Barb, my wife, and I went to the movies on Thanksgiving Day. A friend had given us a gift card (with a voucher for popcorn) and so it just seemed the thing to do. Here in Phoenix, the day was gorgeous if a bit chilly at 74. Yeah, I know, but the wind was blowing.
The movie, Philomena, was the best I have seen in awhile. Why IMDb only rated it 7.8, I don’t have a clue. It is better than 7.8. The New York Post’s film critic also dissed it. He did such a hatchet job on it that Philomena Lee, the woman whose search the film was about, replied to his review in writing. You can read about that here.
The film is the story of how a young Irish girl came to give up her baby (born out of wedlock). Fifty years of total silence later, she begins talking about her experience and eventually meets Martin Sixsmith who helps her with the search for her son. At the core of the story is the complicity of the Roman Catholic Abby (pictures here) where Philomena Lee was sent to have her child in separating (by selling the boy for adoption) him from Philomena and then in covering up the less than righteous act.
Although freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Irish Constitution, Ireland is a Roman Catholic country and the laws reflect the large majority of Roman Catholics. In the 1950’s The Roman Catholic Church held a special position in the Irish Republic which was taken away in 1972. So then, at the time Philomena Lee became pregnant, she not only was ostracized by the conservative Church and society, but also had no protection under the law. It was legal for the Abby to “sell” her son, Michael A. Hess. They called it adoption, of course, but it took money to “adopt”. Lots of Americans had money in the 1950’s. There were many Irish children “adopted” by wealthy Americans.
Later, as society’s view of such shenanigans changed there was a convenient fire at the Abby that destroyed all records of such adoptions. The fire did not burn the paper that Philomena had signed giving up all parental rights. The film brought out the fact that the “fire” had been a bonfire and the only damage was to the records. This is eerily similar to the scandal of priests abusing children in current times. I am not singling out the Catholic Church here. In Canada there was the scandal of abuse of native Canadians in church run schools. In this country many Protestant churches supported first slavery, and then segregation. Such things happen distressingly often.
And, it is not just with religious institutions that we have wrongs that happen. I’ll mention just a few diverse secular instances.
· The pedophilia scandal at Penn State.
· MPs in England cheating with expense claims.
· Politicians in the US circumventing election laws.
· The sexual abuse in the US military.
I could make the list much longer. So, if our churches and religious institutions are no different than our secular institutions, why do we need/have them?
In the case at hand, Philomena and her son, someone at the Abby realized that evil had been done, hence, the bonfire. Destruction of records, (White House tape erasure, the Abby bonfire), book burnings, and refusals to make data public are done because of fear that something will become known. Protection of institution or person has become more important than anything else. They have in effect become god. Just like Jesus.
Seems odd a Christian church would replace Jesus with itself.