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Old 07-11-2019, 09:15 AM
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Believable scene? Pregnant teen thrown out of parish church in 1950-ish Irish small town?


The novel The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne opens with such a scene. It's a novel, i.e, fiction (lest someone miss that point). In a village in 1950s Ireland, a pregnant teenage girl is viciously and publicly denounced by the parish priest during Sunday Mass. He drags her to the altar by her hair, thrashes her verbally, and sends her home immediately to pack her stuff and leave town, never to return. Her parents do not speak up and she leaves the village forever. Slight spoiler
SPOILER:
Turns out the father of the baby is her uncle, but that has no consequences in the story.
The novel is the story of that baby and his coming of age into the present day. It's a good novel, well-written, beautiful language. You will laugh and you will cry.

Last night, we discussed it at my book club. One of the women, a devout Catholic, said that the scene I've described was a literary device, and something like that could never have happened. Her evidence is that she's never seen anyone singled out publicly from the pulpit and humiliated in front of the whole congregation in her 50+ year of going to Mass in the USA.

All of the rest of us found the scene entirely plausible in a tight-knit village in 1950 Ireland where the priest was seen as father figure, leader, and ultimate authority.* God's mediator, as it were. Frankly, I could see it happening in 1950 and earlier in just about any small town in a wholly Catholic community (or wholly of another religion/denomination) pretty much anywhere in the world. Even the USA.

It was a literary device in that it was an excellent way to begin the novel, as you were immediately pulled emotionally into the drama, but I also believe such things could have happened and probably did happen.

What say y'all?



*
SPOILER:
The author reveals that this priest fathered two children by two different women in two different counties outside his home county. THAT is certainly plausible, and our Catholic colleague conceded that.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:27 AM
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It's plausible but unlikely to happen.

There was a long tradition of unwed pregnant women leaving home and living in another town with relatives until the baby was born. A suitable story could be fabricated to avoid any scandal.

There was also boarding houses for unwed mothers.

That only started to change since the 1960's.

I had a neighbor in the mid 90's with a young teen daughter. She disappeared one day. Eight months later I saw the neighbors carrying in the baby and taking care of it. The daughter no longer lived there. I saw her visit a few times.

Last edited by aceplace57; 07-11-2019 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:31 AM
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The truth is not much better, or possibly worse.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:47 AM
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The truth is not much better, or possibly worse.
Yup. Ireland had a longstanding tradition of treating young, unwed mothers incredibly poorly, and there was exactly the social stigma you would expect for a society whose culture was closely intertwined with a conservative church.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:55 AM
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Definitely plausible. Unwed mothers were ostracized by society because girls wer only supposed to have sex within marriage.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:54 AM
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Do I believe that most priests would do that? No (though a lot more of them would do the equivalent, but quietly and out of the public eye). Do I believe that there are some, in some parishes, who would? Sure.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:28 AM
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Definitely plausible. Unwed mothers were ostracized by society because girls wer only supposed to have sex within marriage.
Did you look at the two posts and the link above yours? The church would not be inclined to waste such a useful income resource as to allow them to go off on their own. Sin and shame are useful in many ways.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:42 AM
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Do I believe that most priests would do that? No (though a lot more of them would do the equivalent, but quietly and out of the public eye). Do I believe that there are some, in some parishes, who would? Sure.
The question is not, "would most priests do it?" Of course most priests wouldn't. I don't even think many would. Our book club member said no priest would ever do it. And her evidence is that she's never seen it done. Quod erat demonstrandum.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:48 AM
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Yup, and most of her experience would have been with one parish, which might have had as many as three or four different pastors during her time there, plus occasionally visiting other parishes (where it might have happened, just not on a day when she was there). Not nearly enough of a data set to say "it never happens".
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:55 AM
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Yup, and most of her experience would have been with one parish, which might have had as many as three or four different pastors during her time there, plus occasionally visiting other parishes (where it might have happened, just not on a day when she was there). Not nearly enough of a data set to say "it never happens".
Also:
- Said book club leader is, according to the OP, from the US, not from Ireland
- As a devout Catholic, and someone who likely loves her faith, the idea that a Catholic priest could or would act in that way may well be causing enough cognitive dissonence for her that she simply can't accept that it would be possible
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:09 PM
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In Ireland, in the 1950s? Hell, yes. (Source, Irish family and friends)

