Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Further Speculations on Stupidity: Regarding the Response of the Catholic Church to Publicity of Instances of Sexual Abuse

Certain things seem undeniable.  There have been instances of sexual abuse of minors by priests.  There have been efforts by certain Church authorities to "cover up" such conduct.  There have been cases where Church authorities, knowing of such conduct on the part of certain priests, have nonetheless placed those priests in positions where they could continue such conduct (in some cases after psychiatric treatment, or reprimand, or a kind of "probation period" at, e.g., a location where minors would not be present or subject to the authority of those priests).  There has been little or no effort to alert secular authorities regarding such conduct.

Query:  What would be an intelligent way for the Church respond to increasing publicity regarding these undeniable facts--even if the Church somehow felt that such conduct its own affair (which it plainly is not)?

I maintain that it would not take much at all in the way of mental effort for most to conclude that an intelligent response would not include:  complaints that such publicity is an expression of anti-catholic prejudice; complaints that such publicity is the result of an anti-catholic conspiracy; comparing catholics being criticized with persecuted Jews; statements such as those apparently made recently by a bishop that some minors provoke such conduct (a claim which was made in the past by a certain American bishop); complaints that there are too many homosexuals in the Church.  Indeed, I would characterize such responses as being almost unimaginably stupid.

Why are they exceedingly stupid?  For a variety of reasons one would think are self-evident.

First, no rational person can even begin to think such conduct is defensible, on any basis.  Therefore, Church authorities should not even appear to defend, or even mitigate, such conduct.  It is apparent that doing so makes the Church, in the minds of most, an apologist for sexual abuse of minors.

Second, although anti-catholic sentiment has and does exist, particularly in the U.S., since there is no reasonable basis on which such conduct can be denied, to claim that reporting such conduct, and even dwelling on it, is anti-catholic, serves only to make it seem that the Church is complaining that stating the truth is somehow reprehensible.

Third, the comparison of the criticism of catholics in connection with such conduct to the persecution of the Jews is so clearly outrageous it can only result in additional criticism, and contempt, for the Church.

Fourth, the claim of provocation, particularly by minors, in addition to being despicable, cannot even begin to excuse what happened.  It is a claim historically made by rapists, which one would think would not be an association the Church wants to make.

What would be included in an intelligent response?  Acknowledgement, and expressions of remorse.  Efforts to compensate and punish.  Efforts to prevent recurrence.  A "no tolerance" policy.  Cooperation with secular authorities.

Some of this has actually taken place.  Would it not therefore be appropriate to point this out in response to each new story of abuse, or to point out that there are no recent incidents (if that is the case), and the Church will do all it can to prevent such conduct in the future?  And, even if this has been pointed out, doesn't it make sense to continue to do so? 

If there are errors in reporting, it only makes sense to note that as well, of course.

There can be no other reasonable response in these circumstances.  Why then are such other responses being made?

What can account for the stupidity of the responses being made by the Church?  Again, I call for the intensive study of human stupidity.  In this case, is there a kind of institutionalized idiocy at work?  Is this kind of stupidity to be expected of institutions such as the Church when confronted with undeniable misconduct?  Can professed arbiters of morality act intelligently when confronted with demonstrable immorality on their part, or are they somehow deprived of intelligence in such circumstances?

There is so much to be learned regarding our capacity to be stupid.

No comments:

Post a Comment