The Redemption of Sinead O’Connor

I’ll have to admit that while I knew about Sinead O’Connor tearing up a photo of the Pope – I did not understand the real significance. It’s been 20 years. Since then I have found out about the Magdalene Laundries and a lot of other information.

This article from the Atlantic explains what went mostly unsaid / not discussed:


(Snip)…Almost entirely overlooked in the controversy was the text of O’Connor’s protest—a Bob Marley song, “War,” with lyrics taken from a speech by Haile Selassie. O’Connor had replaced out-of-date lyrics about apartheid African regimes with the phrase “child abuse, yeah,” repeated twice with spine-stiffening venom.

Also inexplicably ignored were O’Connor’s own words, in an interview published in Time a month after herSNL appearance:

It’s not the man, obviously—it’s the office and the symbol of the organization that he represents… In Ireland we see our people are manifesting the highest incidence in Europe of child abuse. This is a direct result of the fact that they’re not in contact with their history as Irish people and the fact that in the schools, the priests have been beating the shit out of the children for years and sexually abusing them. This is the example that’s been set for the people of Ireland. They have been controlled by the church, the very people who authorized what was done to them, who gave permission for what was done to them.

Her interviewer seemed confused by the connection O’Connor was making between the Catholic Church and child abuse, so O’Connor opened up about her own history of abuse:

Sexual and physical. Psychological. Spiritual. Emotional. Verbal. I went to school every day covered in bruises, boils, sties and face welts, you name it. Nobody ever said a bloody word or did a thing. Naturally I was very angered by the whole thing, and I had to find out why it happened… The thing that helped me most was the 12-step group, the Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families. My mother was a Valium addict. What happened to me is a direct result of what happened to my mother and what happened to her in her house and in school.

The interviewer remained skeptical of O’Connor’s characterization of Irish schools as playgrounds and training grounds for child abusers, and the interview moved on to different topics.


“The sheer scale and longevity of the torment inflected on defenceless children—over 800 known abusers in over 200 Catholic institutions during a period of 35 years—should alone make it clear that it was not accidental or opportunistic but systematic,” the Irish Times wrote upon reviewing the Ryan Report. “Abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system.”

At age 15, Sinead O’Connor was caught shoplifting and was sent to an institution much like those investigated in the Commission Report, a Magdalene laundry full of teenage girls who had been judged too promiscuous or uncooperative for civil society. “We worked in the basement, washing priests’ clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap,” O’Connor has written of her experience. “We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.” On the grounds of one Dublin Magdalene laundry, a mass grave was uncovered which included 22 unidentified bodies. These institutions have since caught the eye of the United Nations Committee against Torture.

After 18 months, with the help of her father, O’Connor escaped from this brutal system. Very quickly, her voice carried her to stardom. Her former captors were the “enemy” O’Connor spoke of when, as a 25-year-old with a once-in-a-lifetime live television audience, she tore the picture of the Pope and exhorted her viewers to “fight” him. The picture she tore, in fact, had belonged to her abusive mother, then already dead. “The photo itself had been on my mother’s bedroom wall since the day the fucker was enthroned in 1978,” she told the Irish magazine Hot Press in 2010.


World Pantheist Movement Statement of Principles

The Statement

  1. We revere and celebrate the Universe as the totality of being, past, present and future. It is self-organizing, ever-evolving and inexhaustibly diverse. Its overwhelming power, beauty and fundamental mystery compel the deepest human reverence and wonder.
  2. All matter, energy, and life are an interconnected unity of which we are an inseparable part. We rejoice in our existence and seek to participate ever more deeply in this unity through knowledge, celebration, meditation, empathy, love, ethical action and art.
  3. We are an integral part of Nature, which we should cherish, revere and preserve in all its magnificent beauty and diversity. We should strive to live in harmony with Nature locally and globally. We acknowledge the inherent value of all life, human and non-human, and strive to treat all living beings with compassion and respect.
  4. All humans are equal centers of awareness of the Universe and nature, and all deserve a life of equal dignity and mutual respect. To this end we support and work towards freedom, democracy, justice, and non-discrimination, and a world community based on peace, sustainable ways of life, full respect for human rights and an end to poverty.
  5. There is a single kind of substance, energy/matter, which is vibrant and infinitely creative in all its forms. Body and mind are indivisibly united.
  6. We see death as the return to nature of our elements, and the end of our existence as individuals. The forms of “afterlife” available to humans are natural ones, in the natural world. Our actions, our ideas and memories of us live on, according to what we do in our lives. Our genes live on in our families, and our elements are endlessly recycled in nature.
  7. We honor reality, and keep our minds open to the evidence of the senses and of science’s unending quest for deeper understanding. These are our best means of coming to know the Universe, and on them we base our aesthetic and religious feelings about reality.
  8. Every individual has direct access through perception, emotion and meditation to ultimate reality, which is the Universe and Nature. There is no need for mediation by priests, gurus or revealed scriptures.
  9. We uphold the separation of religion and state, and the universal human right of freedom of religion. We recognize the freedom of all pantheists to express and celebrate their beliefs, as individuals or in groups, in any non-harmful ritual, symbol or vocabulary that is meaningful to them.