In the US, in the late 80s I knew a Catholic girl who just disappeared for almost a year. Her family sent her somewhere, and then she came back. It was Not Spoken About. Yes, she had gotten pregnant and they handled it like good Catholics of their time and class. It persisted in the US until fairly late (and may still in some parishes).
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:18 PM
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....
- As a devout Catholic, and someone who likely loves her faith, the idea that a Catholic priest could or would act in that way may well be causing enough cognitive dissonence for her that she simply can't accept that it would be possible
I believe this is the crux of it.

She's a military brat (as am I) and has seen lots of priests in operation. And she's old enough (50-ish) to remember when "unwed mothers" were shunned and ostracized. What she says could never happen is the public, violent shaming. Maybe not in her lifetime, but prior to that, sure.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
I believe this is the crux of it.

She's a military brat (as am I) and has seen lots of priests in operation. And she's old enough (50-ish) to remember when "unwed mothers" were shunned and ostracized. What she says could never happen is the public, violent shaming. Maybe not in her lifetime, but prior to that, sure.
And, as several have already noted here -- yes, there was shunning and ostracization of unwed young mothers in the U.S. in that era. But, from what I've read and seen, what was done to them in Ireland in the time period of that novel was at a completely different level of inhumane behavior, and the Catholic Church was deeply involved in that behavior.

If you haven't already done so, but you want to learn more, read the Vox link that muldoonthief shared. Read about the Magdalene laundries and the "mother and baby homes" in Ireland. Watch the film Philomena (based on a true story).

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Old 07-11-2019, 01:05 PM
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And, as several have already noted here -- yes, there was shunning and ostracization of unwed young mothers in the U.S. in that era. But, from what I've read and seen, what was done to them in Ireland in the time period of that novel was at a completely different level of inhumane behavior, and the Catholic Church was deeply involved in that behavior.
Yes, this. Her family is Irish, so maybe that's another level of denial.
Quote:
If you haven't already done so, but you want to learn more, read the Vox link that muldoonthief shared. Read about the Magdalene laundries and the "mother and baby homes" in Ireland. Watch the film Philomena (based on a true story).
I've read about the Magdalene Laundries and I've seen Philomena. Heartbreaking.
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Old 07-11-2019, 02:07 PM
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I believe this is the crux of it.

She's a military brat (as am I) and has seen lots of priests in operation. And she's old enough (50-ish) to remember when "unwed mothers" were shunned and ostracized. What she says could never happen is the public, violent shaming. Maybe not in her lifetime, but prior to that, sure.
Anyone over the age of 50 who has seen a lot of priests in operation, and who pays even the slightest passing attention to current events is either:

(A) perfectly aware that a priest, even a well respected priest, could be capable of any evil, depraved act you care to think of.

(B) A drooling idiot.

(C) A fucking liar.

So she's either B or C.
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Old 07-11-2019, 02:24 PM
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Anyone over the age of 50 who has seen a lot of priests in operation, and who pays even the slightest passing attention to current events is either:

(A) perfectly aware that a priest, even a well respected priest, could be capable of any evil, depraved act you care to think of.

(B) A drooling idiot.

(C) A fucking liar.

So she's either B or C.


No comment.

I have to say that for a mature woman to sit there and, in all seriousness, declare multiple times that this could never ever happen and that the author made it up as a literary device... well, it left me speechless. I think an option (D) would be in order: "stuck in pathetically naive denial."
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:09 PM
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An old parish priest in a rural parish? Sure, I can believe it. Hell, I can believe it happening in the U.S.

