31May How the Redemptorists have changed

In view of the fact that some Redemptorists are now under sanction from the Vatican for supposedly ‘liberal’ views, it is interesting to note the tradition they came out of, as it is powerfully represented here in this poem from Austin Clarke.  Whatever the Vatican authorities might think, it would be hard to argue that the change that has taken place in the pastoral practice of the Redemptorists is not for the better.

The Redemptorist

‘How many children have you?’ asked
The big Redemptorist.
‘Six,  Father’.
‘The last,
When was it born?’
‘Ten months ago.’
‘I cannot absolve your mortal sin
Until you conceive again.  Go home,
Obey your husband’.
She whimpered:
The doctor warned me…..’
Shutter became
Her coffin lid.  She twisted her thin hands
And left the box.
The missioner,
Red-headed saint, had brought hell’s flame
To frighten the women on retreat:
Sent on his spiritual errand,
It rolled along the village street
Until Rathfarnham was housing smoke

That sooted the Jesuits in their Castle.
‘No pregnancy.  You’ll die the next time,’
The doctor had said.
Her tiredness obeyed
That Saturday night; her husband’s weight
Digging her grave.  So, in nine months, she
Sank in great agony on a Monday.
Her children wept in the Orphanage,
Huddled together in the annexe,
While, proud of the Black Cross on his badge,
The Liguorian, at Adam and Eve’s,
Ascended the pulpit, sulphuring his sleeves
And setting fire to the holy text.

Austin Clarke  (1967)

5 Responses

  1. Mary O Vallely

    How brave of you to expose the sins of the past. May God forgive the cruelty done to so many mothers. Such a heartrending poem painting a picture of the immense power wielded by these Liguorians and others. (I had to google Liguorian!) How far the Redemptorists have come since those days too, thank God. Self awareness is such a gift and long may it thrive, blossom and grow in the Church. Now, if only this self awareness could be bottled and sprinkled over the men in the Vatican wouldn’t it be a cause for rejoicing. 🙂
    This is a profoundly moving poem, one which I hadn’t read before. Too much suffering has been endured but good that it is now recognised and acknowledged and that we move forward in compassion, understanding and forgiveness.

  2. Peadar

    I would argue that in fact nothing has changed: the arrogance of those men in the past is the same arrogance of their brothers today; and in the past there were good and kind Liguorians, as there are today.

  3. Sheila McHugh

    This poem, ‘The Redemptorist’ speaks not just of the attitude of the Church towards women but also to the condemnation of women to premature death and their children to orphanages and Magdalene laundries where they were further abused, and to Church representatives who failed to see and hear (and continue not to see or hear) the voice of women and those on the margins. Women care. It is their nature.
    Until our Church has the courage to dialogue openly and honestly with women, about all aspects of life, from pre-conception to the grave, the Church as we know it is on the road towards self-destruction. When the voice of more than half of the Church membership (and dare I say those who provide the financial support) is not listened to, then what is the future of the Church? As always I ask, ‘where is Jesus in this conversation’? Open dialogue requires courage, and trust in the God who refuses to be limited by names or gender, a relational God of Love, A God that we as Christians call Trinity.
    So maybe we are being asked to get rid of the labels, step down from the pedestals, and be stripped down to the basic humanity that we all share, where true Trinitarian relationships can only occur.

  4. ger gleeson.

    “Until our Church has the courage to dialogue openly and honestly with women, about all aspects of life, from pre-conception to the grave, the Church as we know it, is on the road to
    self-destruction”. These words, so profond, were written by Sheila McHugh. I truly believe Sheila is correct.

    The strenth of our Church lies in Catholic homes all over the world, and the heartbeat of each home is the Mother. She is the one who brought her children into the world. She is the prime educator of her children, partularly on Religous matters. Every Parish is dependent on Women to carry out a multiplicity of tasks, so that the their Church can function. Women are central to all Church activities, but have never been recognised because of MAN MADE RULES in Rome. For the sake of the future of our Church, this must change.

    Finally I wonder has the Holy Spirit had a hand in the silencing of our Priests? It is only since our Priests were silenced that many people, from many parts of the world, have made their contributions in writing, on the state of our Church. Even those who disagree with the aims of the ACP are given space to state their case. God certainly moves in mysterious ways.

  5. Katie

    To use Austin Clarke’s “The Redeptorist” as an accurate depiction of the Redeptorists is as ludicrous as using Mony Python’s “Every Sperm is Sacred” sketch as a reliable source of Catholic teaching!