Gloria Steinem – 2012 Humanist of the Year

I had read, probably in some of my feminist literature, about humanism having been rather sexist – if not now then in the past. So I was seeing what I could Google and I found this article about Gloria Steinem getting an award from the the Humanists – 2012 Humanist of the Year  (see . It looks like a sign that Humanists are trying to make a bridge with the Feminists. The subtitle of the Sept/Oct edition is, “Here come the Secular Women” (as if we/ they have not been around all along? – did they just find us?)

While there were some very supportive comments about the Steinem interview – there was also this:

“Bestowing a humanist award upon a feminist? Feminism is not humanism. Feminism is part of the problem that humanism would resolve….”

Link to article HERE

I thought this was interesting ->

2012 Humanist of the Year Gloria Steinem sat down with the Humanist magazine at the 71st Annual Conference of the American Humanist Association, held June 7-10, 2012, in New Orleans. The following is an adapted version of that interview recorded on Friday, June 7.

The Humanist: What do you think of the U.S. Catholic sisters who were reprimanded for not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion, or the notion of women priests? They were actually faulted for focusing too much on poverty and economic justice.

Steinem: I was perversely delighted to see the Catholic Church and the Vatican go after nuns because I think they made a major error. People are quite clear in viewing nuns as the servants and the teachers and the supporters of the poor. You contrast that with the fact that the Vatican did virtually nothing about long-known pedophiles, and it’s just too much.

Their stance on abortion is also quite dishonest historically, because as the Jesuits (who always seem to be more honest historians of the Catholic Church) point out, the Church approved of and even regulated abortion well into the mid-1800s. The whole question of ensoulment was determined by the date of baptism. But after the Napoleonic Wars there weren’t enough soldiers anymore and the French were quite sophisticated about contraception. So Napoleon III prevailed on Pope Pius IX to declare abortion a mortal sin, in return for which Pope Pius IX got all the teaching positions in the French schools and support for the doctrine of papal infallibility.

There are also this article at that I liked, A Woman’s Place? The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement by Susan Jacoby.

While some are happy to leave behind the idea of “God” – they still want to cling to the concept of the patriarchy / hierarchy. In my mind – the patriarchy is what most (organized) religion is all about. One hasn’t left religion behind until one can leave the patriarchy behind.

Another snip from the Steinem interview:

Jennifer Bardi: Do you consider yourself a humanist?

Steinem: Yes, a humanist except that humanism sometimes is not seen as inclusive of spirituality. To me, spirituality is the opposite of religion. It’s the belief that all living things share some value. So I would include the word spiritual just because it feels more inclusive to me. Native Americans do this when they offer thanks to Mother Earth and praise the interconnectedness of “the two-legged and the four, the feathered and the clawed,” and so on. It’s lovely.

The Humanist: So we need a more positive and inclusive term.

Steinem: Yes, because it’s not about not believing. It’s about rejecting a god who looks like the ruling class.

Earlier in the interview, Steinem said, “I believe in People, I believe in Nature” (as opposed to God). It sounds like she is essentially a Pantheist. I like the ideas of the the Pantheists (WPM). While there may be some sexism within the group – I haven’t seen it.

Virgin Births

There is an article in the BBC, Virgin births discovered in wild snakes, that makes me wonder if virgin births in snakes was the inspiration for imagined, religiously-associated “virgin births” in people. After all, snakes were considered divine long before gods conceived in human form. It may have been part of why snakes were considered special.

While this article suggests that this is a new discovery for humans, more than likely, pre-historic peoples were familiar with this phenomenon. I expect that contemporaries in “non-developed”, snake-worshipping societies would also be familiar with this.

The Sorry State of Higher Ed

It’s a sad state of affairs for Universities. It used to mean more to be a college professor. Of course that was before women joined the ranks in larger numbers. It’s funny how that works.

From the Homeless Adjunct – snips from  How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps


At latest count, we have 1.5 million university professors in this country, 1 million of whom are adjuncts. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever….