A visibly pregnant unmarried woman would have gotten scowls and be ignored at the very least, if she showed up in most Catholic churches in the early 1950s. Maybe after John XXIII became Pope there might have been a little more "Minnesota nice."
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:59 PM
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I have a book, To Sleep with the Angels. It's about the terrible Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Elementary School fire. It killed something like 89 children, mostly third and fourth graders. Three nuns also died.

The book quotes a survivor claiming that some nuns told them God "only took the good ones to be with Him in Heaven."

Imagine someone telling little kids who went through this that the only reason they're alive is because they weren't good enough for God.

I have no trouble believing the OP's book's story at all.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:45 PM
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I think it could happen, but overall it sounds dramatised to me. For the priest to stop in the middle of mass, walk out into the congregation and start a one-on-one with someone, that's not my experience of how mass works. Denounce 'sin' from the pulpit, sure. Abuse in private, sure. Humiliate, ostracize, send her away, absolutely. I think those themes are being wrapped up and presented in a single scene for convenience and impact.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:54 PM
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I believe this is the crux of it.

She's a military brat (as am I) and has seen lots of priests in operation. And she's old enough (50-ish) to remember when "unwed mothers" were shunned and ostracized. What she says could never happen is the public, violent shaming. Maybe not in her lifetime, but prior to that, sure.
I'm not a military brat. But I am a Catholic, and I am old enough (older than the poster in question) to remember when umarried pregnant women were hustled out of the public eye one way or another.

The shaming certainly could have happened. I would question the likelihood of the priest in the novel violently dragging a woman to the altar. I really would. That seems unlikely.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:55 PM
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I think it could happen, but overall it sounds dramatised to me. For the priest to stop in the middle of mass, walk out into the congregation and start a one-on-one with someone, that's not my experience of how mass works. Denounce 'sin' from the pulpit, sure. Abuse in private, sure. Humiliate, ostracize, send her away, absolutely. I think those themes are being wrapped up and presented in a single scene for convenience and impact.
Exactly. This the part I don't find credible.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:08 PM
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I think it could happen, but overall it sounds dramatised to me. For the priest to stop in the middle of mass, walk out into the congregation and start a one-on-one with someone, that's not my experience of how mass works. Denounce 'sin' from the pulpit, sure. Abuse in private, sure. Humiliate, ostracize, send her away, absolutely. I think those themes are being wrapped up and presented in a single scene for convenience and impact.
Good grief. Of course, it's not your experience of "how mass works"! I'm not suggesting that anyone reading this board has ever witnessed such a scene.

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I'm not a military brat. But I am a Catholic, and I am old enough (older than the poster in question) to remember when umarried pregnant women were hustled out of the public eye one way or another.

The shaming certainly could have happened. I would question the likelihood of the priest in the novel violently dragging a woman to the altar. I really would. That seems unlikely.
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Exactly. This the part I don't find credible.
But do you think such a scene is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE (not unlikely, because it certainly is unlikely) in a village in Ireland in 1950? That is the question this thread poses. Not unlikely, but "could never, ever happen."

This equine is close to being deceased... Thanks for the discussion.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:19 PM
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Of course it could happen. Priests in rural parishes were the ultimate authority in an otherwise destitute existence. Power corrupts, especially in the context of overall scarcity.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:37 PM
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But do you think such a scene is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE (not unlikely, because it certainly is unlikely) in a village in Ireland in 1950? That is the question this thread poses. Not unlikely, but "could never, ever happen."
I suppose we can't say that anything "could never, ever happen."


But in Catholicism, the Mass, the Eucharistic celebration, proceeds according to very strict rules. The celebrant does not have the leeway that clergy in other Christian denominations have. He doesn't have any, in fact. It is unthinkable to me, a lifelong churchgoer, that a priest, even the worst priest imaginable, would interrupt the Mass (the OP says "during Sunday Mass") to violently drag a woman up to the altar.

