Friday, July 07, 2017

On causing scandal and reporting scandal

Reading the mind-boggling story about Monsignor Luigi Capozzi ('gay orgy in same building as CDF raided by Vatican police'), I thought I would repost this, from July 2015.


This is not the kind of blog which goes through people's bins - metaphorically speaking - looking for scandalous accusations to make against priests, bishops, and prominent lay Catholics. Nevertheless, I do from time to time talk about events which I would rather had not happened. Events which shed a poor light on the Church, which reveal problems. I do this because persistently to ignore the things which are causing pain, sometimes great spiritual suffering, to my fellow Catholics, where these are issues on which I would be expected to take an interest or have some light to shed, would be to a failure of charity.

That's right, a failure of charity.

Here is a parallel. Suppose that you know that a child, or indeed an adult, X, has suffered emotional or physical abuse at the hands of person Y. You meet X and say nothing about Y. Y comes into the room, you greet him warmly, show him respect and deference, shake his hand, smile, and so on. He goes off again, leaving you with X, and you say nothing about it. Or, you praise Y in X's presence, you talk about all his good qualities, you say loudly how lucky we all are to have Y among us.

Have you acted with charity? No.

This is the behaviour, of which the Church has seen far too much, of complicity. It is not just a matter of taking part in a cover-up, though that might be part of it. I want to focus on the effect on the victim. What you are saying, by implication, to the victim, is: I do not take your suffering seriously; I do not want to hear about it; your hurt and anger have no place in polite society; you, the victim, should deny your own feelings, if possible even to yourself.

These people who fall among thieves - how inconvenient they are! How embarassing! The only thing to do is to pass by on the other side. To stop would be an implicit criticism of the thieves, and that wouldn't be right.

This kind of reaction from friends and acquaintances explains why victims of various forms of abuse so often do not speak out, or not for many years. The attempt to force them to deny reality is deeply unhealthy, and can even lead to mental illness.

Now, abuse can take many forms. Not all are equally serious. I have used an extreme example to establish a principle which will apply even in less extreme cases. But we can generalise. To those who have suffered in the Church, from the unjust exercise of power, we must say: you don't need to pretend everything is wonderful in the Church for us to accept you as part of our family. We won't try to make that pretence ourselves. We can talk about the problems, and perhaps even talk about ways to alleviate the suffering, and - who knows? - how to prevent it happening again.

Notice what I am not saying. I'm not saying that the victims of abuse, or their supporters, have a blank cheque to make wild accusations, libel others, use indecent language in public forums, etc. etc..

Nor am I saying that the abusers, those who have acted unjustly, should forfeit the respect due to their offices, if any, or as human beings, or that they may not themselves need our sympathy and help. In many cases their actions have arisen from their own sufferings, for which they deserve sympathy and help, and where appropriate even justice. Again, it would be inconsistent, an inconsistencly all too avidly taken up by some in authority in the Church, to throw those accused of crimes under a bus before considering the evidence.

Bloggers have a limited role, however. We don't have the resources to carry out investigations; we don't have the authority to make judgements. What we can do is report, and sometimes put together, facts which are already in the public domain. Some people would like us to stop; that's been the cry since blogs began. If that involves looking the other way when our fellow Catholics are suffering, I'm sorry but the answer is 'No'. At least from this blogger.

For those critics of blogs who are Catholic, I would ask, what part of Canon 212 don't you understand? Speaking of the laity, it tells us this.

Can. 212 §3 They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

Pro scientia, competentia et praestantia quibus pollent, ipsis ius est, immo et aliquando officium, ut sententiam suam de hisquae ad bonum Ecclesiae pertinent sacris Pastoribus manifestent eamque, salva fidei morumque integritate ac reverentia erga Pastores, attentisque communi utilitate et personarum dignitate, ceteris christifidelibus notam faciant.

I've written more about clerical abuse under this label here.

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  1. A very recent example of causing scandal has been documented by a fellow blogger who has had to shut down her blog because she has been attacked by two supposed Catholics; the full story is here:

  2. I think scandal needs to be pointed out to maintain proper piety as well.

    For an example, if a Church authority simply spoke in an ambiguous manner or degrading manner regarding Catholic truths, faithful should find it offensive. To not take offense and to not demonstrate it visibly may normalize the manner of speaking and lead it to spread. That leads to a society filled with a distorted set of attitudes.

    I personally believe, though I may be very wrong here, that most of the problems manifested by Church authorities have sprung from lack of piety (though there may very well be other causes behind that). They just keep shocking faithful and offending the little piety they have. The Church authorities are supposed to be building piety in individuals but instead they keep tearing it down.

  3. If one arbitrarily provides merely data rather than information - it compels the reader to speculate and conjecture some coherent narrative - therefore for a blogger to do such is not merely morally neutral but rather provocative of bearing witness to the unknown which is by default - false (unverifiability) - moral reservation also demands any truth be limited to those to whom it should be afforded lest it fall into the sin of detraction - that some detail might be online does not automatically designate it as being in the public forum & to axiomatically presume that gives license to reveal said data (note NOT information) is not merely debatable but one which one should avoid until either substantiating or corroborating evidence is revealed - otherwise it becomes detraction by default and calumny by omission (indeterminate knowledge) if one does not have the evidence that a=x one should not promote that which permits others to conjecture a=x - even if it is at the reader's conjecture

    1. Oh hi OTSOTA, long time no see.

      I see you are talking about leading Twitter lynch mobs on your twitter feed. Happy memories, eh?

      Did you ever get round to apologising to the victim of your bullying campaign?

  4. Or, OTSOTA, apologizing to those who respect the English language and who have to trawl through your rambling 158-word sentence only to ascertain that it says nothing of substance whatsoever.

  5. You write about Charity, justice and complicity.

    Pendulums inevitably swing. In the past we may all have erred on the side of tact. Now the danger is unconsidered, open, unverified, and even unverifiable criticism both in Catholic but also in secular life.

    Canon 21 , which I did not know of, is sensible and obvious to any Catholic of common sense. Indeed for someone such as myself, an informed cradle Catholic who has been around a bit and for some considerable time, it seems a duty!

    There are many grave problems causing the present severe decline of the Catholic Church in the West and in the Biblical Lands. These are not being dealt with let alone even recognised. The silence or shall we say embarrassed “tact” exhibited by so many bishops and clergy, and informed laity for that matter, amount to complicity in this decline.

    ps I am happy to see OTSOTA back. I had assumed he was a bit fed up with the mess and getting a bit discouraged?

    1. Remember Jacobi this post is being re-posted. That comment was left a year ago.

    2. And my pendulum started to swing from silent "tact" a lot longer than a year ago. But I'm trying to hold it in the middle.

      Difficult at times!