…the average yearly starting salary of a university professor at Temple University in 1975 was just under $10,000 a year, with full benefits – health, retirement, and educational benefits (their family’s could attend college for free.) And guess what? Average pay for Temple’s faculty is STILL about the same — because adjuncts now make up the majority of faculty, and earn between $8,000 to $14,000 a year (depending on how many courses they are assigned each semester – there is NO guarantee of continued employment) — but unlike the full-time professors of 1975, these adjunct jobs come with NO benefits, no health care, no retirement, no educational benefits, no offices. How many other professions report salaries that have remained at 1975 levels?


…From the 1970s until today, as the number of full-time faculty jobs continued to shrink, the number of full-time administrative jobs began to explode. As faculty was deprofessionalized and casualized, reduced to teaching as migrant contract workers, administrative jobs now offered good, solid salaries, benefits, offices, prestige and power. In 2012, administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country.


…There has been a redistribution of funds away from those who actually teach, the scholars – and therefore away from the students’ education itself — and into these administrative and executive salaries, sports costs — and the expanded use of “consultants”, PR and marketing firms, law firms. We have to add here, too, that president salaries went from being, in the 1970s, around $25K to 30K, to being in the hundreds of thousands to MILLIONS of dollars – salary, delayed compensation, discretionary funds, free homes, or generous housing allowances, cars and drivers, memberships to expensive country clubs.


…So what is the problem with corporate money, you might ask? A lot. When corporate money floods the universities, corporate values replace academic values. As we said before, humanities get defunded and the business school gets tons of money. Serious issues of ethics begin to develop when corporate money begins to make donations and form partnerships with science departments – where that money buys influence regarding not only the kinds of research being done but the outcomes of that research.


…Tuitions have increased, using CA as an example again, over 2000% since the 1970s. 2000%!


When you know how much tuition has increased and how little adjuncts are paid – you realize how absurd the situation is. I am an adjunct. I will be paid $2500 for teaching over 30 seventy-five minute classes – along with creating/grading tests and papers, etc. What sort of incentive is there for creating more permanent jobs. It will take an informed public to complain – voice their outrage over the situation.

New Study About Declining Religiosity

I noticed a couple of articles about a new study – by WIN-Gallup International – Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism.

The question is: Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship of not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist.

The study is flawed from the outset by it’s polarization between the concept of “religiosity” and atheism. It’s quite possible to be religious and be an atheist. Taoists, Buddhists, etc. are religious – yet generally atheists. Pantheists and others can be “religious” and be atheists. Many people who attend Unitarian Universalist churches are atheists (and many are not). That is probably the direction that people are going. People like to have a cultural, moral, even “religious”, group – whether they are atheists or not.

It is an interesting development, however, the degree to which people in Ireland are abandoning Catholicism. 

From the Independent:

Republic of Ireland abandoning religion faster than almost every other country in the world

The Irish commitment to the Catholic religion is fast draining away, according to a new poll which points to a dramatic plunge in those who regard themselves as religious.

Worldwide, only Vietnam experienced a greater drop in those describing themselves as religious in a poll which extended to 57 countries, covering three-quarters of the world’s population.

The survey confirms that Ireland, once regarded as particularly devout, has been almost transformed from the days when the Catholic church exercised both political power and strong social influence.

The church’s standing has taken a series of severe blows over the last decade, in particular suffering damage from a series of devastating sex abuse scandals. The sense is widespread that it has reacted sluggishly to the revelations and has been more concerned with defending itself rather than with the interests of victims.

The survey showed that those Irish who considered themselves religious had fallen from 69 per cent in 2011 to less than half today. Ireland was ranked seventh in the 57 countries for those describing themselves as convinced atheists…

In addition to the sex abuse revelations Ireland has become a much more secular country as the church has lost the religious and political authority it once wielded.

This was most strikingly demonstrated last year when, in an unprecedented attack, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny shrugged off decades of political deference.

He declared: “The rape and torture of children were downplayed or `managed` to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.” He denounced “elitism, disconnection, dysfunction and narcissism in the Vatican.”

Previous polling has indicated that a majority of Irish Catholics are strikingly out of line with the Vatican’s attitude on issues such as priestly celibacy and the introduction of women priests. Almost 90 per cent believe that priests should be free to marry, with over 70 per cent saying they believe married men should be ordained.

Rome’s reaction to criticism from Irish priests has been authoritarian. One priest with liberal views was ordered to a monastery to “pray and reflect” while another was prohibited from writing on such issues.



Pantheism and the Vatican

“The Vatican gave Pantheism further prominence in a Papal encyclical of 2009 and a New Year’s Day statement on January 1, 2010, criticizing Naturalistic Pantheism for denying the superiority of humans over nature and “seeing the source of man’s salvation in nature”.

Einstein wrote, “We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul (“Beseeltheit”) as it reveals itself in man and animal.”