I haven't read the novel (and I suspect that no one in the thread other than the OP has either) -- the actual text of the novel might make me feel differently. But, if the "during Sunday Mass" is accurate, I would probably still not find it all that credible.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:07 PM
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But in Catholicism, the Mass, the Eucharistic celebration, proceeds according to very strict rules. The celebrant does not have the leeway that clergy in other Christian denominations have. He doesn't have any, in fact. It is unthinkable to me, a lifelong churchgoer, that a priest, even the worst priest imaginable, would interrupt the Mass (the OP says "during Sunday Mass") to violently drag a woman up to the altar.

During the Liturgy itself there is, as you say, virtually no room for departure. During the sermon/homily, however, it is conceivable* that the priest might get so wound up fulminating about immorality in general and sexual immorality in particular that he would behave in the manner described. Unlikely to be sure, but if there were a place to interrupt the proceedings that would be it.

*ISWIDT

Last edited by OttoDaFe; 07-11-2019 at 08:08 PM. Reason: Better choice of words.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:27 PM
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Right, the celebrant in a Catholic mass does have some leeway, in the homily. And, heck, I've been at Masses where the priest interacted with specific members of the congregation during the homily (though always in a positive context, not like this). If this happened, that's when it would happen.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:35 PM
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During the Liturgy itself there is, as you say, virtually no room for departure. During the sermon/homily, however, it is conceivable* that the priest might get so wound up fulminating about immorality in general and sexual immorality in particular that he would behave in the manner described. Unlikely to be sure, but if there were a place to interrupt the proceedings that would be it.

*ISWIDT
As I said, I guess we can't say that anything "could never, ever happen."

I think it's entirely possibly that an umarried, pregnant woman would be shamed and humiliated. It's even probable, in that time and place.

But the whole point of the Magdalene laundries, and the other "baby homes," was to keep things quiet and out of the public eye.

A priest might rant and rave (during his sermon, as OttoDaFe and Chronos correctly point out) about unwed mothers in general, but to drag a woman up to the altar during Mass, even during his sermon? Never. A woman in that unfortunate position wouldn't have been allowed through the church doors, let alone onto the altar.

I am in no way trying to exonerate the Church for its treatment of women, then or now.

It's just that this little vignette doesn't ring true to me.

But, as I said, I haven't read this novel. Only a brief description by someone else of one passage from the book. Perhaps if I actually read the book, it would be more convincing to me.

Maybe I'll do that.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:36 PM
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When I went on long road trips I would usually go to Mass on Sunday wherever I happened to be, and sometimes, especially in remote rural parishes, those priests were weird. Of course the liturgy was the same, but there is plenty of room in a Mass for a presider with a captive audience to turn the homily into a rambling incomprehensible rant. But in the US, priests do not have the same power that they did in Ireland, where they were unassailable and enormously powerful because the Church sort of ate everything there. I think a lot of crazy nasty things could happen in that situation.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:09 PM
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...
But, as I said, I haven't read this novel. Only a brief description by someone else of one passage from the book. Perhaps if I actually read the book, it would be more convincing to me.

Maybe I'll do that.
That's how the book starts. Read some of the Amazon reviews and see if you think the book would appeal. Here's an except from one review:
Quote:
I've cried occasionally at the end of movies - "The Royal Tennenbaums" is a real tearjerker for me - but I've never cried at the end of a book til I finished Irish author John Boyne's "The Heart's Invisible Furies". Sobs galore as I ended a book magnificent in it's [sic] humanity. Set in Dublin, Amsterdam, and NYC, it's the life story - told in the first person - of Cyril Avery, born illegitimate to a determined 16 year old girl, and who is adopted by a rather peculiar set of parents. Maude and Charles Avery provide a home for their adopted son, but he seems never in their hearts or minds. But Cyril grows up, finally coming to terms with his homosexuality in an Ireland bound to the Church, where acceptance of sexual and societal non-norms is very slow to come. But society does change in Cyril's 70 or so years of life.

