At the invitation of an atheist friend, I watched the Netflix documentary series The Keepers recently. The series is the result of an investigation not by the Baltimore police, but by victims and concerned citizens who took it upon themselves to do the job that the authorities failed to do after hundreds of minors experienced decades of sexual and psychological abuse from Catholic clergy in a heavily Catholic city.
But the series revolves not just around the many incidents of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation by demented priests: it focuses on the murder of a nun who was about to raise her voice against the priest, and the cover-up by both the ecclesiastic and secular the authorities. It seems that the silence of members of the police was purchased by the priest–whose own brother was a Baltimore cop–with sexual favors, and that many of the girls were handed over to cops (and other prominent and non-prominent men) for sexual gratification.
I strongly recommend the series to help people understand how dangerous the Catholic cult is. It gives a glimpse into the kinds of things that happen in Catholic Schools and just how much authority the priests are willing to exert over the bodies of children, not just their minds. There is an entire professional caste that dedicates itself to instilling fear and guilt in people from their most vulnerable age, to then later manipulate those same individuals by the religious fear and guilt that they’ve instilled.
It also shows us the dangers of trusting “ecclesiastical authorities”. Many of the victims went to “church authorities” instead of the police initially, blindly misplacing their trust by taking refuge in their predators. In the Catholic Church, we see the exact same psychology of absolute control over vulnerable individuals that we see in any other cult.
The documentary does a great job of reminding us of the serious dangers of religious privilege. But what the documentary does not delve into, and must be addressed, is the current trend toward allowing clergy broad access to children via the privatization of education throughout the United States. We can think of this as the Pakistanization of America–the mass conversion of schools into institutions of indoctrination–and it’s an initiative headed by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, who has openly vowed to use the education system to bring about “God’s kingdom” on Earth.
There are many other problems, in addition to the culture of sexual predatory behavior within the Catholic, Mormon and other cults. In yeshivas (or Jewish schools) in New York–in addition to sexual assault issues which seem to prevail in deeply religious environments–there have been complains of lack of educational standards. These schools are being used to indoctrinate children, and little to no secular and useful education is provided outside of the religious curriculum. So they’re basically brain-washing factories. As in the case of the Baltimore priest, authorities repeatedly failed to investigate these claims to avoid problems with the powerful local Jewish community. Girls in some yeshivas have also complained of harassment by “modesty squads”.
One more thing must be said about indoctrination in schools: it leaves unnecessary and evil burdens for the next generation. We saw in the case of the “Kill the Gays bill” in Uganda, how the Bush regime funded homophobic hysteria in Africa by earmarking a third of the money that was given to African countries for HIV prevention initiatives for “abstinence only education”–which is NOT real sex education. This was merely an excuse for Republicans to give millions of dollars to the churches to indoctrinate children according to Victorian, regressive, and anti-gay ideologies that have done great harm in the US. It took a decade for homophobic hysteria to become mainstream in Uganda and for the mobs to carry out the kind of violence against the bodies of LGBT people in the tiny country that led to the “Kill the Gays bill” being nearly passed, and rejected only to be replaced with a law only a bit less draconian, but just as unnecessary.
What will the children indoctrinated in schools influenced by the policies of Betsy DeVos attempt to do ten years from now? How will they vote? What policies will they want to see implemented? Will they degenerate into fanatical mobs of Christian fascists like the ones in Uganda?
There are many other problems with the Pakistanization of our school system. We must consider, for instance, that the school voucher initiative in Indiana–courtesy of our current Vice President Mike Pence–helps to finance an Islamic madrassa that has already produced at least one terrorist, and that it is thanks to the intrusion of religious indoctrination in the schools that the flames of old, stale hatreds were fanned by renewed generations in countries like Ireland and Israel, perpetuating religious fanaticism, obscurantism and violence between Protestants and Catholics, between Jews and Muslims who grow up isolated from their neighbors and full of mutual distrust. Why replicate that in the United States at a time when diversity and racial relations already difficult to negotiate?
We do not need fanatics using the schools to bring about “God’s kingdom on Earth”. What we do need from the schools is to teach children critical thinking skills, together with real science and real skills for living. Perhaps a philosophy curriculum should replace the religious one. Teach them philosophy! Teach them how to think, not what to think!