttons have been fully installed, and your religious teachers can take their programming methods up a few notches. Meanwhile, your inventory of rage keeps growing, and it becomes harder and harder to suppress it.
When I was reading my first self-help books, I suddenly became aware of this burning rage inside of me. I later learned from my therapist that this was the case for all abuse victims. Those who identify with their abusers direct their misplaced anger outward, usually toward the upcoming generation who will now become victims at their hands. Among these will be two more groups of individuals, those who again identify with their abusers in order to feel powerful, and those who can only see themselves as victims. The cycle of abuse becomes a self-perpetuating entity. Your only way out, according to them, is prayer; because you're certainly not going to be invited to challenge their world view. What's a child to do?
Looking back, that anger I uncovered had always been there, likely since infancy when my father began abusing me physically, mentally and emotionally. My mother later told me that when I cried in my crib, my father would verbally frighten me into silence. Hard to believe that the terrorizing of children could begin at such an early stage.
Back to religion again, I wasn't at a state yet where I could readily be tormented by religious doublespeak. But by age 4 I fully understood what terror felt like because that feeling came with every beating that was a regular part of my family discipline. When I reached the age where my religious tormentors could take over, they had no problem convincing me I was bad and needed correcting. I'd been listening to those tirades since I first understood language. The religious abuse just generated another layer of anger which I was already experienced at repressing. How could I ever challenge anyone who represented God? Wrong again!
I could no more do that than yell at my father who was a virtual mad man when he was angry and pulling out his belt. These were the two main forms of abuse I experienced under the guise of "discipline." I did vent some anger on my younger siblings who probably saw me, their older brother, as an abuser as well. But when I got caught, guess what? I was physically beaten again for daring to be physically abusive toward my sisters. My therapist used to tell me that I must have great genes, because I should have went mad with all these contradictions.
Can you now begin to see the insidiousness of this catholicized family and religious structure? Multi-generations of abuse victims become abusers and pass the same sickness on. The physical abuse at home was totally sanctioned by the Catholic authority who believed the devil had to be beaten out of us. When Catholic parents are later beaten and murdered by their own offspring, and religious school authorities are attacked, a history of abuse is likely behind that blind rage.
Now, it wasn't enough that Catholic religious authorities had developed sophisticated psychological methods of shaming and diminishing you, they also used those very methods to shame you further if you dared complain about how you were being treated. With physical abuse, the structure and source of abuse was very straightforward. Whoever yelled at you and beat you was your abuser. But it would be a long time before you might see it that way, because as long as you believed you were wrong, then you simply accepted it as discipline for your mistakes and failures. After all, the reason you are being beaten and abused is your fault, isn't it?
It wasn't until I went into therapy that I began to recognize my father as an abuser, and that was only an intellectual understanding. It would be a long time before I could feel the truth of what my therapist was showing me and start owning the rage that was seething inside. My therapist correctly warned me that this rage would start pressing for attention and release. In the meantime, my other source of rage was beginning to show itself and this one belonged to my religious abusers. But it would be decades before I could see that clearly and ultimately accept it as absolutely valid.
In summary, my experience with the religious authorities of my youth came down like this. You were wrong, defective and sinful for no valid reason at all, and you were wrong, defective and sinful for daring to complain about it. When I read Catch 22 in the 60s I knew that experience from the inside out.
Yes, yes! I can hear the complaints now, the protestations of my childhood religious authorities saying, "That's not what we meant" – "We did it for your own good" – and so on. Because, when you challenge religious authorities, their defenses would rise up and they worked tirelessly to reject your allegations of abuse. They had nothing but good intentions and once again, you are wrong for complaining about it.
Well that doesn't wash anymore. It does not matter what their intentions were or how they might continue to rationalize their abusive behavior. Because, in the end, it all comes down to how you felt about it. When the therapist asks: "Did you feel abused? Did you feel shamed? Did you feel trapped? Did you feel like a bad person because of what they said and did to you?" And your Heart yells out "Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes." Then you have your answer. And by the way, the therapist has no investment in having you believe a lie, so to those who would tout "false memory syndrome" just take a hike. I have been on both sides of this experience and the reluctance on the part of abuse victims to see their parents or religious authorities as abusers is powerful. False memory syndrome, my @#%&!
Therapy for abuse is hard enough without suggesting the outcomes are made up. You have to be guided through a minefield of defenses that came about as a result of your experiences, and these defenses are total rationalizations intended to guess what? - protect your abuser and keep you believing you're the problem. It takes a long time to come to terms with the reality of your abuse experiences because you have to see your parents as dysfunctional and your religion, God forbid, as the abusive entity it was at the time.
