Friday, June 17, 2011


Interesting new bits continue to pop up in regard to the recent John Jay Report on Catholic clergy abuse.

A professor who consulted on the study writes in support of the Report, asking that it be read carefully because it is competent and actually constitutes a formal and professionally credible study that seeks to inform with accurate information.

He pleads that the matter not simply receive a knee-jerk quick-burning response of “opinion and hysteria”. But of course, you don’t keep a Mania going with careful and serious study; quite the opposite. You precisely want to ignite the more regressive emotional elements in people, inflaming them so that they bypass any obstacles that will be put up by those marvelous prefrontal lobes that are the wonder of the human brain. That’s Propaganda 101.

The Bishops (U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops – or USCCB) are meeting near Seattle this week. An article on the Huffington site dedicates itself to giving voice to the SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) demonstration that was held outside the meeting.

They want to see “dramatic reforms” – and I wonder in the first place if “dramatic” doesn’t really give a bit of the game away: there’s a heavy flavor of the telegenic in all of this. As I have said in previous Posts on the subject, there is a strong possibility that at this point the Catholic Church is one of the most child-protective entities in the country.

SNAP would like to see “enablers” dealt with, by having the Church impose “harsh penalties” on “any Church employee from janitor to Cardinal” who “ignores or conceals child-sex crimes”. Certainly, such provisions are already in place since just about anybody working in Church settings now has to go through a background check and jobs – paid or volunteer – can be lost (no small thing these days) if somebody passes the background check yet still fails in his/her responsibilities.

 It remains to be seen just how to implement the imposition of “harsh penalties” for ‘ignoring’, beyond the legal measures trip-wired for failing to report a crime. Once again, it is a telegenic ‘demand’, but the devil – as so often is the case when demanding laws and regulations – is in the details; and ‘attention to details’ is not how to keep a Mania going.

This is not simply a matter of the psychological complexities of totally satisfying or bringing ‘closure’ to a genuine or allegant victim. That’s a difficult enough problem: since the past cannot be re-written, then human beings in any situation have to somehow cooperate in their own psychic closure. Anger, betrayal, a certain vengeance … these are all valid emotional responses to any situation in which one is somehow done-wrong-unto. But to acknowledge and even support that insight is not to complete the necessary circuit. Sooner or later it is the human being him/herself who must also at some point accept the redress that is made and press on – hopefully stronger – with the business of living and conducting one’s Self through one’s life.

This rather obvious insight, however, is hell-and-gone from the mutated Victimism that has taken hold in the country: in a curious replay of the old post-Civil War ‘Bloody Shirt’ gambit (in those days, the Republicans made great political hay out of claiming, against any Democratic electoral opponents, that their Party had stayed the course and won the Civil War – and that gambit was played for decades) the current mutation of Victimism continues to insist both that ‘closure’ must be provided unto the victim while also pretty much setting things up so that no full and complete ‘closure’ can ever be achieved. A self-licking ice cream cone.

This is not health-making advice for anybody genuinely victimized: to continually re-open the wound in order to re-start the flow of bright, bubbling (and neatly telegenic) psychic blood works to derail further psychic and emotional development. One must get up and get on with it – and if that sounds ‘insensitive’ or ‘masculine’ or what have you … well, that’s an indication of how deranged national consciousness has become under the relentless demonstrative and demanding pressure of Victimism in its advanced-advocacy mode.

But of course, once ‘advocacy’ – especially organized advocacy – gets going, then what come into play are the organizational imperatives for continuing and sustained ‘examples’ to be waved in front of the hungry cameras and microphones in order to garner funds for sustained organizational activities and to ‘generate pressure’ politically and keep the ‘spin’ and the ‘story’ out in front of public attention (where the public’s assigned job, like the herds in an old Western movie, is to stampede on cue).

As I’ve said before, the American Church has responded more completely than any other organization in the country. And if it seems odd that now the organizations that have demanded reforms seem even more enraged the more the reform-program is developed (and is apparently succeeding), then I would say that it is the organizational imperatives to keep the ball rolling (eerily similar to the stereotypical union maxim “Don’t kill the job” and the defense-industry’s eternal quest for new enemies to fear) that are playing a strong if subsurface role.

