Many people cry out for the meaning of life, and it seems there are no shortage of answers available. Science offers answers, the new age, plus mystic and indigenous traditions, and of course mainstream religion.
Indeed, much like any field of endeavour, finding hypothesis is the easy part. The hard part is working out to what degree these answers have any bearing on what might actually be real and true.
The phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ could help us in this quest for truth, because it is the actions of those that might offer an answer that ultimately show us their true intent.
Words are easy to come by; they can be glossy, poetic, engaging and incisive – yet to what degree does the writer of those words walk their talk? Indeed, the true accuracy of the answers the writer is representing can be seen not in how well crafted the words are, but by how these words are lived.
For example, when you turn to religions for the answer to creating a lasting harmony on earth, the many and often conflicting answers become a source of great debate and all too often become a reason for murder, war and abuse.
Warning: what follows is an uncomfortable topic but one that is important to know existed within the foundations of those that might claim to represent the word and hand of God on earth.
If our actions speak louder than words, what aspects of God are being reflected in times such as the Spanish Inquisition? The following images represent some of the ‘tools’ of God, used to cleanse and convert the non-believer into the Catholic faith.
This is a breast scraper, used to remove a woman’s breast
This is the ‘Judas Chair’ (or cradle) where the heretic would be placed naked on the point and the ropes slowly lowered.
This is the ‘Pear’ and was used to stretch any orifice to (and beyond) ripping point. Note the care taken to create an intricate design on the handle.
This was known as ‘the boot’, used to crush/macerate a person’s legs.
When looking at these implements and acts they allow, you cannot but think… how do they represent the loving hand of God? Where is the sense of brotherhood and humanity?
It is too easy to dismiss these actions as legacies of a time when man was less evolved and less aware. Yet this was all occurring at a time when the Medici Family founded the Platonic Academy, the humanist movement was spreading throughout Europe, Copernicus and Galileo were establishing a new, true model for astronomy, and William Harvey was laying the foundations of modern medicine. In short, we were coming out of the dark ages – it was a period called the Renaissance, a time where humanity was casting off the shackles of oppressive political and social structures. Yet this bullying, brutish behaviour was allowed to continue unchecked for around 350 years and did not end until the mid 1800’s.
But this is not just ancient history, in fact, it wasn’t until 1917 that the church placed a ban on church sanctioned torture and in 1938 a catholic magazine stated:
‘Heresy is an awful crime against God, and those who start a heresy are more guilty than those who are traitors to the civil government. If the state has a right to punish treason with death, the principle is the same that concedes to the spiritual authority the power of life and death over the arch traitor.'
More recently, the current royal commission into institutionalised child abuse highlighted Catholic of many religions and other organisations (not just the catholic church) in enabling priests and ‘carers’ to inflict years of abuse on children. Institutions that have been shown to prioritise protection of their reputation over the wellbeing of children entrusted to their care.
This is not ancient or even past history, this is current times.
As late as 2016 the Vatican has suggested that priests are not obliged to disclose cases of abuse if it is presented to them by people in their care.
This is not about singling out the Catholic Church as there are many sects in all religions (even including Buddhism) that have a very violent way of representing the hand of God on earth, which is the main point of this article. What human, claiming to be filled with God’s love and compassion for their fellow man, could be capable of these kinds of abuses? Further, what kind of institution, also claiming the same holy inspiration and divine authority, would allow this abuse to be repeated time and time again?
There are those that have suggested to the world that they are the holders of God’s word and light and truth, and there are those that have been hurt to the point of turning their backs on God, because of how that light has been misrepresented.
Yes, it is fair to say that we are all human and fallible, yet when that fallibility is not matched with accountability, the institutions must share some of the responsibility for the abuse. Historically and in the modern day, it is this lack of accountability for an incongruence between people’s deeds and words that enables institutionalised abuse.
Those that purport to represent God must be held to a standard that clearly delineates their text from their actions. Those that purport to represent God must be able to show the harmony, grace, compassion and love that sits at the heart of God's essence.
However, the accountability also sits with all of us that watch, wringing our hands at the horror but not saying or doing anything. The congregations, the lawmakers, even the wider populace all become complicit in a crime if we do not demand changes to systems that betray one of life’s most fundamental relationships, that of the relationship between each person and God.
There is no warm and fuzzy feeling at the end of this article.
Sometimes the wound needs to be exposed to the air to allow the healing to really begin.