The Royal Commission that is exposing the appalling litany of abuse suffered by defenceless children under the care of various religious institutions is a welcome first step. It is a welcome first step in the never ending process of healing that all of us who experienced this horror must pursue to the best of our ability – and pursue often to the end of our days.
I have spent many years consciously chasing that sense of ‘healing’.
I am only going to give you a very brief snapshot of my own personal experience. There is no point making a novel of it.
From five years old on I spent my childhood in a Catholic Orphanage at Nudgee near Brisbane. That orphanage was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy and various priests appeared from time to time. To say the least it was not a lot of fun.
What I experienced was not unique. Unfortunately it was all too common.
The beatings hurt. The physical and verbal abuse hurt. I was only a child but I knew that what they were doing was absolutely wrong.
The unmentionable horrors perpetrated upon me by one clerical type robbed my childhood of any sense of joy.
As a child I did not know how to protect myself. As a child I did not have the physical strength to do that. As a child I lived with the constant knowledge that the Sisters of Mercy did not have the courage to step in and stop the horror. The sad part is, where some of my experiences are concerned, some of those Sisters of Mercy were themselves the vile perpetrators.
But here I wish to diverge and not run down some sort of negative or depressing path. You see … I don’t see myself as any sort of victim at all. That was then and this is now. I can’t change the horrific experiences of my past but I sure as heck can live in the present.
My experiences taught me that you cannot undervalue love, empathy, or compassion … because the opposites of those … hate, judgement, abuse, and inequality … tear down the better side of our humanity.
My experiences taught me that while some religious types might truly personify evil in all its forms … not all religious types are like that. In fact, one Sister of Mercy instilled into me an absolute love of reading, writing, and the power of critical analytical thought. How good was that!
My experiences taught me that I should always have the courage of my own convictions. Those experiences taught me to never just ‘go with the comfortable flow’ and agree with things that my heart disagrees with. Whatever the consequence …
I don’t underplay what happened to either me or all of the other children who were abused in those religious institutions. The experiences were indescribably bloody awful. But they have not left me vengeance ridden.
All of those experiences formed me.
I’m now a 62 year old tall thin streak of a hippie atheist dude who can actually manage to spell the words Social Justice. Those experiences forged a strong belief within me that love for one’s fellow man is not just a good way to go … it is the only way to go.
I applaud the good work the Royal Commission is doing. And I am thankful that my childhood experiences have at least had one positive outcome … they have finally turned me into the sort of human being that I have now become.
And that gives me much joy!