Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Sep/10

4

Mortifying

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The frontier between religion and cult is ill-defined, but after reading this article in the Daily Mail it’s difficult not to conclude that one of the crossing points is to be found on London’s Chelsea Embankment:

Sarah Cassidy is the sort of no-nonsense, capable woman you might expect to find as headmistress of a primary school. But Sarah doesn’t do children, and she doesn’t do husbands either. No. Sarah is 43, single and celibate — and determined to remain so. Each night she fastens a wire chain, known as a cilice, around her upper thigh. The device has sharp prongs that dig into the skin and flesh, though generally it does not draw blood. To most women, it sounds a peculiarly masochistic practice.
Yet Sarah says it serves a very different purpose: suppressing her desires and atoning for her sins. Quite what those sins might be it is hard to imagine. For Sarah is not just good, but very, very good. She doesn’t drink, abhors drugs and has never had sex. More than that, she is a senior female figure in Opus Dei, one of the most controversial forces in the Roman Catholic church…

…In a bid to correct false impressions, Sarah has agreed to meet me to discuss what it is that attracts women like her to what seems such an austere and, frankly, painful expression of faith. I meet her with fellow Opus Dei member Eileen Cole at the group’s £7 million London headquarters on Chelsea Embankment, where Sarah now lives.

Read the whole thing : you don’t have to subscribe to the Dan Brown school of history to find it fascinating – and more than a touch disturbing.

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9 comments

  • Kiwi Dave · September 4, 2010 at 4:40 am

    In the light of what I’ve learnt about Ms Cassidy from the first paragraph cited above, I think she should stick with false impressions.

  • Susan · September 4, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    My immediate reaction: If you don’t enjoy sex, it would seem there are far less constrictive and painful ways of avoiding it.

  • Panglos · September 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Celibacy – not a very good business plan for longevity

  • Susan · September 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Panglos, I think that’s how The Shakers pretty much put themselves out of business.

  • Panglos · September 5, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Outlived by their furniture

  • Mark · September 5, 2010 at 6:43 am

    “The frontier between religion and cult is ill-defined”–not that much, really.

    Cult + time = religion.

    In the film Chinatown, John Huston’s character says “Of course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” To that list I would add cults.

  • Polichinello · September 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    In the film Chinatown, John Huston’s character says “Of course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” To that list I would add cults.

    …and that same magic almost worked for a certain child-rapist film director.

  • Polichinello · September 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    While the band is certainly not my cup of tea, I suppose it’s better than a lot of the alternatives these women might have gotten into, like drugs or cutting. Some people need these of sorts of challenges in their lives.

    If you really want a gallery of the bizarre look at the photos and story headlines on the right side of the page. Compared to that social toxin, a few silly women tying a metal band about their leg as a meditative device shrinks in significance.

  • John · September 8, 2010 at 2:39 am

    …and that same magic almost worked for a certain child-rapist film director.

    Heck, it did work in Europe. He’s walking around a free man. And, all the newspaper articles here referred to his “having sex with” the girl, not drugging her and sodomizing her even after she explicitly said “no”. Imagine what the press would do if it turned out Rush Limbaugh had done something like it.

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