I recently finished reading ‘Amen’, the true story of a nun in Kerala, and I must say it was quite horrifying to know what actually goes on behind the cloistered existence of a convent – petty politics, ego issues, even illicit sex. Her description of Catholic priests and nuns is bare and raw – they are stripped of their holy, pious exteriors and revealed to be not only all too human, but truth be told, worse human beings than most lay people because they hide behind the façade of piety and the power their robes give them and the church invests in them.
What surprises me is, even after so many sex scandals about Catholic priests erupting around the world, they still command so much power thanks to the blind faith of followers who have been indoctrinated from childhood to believe that nuns and priests, just because they have taken the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity (which is laughable when you read the book) are truly holier than thou art. And, priests especially seem to get intoxicated on that power and abuse it again and again.
When I studied in a convent during college, it was my first real encounter with nuns. Apart from one or two, most came across as frustrated, unhappy and decidedly ungodly. Basic human sentiments of compassion and kindness were sorely missing; it was all arrogance, narrow-mindedness and a blind adherence to outdated rules. Godliness – well, it was difficult to glimpse that! Sure they pay lip service to it all the time but actually seeing godliness in action was next to impossible.
Where the Catholic priests are concerned, repeatedly when I have encountered them I’ve found them smack full of arrogance – puffed up with power and delusions that they are superior to the laity they serve.
My question: when a Catholic confesses in church, he/she is confessing to a priest. What happens if that priest is a paedophile or engages in illicit sexual relationships or is himself a much worse ‘sinner’ than most people? Is he equipped to give absolution? How can a man who lies, misuses power and preys on innocent people’s sentiments, who instils fear and bigotry in people, give absolution? It makes no sense at all but people blindly follow their faith and continue to confess their sins and get ‘absolution’ from these corrupt and nasty priests. Is it the ritual that is comforting – ‘I’ve sinned but chanting a few Hail Mary’s will make that sin go away since the priest has absolved me’? False comfort, because at the end of the day, it is another human being, as flawed (maybe more) than you who is supposedly absolving you. This blind adherence to ritual is disturbing because the priests, very often are playing their congregation for fools. But they and their followers seem to forget one thing - God is not a fool!