This book just teems with sympathetic but real characters. There's not a caricature in the bunch, nor is there an overwritten sentence. John Boyne's book is long - almost 600 pages - but I read it in one 24 hour period.
....
Another review snip-- I see I made a mistake. She was ejected from the church in 1945, not 1950.
Quote:
John Boyne is a wonderful storyteller. And here, he has a story to tell. At the onset, the table is set most cleverly -- in rural Cork, in 1945, 16 year old Catherine Goggin is slutshamed from the pulpit from the church and thrown out of the parish, her home, the town, and left to make her own way because of the unborn child she has within her. That this is told from the viewpoint of that child as a man many years in the future is the first clue that this will be an unusual treatment of a fairly common topic. But Boyne has other fish to fry, and this is only the beginning. That child is adopted by an unlikely couple, Maude and Charles Avery, given the name Cyril, who learns early on of his attraction to men, and finds himself living in a society that will not tolerate this, and at various times of his life, deals with it without losing his sense of worth. Boyne's subtle vehicle for explaining the Irish attitudes and misconceptions about being gay are presented throughout the book via conversations with other clueless characters, some of which boggle the mind in their ignorance. ....
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:34 PM
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It would be an atypical experience, but there's no shortage of those.

An upthread link mentioned the Magdalene laundries, which were the subject of a very powerful movie in 2003. The film took place in the mid-to-late 60s, but the Magdalene Asylums operated from 1767 until 1996.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:16 PM
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That's how the book starts. Read some of the Amazon reviews and see if you think the book would appeal. Here's an except from one review:

Another review snip-- I see I made a mistake. She was ejected from the church in 1945, not 1950.
I clicked on your link, on the chance that the first few pages would be available for our perusal, but no such luck.

Still, you mention that the novel is written in the first person. If Cyril is relating the tale of his mother’s treatment at the hands of Father Hypocriticus, it could only be based on what he was told. If Catherine Goggin learned what was in store for her and her child in the Laundries, and ran away to escape that fate, she could well have spun a tale to whomever provided her refuge; a tale that ultimately found its way into Cyril’s autobiographical narrative.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:44 AM
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Okay, I didn't know there was a "dragging a pregnant woman to the altar scene". That does sound extremely unlikely, but in an isolated community where the priest is viewed as God's chosen representative on earth, and is allowed any outrage he wants, maybe. But still, not likely.
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:42 AM
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Okay, I didn't know there was a "dragging a pregnant woman to the altar scene". That does sound extremely unlikely, but in an isolated community where the priest is viewed as God's chosen representative on earth, and is allowed any outrage he wants, maybe. But still, not likely.
In the OP:
Quote:
... a pregnant teenage girl is viciously and publicly denounced by the parish priest during Sunday Mass. He drags her to the altar by her hair, ...
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:53 AM
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Quoth Saintly Loser:

A priest might rant and rave (during his sermon, as OttoDaFe and Chronos correctly point out) about unwed mothers in general, but to drag a woman up to the altar during Mass, even during his sermon? Never. A woman in that unfortunate position wouldn't have been allowed through the church doors, let alone onto the altar.
What does "not allowed through the church doors" mean? What would have happened if, despite not being allowed, such a young woman had entered the church anyway? I would say that the scene described is exactly what "not allowed into the church" would look like.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:05 PM
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What does "not allowed through the church doors" mean? What would have happened if, despite not being allowed, such a young woman had entered the church anyway? I would say that the scene described is exactly what "not allowed into the church" would look like.
"not allowed through the church doors" was hyperbole on my part. I was trying to convey my belief (and experience) that situations like this were handled in the dark, not by making a public spectacle of the unfortunate young woman, who would have been hustled off to some quite probably horrible place, out of sight of the community.

Let's keep sight of the fact that we're discussing a work of fiction, not a historical account of an actual incident.

This fictional account does not ring true to me. Were the same story presented in a well-sourced work of history, that would be a different story.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:13 PM
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An afterthought:

By the way, if anyone is looking for a novel by an Irish writer that deals with similar themes, I can't recommend Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture enough. Barry is a fantastic writer. His A Long Long Way rivals All Quiet on the Western Front as a (maybe the) World War I novel.