In what must be a clear effort to counter the facts in the Jay Report (released in mid-May)that indicate the notable decline in reported cases of abuse, the Huffington article links to a web article  published in early April that draws on some compilation of stats derived from diocesan reports.

This web article does its best to keep up the numbers, reporting that the number of allegations “rose sharply” in 2010 (“almost” 700) from 2009 (around 400).  

In a now-familiar trope, the article admits that 653 (of the “almost 700”) allegations date back decades, but that “the victims/survivors are just now finding the courage to report them”. I say again that this quite possible but still highly-fraught gambit bears a great deal of examination, which it has not received.

It is not quite, you may notice, a claim of ‘repressed memory’ – curiously, the decline in the official and professional credibility of that hugely dubious theory resulted rather clearly in a sudden drop-off in claims based on ‘repressed memory’. Rather it is now a matter of ‘courage’: that many persons must wait – well into their adulthood apparently – to make such an admission of victimization (though so few instances among the allegations have to do with the genuinely horrific experience of being raped); the largest category of claims have to do with “inappropriate touching” and other equally illegitimate but not horror-making activity).

And it is not 1985 or 1995 or even 2002 any longer. Especially since the powerful groundswell initiated by the January 2002 ‘Boston Globe’ phase of the Catholic Abuse matter, being abused by Catholic clergy has become – not to put too fine a point on it – somewhat ‘mainstreamed’ (I recall last week overhearing a waiter in a restaurant mentioning it without difficulty in conversation with patrons at one of his tables). While bringing up any experience of abuse – or claim of it – formally is bound to be a little out of the ordinary, emotionally, yet I’m not sure most persons now, being well into their adulthood, would consider the task to require a substantial deployment of ‘courage’.

Further, the linked-to article does note – decently enough, but perhaps naively as these things go – that half of the priests accused are already dead and that 275 of them already have allegations (rarely convictions) made against them. And you see where this sort of thing can go: an allegation against a priest who has gone and died is harder to defend against; and a priest already allegated-against is already leaking blood into the waters. Neither of which points of itself ‘proves’ the innocence of the priest, but there are all manner of possibilities latent in the matter beyond simply the preferred spin that an allegation is proof-positive that something happened.

And then the article goes and notes a truly interesting fact: “Payouts were also up, rising from $104 million in 2009 to around $124 million last year”. It simply cannot be ignored that in times of general economic hardship (and things are going to be getting even worse on that score) the possibility of scoring a settlement in an abuse-claim process that is in so many ways hobbled from actually definitively investigating and establishing the veracity of your claim … well, auto-insurers can attest to the visceral power of that possibility, especially in difficult financial times.

These are darkling thoughts, rendered even more so by the intense spin of Victimism that seeks to equate any allegation with demonstrated proof of the allegation’s accuracy and veracity. But, human beings being what we are, they are not thoughts that are out of the realm of possibility or even, alas, probability.

My point being that this particular sub-Mania of the larger Sex Offense Mania is now being driven even more intensely than ever before by elements that seem to have taken on a life of their own: organizational calculations and a perceived possibility of ‘easy money’ in a time of increasing economic hardship.

It can hardly be a surprise. From the beginning the Sex Offense Mania has been based not on widely credible and well-established reality, but rather on a sort of in-house consensus, frenzied and vivid, shared by assorted organizational advocacies, legislators (who were either remarkably unintelligent, remarkably uninterested in factual reality, remarkably concerned with only the political and electoral advantages – or some combination of the foregoing), jurists who saw the law primarily as a fungible tool in the service of whatever seemed a good thing at the time, and a media that had simultaneously lost the ability to assess material competently and urgently needed the profits generated by ‘monsters’ and ‘crises’.

Dynamics that have always been present deep down in the torturous cellars of this ramshackle structure are now taking on a life of their own. The assorted collection of wildfires that each of the afore-mentioned elements set in the national forest, perhaps under the illusory presumption that they could control it, are now not only burning together into a much larger fire, but are drawing on fuels that will not easily be susceptible to the usual fire-suppression techniques.

And it is going to be a job of work to extinguish the thing and undo the damage. And as I have always said, that damage is far more pervasive and profound than any of those afore-mentioned elements imagined that it would cause (although, yes, there may indeed be some elements that very much sought to create such profound damage to the integrity of legislation, jurisprudence, and the national ethos).

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