We can easily see who the abuser and victim are in cases of sexual, physical and verbal abuse. Yet these victims will always take the lion's share of the blame. "They hit me because I was bad." "I was sexually abused because I am a dirty little boy or girl." I was called names and shamed because I am defective." My religious abusers used the same tactics as those above. They made you feel it was your fault you were being chastised or called down or shamed – the very same tactic sexual abusers use to convince their victims it was their fault. I know these scenarios inside out and backwards because of my original experiences and my professional psychological training. I believed I deserved what was done to me and I worked my tail off in therapy and as a therapist to help myself and others see the truth – that we were real victims indeed and our abusers were wrong and culpable.
How convenient for our abusers to have this kind of leverage over their victims. They got to apply their abuse strategies with impunity, all the while guarding their feeble self-esteem with the rationalizations that their victims deserved it. Weren't they doing God's work after all? I will delve into the religious abuser's motives in an upcoming chapter.
The Catholic Church, in my view, is no different than any of the abusers I have listed here so far. The fact that their methods are more sophisticated and couched in layers of religious rationalizations does not change that status. The Catholic Church is one of this world's leading abusers of innocent children, women and anyone who would dare disagree with them. Look at what they did to the native children of North America's aboriginal peoples.
And keep looking! The truth is out there. Look at what they did to Copernicus for making his ungodly claim that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Look at what they did to Galileo for validating Copernicus' research and conclusions. Look at what they did under Pope Innocent (ii or iii) who ordered his armies to slaughter whole groups of individuals classed as heathens. "Don't worry about culling the innocent ones from the guilty" he told his army, "Kill them all and God will sort out who belongs with Him when they arrive at Heaven's door."
"Such arrogance! Such unmitigated gall! Such pornographic abuse of an intentional nature! And you want to present yourselves and the current Pope as the Holy See?"
Here's one of their biggest lies, and there are many yet to be exposed. The Catholic Church, its various leaders and the Popes of just a few centuries ago were behind the wholesale slaughter of innocent victims across all European nations and the many Muslim countries then existing. They were just as vicious and unrelenting in their murderous attacks as the Nazis during the 2nd World War. Their assuming the mantle of holiness, positive values and love is one big fat lie, which is completely repudiated by the facts.
I can feel my anger boiling over now as I cite these atrocities. This religion, which pretended to care so much for the poor, uneducated and lost, is no more than a wolf in sheep's clothing. What they are good at is lying, misrepresenting the facts and flat out denial when called on their abusive behavior. In the last 3 decades we've watched them scurry around trying to bury the truth of innocent children being sexually abused by their priests. They have resorted to what they do best, lie, deny, hide, misrepresent. Well, their victims were not to be dissuaded and the courts have laid responsibility at the Catholic authority's feet, along with a stinging amount of punitive damages.
Why do I venture off in all these directions with regards to the Catholic Church?
Because recorded history tell us more about a religion than what any entity professes to be. On a personal level, I fully accept my anger toward the Catholic religious authority that shamed and abused me during my childhood. I am doing this to fully recover my essential self who was buried beneath their lies, intimidation and abuse. For all of you who resonate with this material, I urge you to do the same for your own health and well-being so that you can completely rid yourself of the heinous poison, recapture your essential self and re-establish your personal connection with Source.
The story behind the story deserves attention as well. Abusers bank on fact that people have short memories and new crops of innocents are being born into this world all the time. A plethora of fresh new victims who have no idea of the atrocities and tyranny the Catholic Church has perpetuated since its inauguration. Let mine and similar voices be a warning to all. The Catholic Church is the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing and it will rape you emotionally and intellectually if you let it get anywhere near your heart.
Abuse victims do not need to have mountains of historical information to realize they have been abused and brainwashed by an organization whose sole purpose is to inflate itself, collect money and pretend to be relevant. It does help however, to see their history of abuse, when trying to come to terms with their effects on you. Mentioned earlier, look at how the Catholic Church reacted with those early reports of priest misconduct around sexual abuse first came out. They simply moved the offending priest to another parish – where he could offend again. How many such abuse cases have been buried over the years? How much damage have they perpetrated that we have yet to uncover? I saw plenty of religious abuse victims during my tenure as a therapist. These folks, boys in particular, were badly damaged and carried those effects into their adult lives.
A client shared a story about his residential school. Sexual abuse by monks and priests was rampant. Children housed here were delivered by their parents who claimed they were unruly and unmanageable. Without trial, these children were condemned to spending their education years in this house of horrors. He also claimed that there were bodies buried in the furthest reaches of the church property. These were the bodies of children who had allegedly run away. At the time I saw him, he was involved in a class action lawsuit for punitive damages and was a primary witness against one particular priest who had been charged with gross misconduct against the boys. My client denied he had been sexually abused, but his demeanor certainly showed all the classic signs of physical and religious abuse in particular.