From Wikipedia – Pantheism

I think it’s weird that the Catholic Church with all of it’s power bothers to criticize Pantheism. Pantheists certainly don’t care what “the Vatican” thinks about what they think – except to be amused. If “the Vatican” did agree with Pantheists – he would not be able to say because it would undo their power. So he has to just keep being ridiculous no matter how little sense his ideas make.

It’s absurd to say that humans are superior over nature. We need nature / we are nature – just like the rest of nature. And there is nothing the matter with nature, anyway – for us to be so much “better” than. What a denial of reality. We are made up of the elements of nature. We are born and die just like other mammals. Sheesh.

“Seeing the source of man’s salvation in nature.”

Seeing as how dependent on nature we are (being a part of nature and all) – nature is all that can ‘save’ us.

The church – esp. the original sin nonsense would have us believe that animals (us) should live outside of nature – that we need to be saved from being animals – being mortal – being alive. Also absurd.

Interesting developments -> The Vatican & American Nuns

The Vatican has issued a decree rebuking American nuns and trying to enforce more control over them. 

It’s good to hear about the radical, feminist nuns.

From an article in the Chicago Sun Times titled, Vatican waging a war on nuns (by Carol Marin)

… if you thought things could not get more surreal or insulting for the women of the Catholic Church, you may have underestimated the lengths the Curia will go to alienate American Catholics from a faith they love and from a hierarchy that has compromised much of its moral authority.

In a scathing rebuke, the Vati­can ordered the overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most of the 57,000 sisters in the United States.

What sins have these women committed? According to the Vatican, these nuns have been too focused on issues of poverty, war, health care and homosexuality. And not fixated enough on what the bishops think is most important — women’s wombs.

These nuns — “radical feminists,” says the Vatican — have failed to understand that the bishops are their “authentic teachers.”

At mass this week, one of the readings was from Acts 5:29. The apostles Peter and John were ordered by the temple’s high priest not to teach. And their response was, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The nuns of this church are doing God’s work. They deserve gratitude and respect.

Not the Vatican’s unpardonable scorn.

Abigail Pesta interviewed a former nun for her take on all this, 

Former Nun Mary Johnson Criticizes Vatican Crackdown on U.S. Sisters

“The main complaint is that sisters are thinking for themselves,” she says. “No one says it in those words, but that’s the bottom line: you’re thinking for yourself, and we don’t like that.” She adds, “It’s an election year and bishops are becoming more political. When sisters don’t agree, they sometimes raise their voices. The Catholic Church has long recognized that an individual’s first duty is to obey his or her conscience, but the bishops say that any conscience that conflicts with their teaching is a conscience in error. Any questioning is seen as disloyal, even heretical—bishops aren’t used to being questioned. It’s easy for bishops to get an overblown sense of their own importance.”

The Vatican got Hacked

Anonymous, the hackers, took it down.

In a statement on its Italian-language website, the collective accused the Catholic Church of being responsible for a long list of misdeeds throughout history, including the selling of indulgences in the 16th century and burning heretics during the Inquisition.

“Anonymous decided today to besiege your site in response to the doctrine, to the liturgies, to the absurd and anachronistic concepts that your for-profit organisation spreads around the world.

“This attack is not against the Christian religion or the faithful around the world but against the corrupt Roman Apostolic Church.”

It also accused the Vatican of being “retrograde” in its interfering in Italian domestic affairs.

It is interesting because the ‘Vatican’ can seem to be untouchable, so powerful as to be omnipotent – so it’s nice to see signs of weakness. The Vatican, et al, could use some humility.

More about Sex

Ruth Bettelheim, Ph.D. makes some good points here: 

The War on Sex: The Contraception Controversy’s Hidden Agenda

This controversy has been described as a war on women. It may be that, but it is also, and perhaps more effectively, a war against sexuality itself. To the degree that social denigration and government-imposed restrictions are successful in inculcating shame and fear, they foster sexual inhibition both in the marital bed and outside it. People who are ashamed of their bodies and sexuality, or fearful of the potentially dire consequences of sex, are not likely to be relaxed, uninhibited, or enthusiastic in the bedroom…

Until we recognize that the true victims of this crusade include not only women but also sexuality itself, we are unlikely to end it. Both sexes suffer when women are subjected to puritanical standards, public humiliation, and the private belief that the very sexuality they desire is “slutty” and shameful. If we are to overcome what ails us in the bedroom, we will have to address what happens in the public arena and end sanctions on female sexuality.

It’s like I suggested recently – that these right-sing extremists encourage homosexuality. The male leaders of the Catholic hierarchy, along with rL and the Republican candidates definitely are not helping relationships between men and women with their words and actions. 

It seems reasonable to speculate that the people who are quick to get on the rL bandwagon of “slut” shaming, etc. must not enjoy sex very much themselves.