Monday 11 November 2002
Morality and ‘Zero-Tolerance’
American Catholic bishops are meeting in Washington this week, and revising their plan for dealing with sexually-abusive priests. The Vatican rejected the original proposal put forth by the bishops following their June meeting in Dallas, which should not have been surprising.
After all, the Catholic church was founded by a pal of the guy who said
I don’t think the Sermon on the Mount specifically requires you to die rather than fight — though some honestly and thoughtfully disagree — I do think that it’s a pretty clear injunction against zero-tolerance policies, particularly on the part of an organization that claims to have been established at the specific personal direction of God on Earth.
The pro-zero-tolerance folks, calling themselves SNAP, for Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, is having none of that business with the cheeks. They’ve got a website full of stories about the terrible effects of sexual abuse:
They’re right in that people — the very, very small number of people — who are actually abused, sexually or otherwise, by priests will probably lost some trust in the Church. But does it not occur to them that most of the problem comes from people who plant stories in newspapers with headlines like The Effects of Sexual Abuse Never Go Away? That by constantly repeating that sexual abuse leads to feelings of shame and people who are sexually abused never really recover, they help make that true? Why is it so much worse to be diddled than to be struck? They’re both violations of the person, but while one bruise fades in short order, another bruises the soul and one can never, ever actually recover from it: only Survive and Go On Living, One Day At A Time bla bla bla. Happily, this Survival assures the long-term survival of the Recovery industry — members of which tend to be the people quoted in all those newspaper articles about how terrible the effects of x are, and how lots of therapy is needed.
I don’t deny that sexual abuse does harm to the victims; but it doesn’t do that much harm, nor is it all that common. The American bishops, living in the swirl of American culture, couldn’t or wouldn’t point this out. The Vatican’s smackdown of the bishops’ original scheme for banishing priests accused of sexual abuse demonstrates one of the good features of a benign dictatorship. In the face of popular idiocy, the wise king (or, in this case, Pope) has saved the people from themselves. (This was once the point of a democratic republic; the leaders would, presumably, act as a damper on potentially wild swings of the popular mood. Unfortunately, precisely the opposite now seems to occur.)
We’ll see what comes out of this week’s bishops’ meetings. They’ll agree to the Vatican’s demanded changes, of course: the Catholic church isn’t a democracy. But there’s an opportunity here, if it’s handled properly, for the Church to in the USA to begin to turn back the clock to a time when people were not so ready to see and portray themselves as Victims.Posted by tino at 22:54 11.11.02