Cult of Azune

The CDU has criticized the SPD for an advertisement1that makes reference to the religious affiliation of a CDU politician, Nathanael Liminski.1 The latter is Catholic. There is now considerable controversy about the ad, but the controversy is directed at the ad’s makers, not its subject. According to the German Bishops’ Conference, the reference is “inappropriate.”2 Catholicism is not a problem, as long as we don’t talk about it.

Try to imagine a politician being a member of a religion with a different name, but one that is Catholic in every other way. Imagine a little-known religion, let us call it the “Cult of Azune” because it worships the god Azune. Imagine the Cult of Azune in the press:

A witness at a child sex abuse inquiry says she was raped “well over 100 times” by a [Cult of Azune] priest…. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard the treatment of children at the orphanage was “vicious and sadistic”, while an earlier inquiry found hundreds of children were sexually abused, beaten and forced into hard labour there.3

Imagine a politician belonging to such a religion, even if he was not personally involved in its crimes. Here is another story:

The investigation was prompted by the revelation in 2014 that there were no burial records for almost 800 children who died at the [Cult of Azune facility]. Excavations subsequently found an underground structure divided into 20 chambers of a disused septic tank containing significant quantities of human remains.4

Or an article from Canada:

Preliminary findings from a survey of the grounds at the former [Cult of Azune] Residential School have uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site.5

Or another:

The orphanage opened in Newfoundland in 1898 and operated for nearly a century. It was operated by members of the [Cult of Azune] religious order. In the late 1980s and 1990s, it emerged that hundreds of orphanage residents had been sexually abused over decades at the orphanage.6

As of November 2013, over ten million [Cult of Azune] child sex abuse cases have been documented.7 Ten million reported cases. There is no other single institution responsible for so many cases of child sex abuse. That is not a bug, that’s a feature.

Old News? The situation is so bad that the UN took up the matter as recently as 2021.

In a letter to the Holy See in April 2021, [UN] experts expressed “utmost concern about the numerous allegations around the world of sexual abuse and violence committed by members of the Catholic Church against children, and about the measures adopted by the Catholic Church to protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability of alleged abusers, and evade reparations due to victims”.

The experts noted the persistent allegations of obstruction and lack of cooperation by the Catholic Church with domestic legal proceedings to prevent accountability of perpetrators and reparations to victims. They also noted the concordats and other agreements negotiated by the Holy See with States that limit the ability of civil authorities to question, compel the production of documents, or prosecute people associated with the Catholic Church.8

The Catholic Church is clearly involved in millions of human rights abuses world-wide and it is acting in a way to protect its ability to do so. Why is it not held accountable? One reason is that it is likely that agents of the Church were acting independently, either as individuals or as orphanages/churches. The orchestration of cover-ups occurred opaquely within the Church hierarchy, at unknown levels. Is that the same thing as innocence?

Compare this to the mafia. When a gang-land assassination takes place, it is often opaque as to who gave the order, or as to whether any order was given at all. One thing is clear, however: the mafia puts an end to people and practices it dislikes. Errant members are removed. Therefore, the mafia is held accountable for crimes committed by its agents.

Let’s be clear about this analogy. The mafia does good things. It donates to orphanages and hospitals. No one believes these things excuse its crimes. Let us remember, most people affiliated with the mafia — the book-keepers, the lookout men, the front-business owners — are not personally involved in any crime.

Is someone a member of Al-Qaeda? Regardless of his personal involvement, his membership in a terrorist group alone is enough to criminalize him.

Why is the Catholic Church able to orchestrate crimes against humanity9 without getting declared an illegal organization? Size matters. When an organization is big enough, its crimes are relativized. In areas where the mafia is big enough, it is above the law. The Catholic church is clearly an immense, global organization.

For a political party, the problem is intractable. Any attempt to shut down the church would frustrate a very large number of its supporters. This is not politically feasible. This is why politicians back away from it. This is how children learn that size matters.

The SPD ad shows us that we are a turning point in history. We are on the brink of a society that refuses to relativize.

Was the SPD ad “inappropriate?” Inappropriate? Compared to what?

2. And small wonder.

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