The Church did what all liars do. At first, they rejected the charges! Then they counter-attacked! And then they rationalized the behavior which they originally denied! The net effect of their denial resulted in their original victims feeling abused once again, through their denial that the abuse ever took place. The church's behavior in these matters has been nothing short of contemptible. In my view, they have nothing to celebrate and everything to apologize for. Most recently, the Catholic Church authority has issued a formal apology to Canada's aboriginal peoples for the atrocities they committed during the residential school era going back to the early part of the 20th century. Finally!
My anger at the Catholic Church is no longer limited to my personal experiences of abuse at their hands. It now extends beyond that limited sample into the historical reaches of their widespread abuse history. How dare they claim the high moral ground and then execute anyone who disagrees with them? Their attitude and behavior toward those they profess to represent and spiritually assist belies their underlying motives. The Catholic Church authorities are running a business and they need to protect their market share by upholding a well crafted (previously bullet-proof) public image. My stomach does back flips whenever I encounter more and more examples of their rampant hypocrisy. This is not news really. Most of their flock knows what's going on and have just looked the other way rather than confront them. People can see the contradictions for themselves, but as a whole, they are loathe to take them on. Why? Because they would have to lose the illusory comfort that their church (read dysfunctional parent figure) pretends to provide, and they choose to buy into. Self-delusion works that way. Well, not anymore!
I thought that, as I matured through my spiritual practices and personal growth efforts, this seething anger I uncovered would dissipate and die. I would come to a point where I held no more grudges, disdain for the church or animosity toward its representatives. That was the ideal result I garnered from the many books and programs I had read regarding abuse in general. This has not been the case. After 40 years of seeking, growing and evolving, that anger is still there – in a much clearer context mind you, but still with me. My message from inside is "put it where it belongs!"
That is exactly what I'm doing with this series of articles. I am venting. I am purging. I am clearing myself of all that rotten debris left inside me by the Roman Catholic Church. I am kicking them out of my house, once and for all. And, dear reader, I'm doing it here, right in front you. Let the Catholic Church complain that I am being unfair, that I am not delivering a fair and complete assessment of their behavior. Well, recovering from religious abuse is about clearing out their garbage and healing oneself without any concern for so-called fairness.
"Where was your fairness when you were busy lying to us as children and convincing us we were defective?"
Since when does any abuser have the right to demand an impartial accounting? When they were busy abusing us children, were they being impartial or fair? As it turns out, the court systems around the world do provide for a fair and impartial presentation of the facts. As a last resort, abuse victims have found a venue where they can get their stories heard and their charges of abuse validated with huge levies of punitive damages attached to the final outcome. If church authorities feel they are being mistreated by mine or anyone's venting, then let them take us to court and seek reparations.
If you are a victim of religious abuse you need to know that you have rights, no matter what the circumstances of your abuse. If you suspect abuse at the hands of your religion then stay tuned. We will work it out together within these pages. In the meantime, seek out a good therapist, one who is not afraid to go for the truth wherever that pursuit takes you. And be prepared to see the dark side of your religion. Not a pretty sight, but necessary if you want to be true to your inner self and the God Source that informs you.
I have a message for those of you who might want to attack my approach to healing religious abuse, or my taking on the subject matter itself. I don't care what you think! I don't care what you believe! I don't care about any historical facts that you can conjure up in an attempt to contradict my claims! This is not about historical accuracy or a collection of discrete facts that would stand up in court. This is simply about cleansing oneself of the poisonous effects brought about by religious abuse in all its forms, and placing responsibility where it belongs, at the feet of our abusers the Roman Catholic Church!
The most blatant forms of abuse are the physical and sexual assaults on children. The most subtle, and yet most damaging, is the wholesale crushing of an innocent child's spirit through the church's litany of lies and misrepresentations of basic spiritual truths. What are these truths? Namely, that we are God. God lives within each of us and informs us through our Hearts. Our heart and feeling center can be trusted and is the only legitimate channel for connecting with our spirit. And the shameful denigration of a child's fragile self is a denigration of God, pure and simple.
"How can you claim to represent God when you shame one of His most beautiful creatures?"
I will not be shamed for engaging in this healing process that will have the last vestiges of Catholic poison purged from my system. I have the psychological tools and training to see through their pathetic attempts at casting off responsibility, and my guilt buttons have all been disconnected. I have my direct connection to Source which keeps me focused on my truest path, without ever shaming or abusing me for my wanderings up the occasional blind alley. My growth, from this vantage point, is encased and nurtured by Love, contrary to the Catholic Church's approach to teaching which is based in fear.
Until the next one dear friends,