Last edited by Saintly Loser; 07-12-2019 at 01:13 PM.
  #37  
Old 07-12-2019, 01:46 PM
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This fictional account does not ring true to me.
My counterpoint:

I grew up Catholic (in the US). I attended Catholic grade schools, and a Catholic high school. During a class in high school, I watched our teacher -- a priest -- storm over to a chronically misbehaving student (who was probably 14 or 15), grab him by his collar, yank him out of his chair and onto his feet, and physically pull him to the office.

As an adult, I learned of at least two priests whom I had as teachers at that high school who sexually assaulted multiple of my classmates.

And, as all of us have noted in this thread, the Catholic Church in Ireland was horribly abusive to young unwed mothers.

Is the scene in that novel fictionalized? Quite possibly so. Is it something that could have *never* actually happened, as you (and the woman in ThelmaLou's book club) believe? I disagree; even if it might not have been likely, I don't see how it could not possibly have happened as depicted.

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  #38  
Old 07-12-2019, 02:13 PM
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To be totally pedantic about it, the first part of a Mass, with the readings and sermon/homily, used to be separate from the second part, the "real" Mass, which begins with the offering and includes the Eucharist. In ancient times, only the "faithful" (i.e., Catholics in good standing) were allowed to attend the second part. There's a vestige of this today, where priests can deny the Eucharist to people who blatantly disregard the rules of the church, such as non-celibate gays or politicians who advocate abortion rights.

So, it's perfectly conceivable that a cranky old priest could let a pregnant, unmarried woman sit through the readings, and then berate her and physically force her to get up and leave.

Anyone who thanks no one would ever do that in public has never been taught by an old-school Catholic nun.
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:21 PM
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...Sin and shame are useful in many ways.
One might argue that sin and shame are the basis for many religions, if not the driving force.
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:35 PM
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My counterpoint:

I grew up Catholic (in the US). I attended Catholic grade schools, and a Catholic high school.
Same. And I'm old enough to remember the Latin Mass.

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During a class in high school, I watched our teacher -- a priest -- storm over to a chronically misbehaving student (who was probably 14 or 15), grab him by his collar, yank him out of his chair and onto his feet, and physically pull him to the office.
I saw nuns do this, in grammar school. I had nuns do it to me, actually. High school, there was less of that, which I attribute to having gone to a Jesuit high school. My brother, who went to a high school run by the Marists, saw plenty of it. And the Christian Brothers were notorious.

But the classroom isn't the Mass.

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As an adult, I learned of at least two priests whom I had as teachers at that high school who sexually assaulted multiple of my classmates.
None of my high school teachers were ever accused of anything like that, nor did I even hear any rumours about any of them. But one priest in the parish in which I grew up was accused, and busted. Yes, it happens.

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And, as all of us have noted in this thread, the Catholic Church in Ireland was horribly abusive to young unwed mothers.
All too true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
Is the scene in that novel fictionalized? Quite possibly so. Is it something that could have *never* actually happened, as you (and the woman in ThelmaLou's book club) believe? I disagree; even if it might not have been likely, I don't see how it could not possibly have happened as depicted.
Still doesn't ring true to me. And the scene isn't "fictionalized," it's actually fiction.
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Old 07-12-2019, 02:59 PM
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...And the scene isn't "fictionalized," it's actually fiction.
You got the part about how this is a NOVEL, right?
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Old 07-12-2019, 03:14 PM
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You got the part about how this is a NOVEL, right?
Yes. That's kind of my point.
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Old 07-12-2019, 03:33 PM
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Still doesn't ring true to me. And the scene isn't "fictionalized," it's actually fiction.
OK, poor choice of words on my part.

