“Punishment in the form of spanking is rarely the best method of discipline for parents to use…. It does not preserve self-esteem. It is not growth producing.”
--Sharing the Faith with your child: A handbook for Catholic Parents (From birth to age 6).
| A book sent to me by the Catholic run-a-way shelter Covenant House, called “God, please save me,” by Sister Mary Rose McGeady, tells of a young girl who knocked on the Covenant House door one evening. She had been “on the streets” for six months. McGeady writes; “She had been abandoned by her father, abused by her stepfather, and kicked out by her mother. (An all-too-typical story for our kids.)”|
| It sounds, from this Nun’s book at least, like they are doing a good job at that place. I know many Catholic institutions, in “the North” at least, have eliminated the child hitting that was once so common. Sadly, however, Cathy and I have interviewed a teen woman (different from the camp story we heard second hand) who had to lift her skirt and bend over for buttocks strappings, sometimes with men watching, and even videotaped “for study” one time, in a girl’s Catholic High School in the South. She knew of other girls who were strapped “bare-butt” by men there. In both cases there was home bare-buttocks spanking in the Catholic families the girls grew up in, as well as at friends and neighbors in some cases, into teen years, and even into adulthood.|
| After all of this, I can’t help but wonder if some of the “sexually abused run-a-ways” the Covenant House folks are seeing got to that desperate condition with the full approval and participation of the Catholic Church itself. Father or step-daddy gave bare butt spankings that may have escalated, the church "blessed the practice" and did the same, and the church or government school did the same too. There was no place to turn to or no one to talk to for these children and adolescents, who were routinely humiliated and battered “with the blessings of the church.” I even have to wonder now if they practice any form of “spanking” in institutions like Covenant House—if not the one in New York, perhaps in similar “youth rescue” institutions in the South as many other “Christian” youth camps, orphanages and foster care institutions are known to do. There doesn’t seem to be any moral church teaching here. There is no “universal” or “Catholic” practice. The Catholic Priests seem instead to sink or rise to the lowest level allowed in the local society around them, rather than raise anyone up, or follow any international, non-abusive, common practice.|
| I say this with sadness because I had planned to really pump up how wonderful the Catholic Church was to abandon hitting children and adolescents in their schools and institutions. I get very excited at every opportunity to shine lights on good things. I had already written part of the book from that perspective. Instead Cathy and I learned through direct interviews that the sickest, worst kind of “fornication” spanking abuse of adolescents goes on, as of 2001 at least, in Catholic institutions wherever that type of abuse is common elsewhere in the local society.|
| I suspect Covenant House in particular doesn’t “spank” run-a-way teens, although I don’t know that. I suspect they are actually doing a good service for desperate kids without using or abusing them. Some of their Catholic institutional peers are, nevertheless, promoting and performing systematic adolescent abuse, and are actively encouraging it in others. It’s like one hand in the US Catholic world doesn’t know what the other is doing, and one hand is fixing a problem while the other is causing the very same problem.|
| I would love to hear that this is changing, as was once told to Adah. If any Catholic Bishops are surprised and disbelieving to learn of this type of adolescent battery in Church camps and schools, I may be able to steer you in the right direction to investigate. I think in years to come this kind of abuse, which seems “normal” now, will come back to haunt the church, just as the homosexual child rapes and large scale orphanage sexual abuse of the past is catching up now. In any case, even without lawsuits present and future, it makes “spiritual” and “church” seem very incongruous to the victims who may be suffering sexual hang-ups for life after living through the hell of “church discipline.”|