Even so, I look at that scene as it's been described in this thread, and knowing what I know, I have a hard time agreeing that, as the woman in the OP's book group insisted, "it *must* be only a literary device, because a Catholic priest would *never* do something like that." No, a classroom is not Mass, but if a priest happens to be a horrible, abusive person (and we know that some were, and are), the fact that he is in the middle of Mass does not necessarily mean that there is some mystical limit being placed on his behavior, in that place, in that time.

You disagree. I understand.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 07-12-2019 at 03:35 PM.
  #44  
Old 07-12-2019, 05:00 PM
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Same. And I'm old enough to remember the Latin Mass.



I saw nuns do this, in grammar school. I had nuns do it to me, actually. High school, there was less of that, which I attribute to having gone to a Jesuit high school. My brother, who went to a high school run by the Marists, saw plenty of it. And the Christian Brothers were notorious.

But the classroom isn't the Mass.
I witnessed, many times, a nun and my schoolteacher, who was laity but hyper-religious, hitting kids who slightly misbehaved (a bit of talking) during mass . The teacher was especially perfidious: he always sat one or two rows behind the children's pews (the small children always sat in the front pews, the girls left and the boys right, with the nun as a guard for the girls and the teacher for the boys), and whenever he saw someone who got a bit distracted, he shot like a hawk from his seat and whacked the victim over the head with his hymnbook. The nun I'm talking about also assisted the priest and altar boys in the sacristy, so as an altar boy I knew her well, and she was one of the vilest and most misanthropic people I've ever met. Gosh, how I hated those hypocrites even back then as a child.

This was in the mid-seventies in Germany, where Catholicism was definitely more liberal than in Ireland.
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  #45  
Old 07-13-2019, 12:11 AM
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For the sake of ecumenical balance, in Scottish Presbyterian parishes it wasn't unknown for unmarried pregnant women to have to make a public confession at the Kirk, naming the father, until well into the nineteenth century, but presumably as a condition of being allowed to remain part of the community, since that would be the only form of social security available. And I don't know how punitive the atmosphere would have been.
  #46  
Old 07-13-2019, 12:37 AM
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I have a book, To Sleep with the Angels. It's about the terrible Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Elementary School fire. It killed something like 89 children, mostly third and fourth graders. Three nuns also died.

The book quotes a survivor claiming that some nuns told them God "only took the good ones to be with Him in Heaven."

Imagine someone telling little kids who went through this that the only reason they're alive is because they weren't good enough for God.

I have no trouble believing the OP's book's story at all.
When the kids smelled smoked, instead of herding them out of the building one way or another, the nuns also told the kids to pray that the firefighters arrived quickly.

I'm Christian and I believe in prayer, but that's not the time of place for it. Many church and parochial schools of the era also had rules about divorced people, or their children, attending.

In short, I completely believe the OP's story.
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Old 07-13-2019, 02:59 AM
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Everyone is commenting on whether or not a priest would or wouldn't do this, but let's not forget that the congregation in this story went right along with it. The girl's own family would not speak to her. This suggests that this practice was expected in the world in which this novel was set.

I don't have knowledge of Ireland in the fifties, but in the US in the mid twentieth century and earlier, there was shunning. A person was publicly preached against, denounced, and not allowed back into the church. This happens tho my great , sometime in the late twenties. The family was ashamed, and the result was that he was not invited to any of the community social events which all centered around the church in that tiny rural community. Hardly as dramatic, but the same sort of WTF.

The scene described seems like a literary exaggeration of the practice of shunning with a little of a seventeenth century witch hunt thrown in and just a suggestion of a biblical stoning in the offing. I would imagine that the real life treatment of pregnant teenage girls in that day and location would also depend very much on the girl's social status and willingness to be shamed into doing what she was told to do obediently and quietly.
  #48  
Old 07-13-2019, 09:31 PM
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When the kids smelled smoked, instead of herding them out of the building one way or another, the nuns also told the kids to pray that the firefighters arrived quickly.
The nuns may have figured there was no safe way out of that old building, and felt their best chance would be to stay in their classrooms and pray for rescue.

Read the summary of the fire. Many of those kids were doomed the moment they stepped into the building that morning.
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