Monday, March 12, 2012

A study in ecclesiastical motive...

The therapeutic stance towards sin is among the greatest aids for sinning yet more. An examination of the clerical abuse scandal in Denmark bears this out. The milieu for that scandal was one in which sexual liberty, indeed, sexual rambunctiousness, was encouraged in mainstream elementary pedagogical texts, based, of course, on the regnant psychological theories of the time. Such theories regarded repression and moralistic guilt as infinitely worse sins than masturbation, fornication, pornography, and the like.

The same theories pervade Family Planning materials, in which children are explicitly encouraged and instructed how to explore their own bodies and the sexual capacities of others. It is not a question of accepting a child's sexuality but one of actively stimulating it. If it happens that one of the best guides a child has for activating his sexuality is a minister, coach, or priest, then we must allow the exploration to advance , since both parties are willing co-explorers. Above all we mustn't judge or condemn in a dogmatic, moralistic spirit.

I am certain a similar broadminded lassitude was present in the American abuse scandal. It is no mere coincidence that the crooked handling of offending priests went in parallel with the sexualization of psychiatry, a trend which came to a head in the nineties, when pedophilia was clinically chicAn offending priest would be given a change of environment, not a swift and dogmatic censure, since he is not to blame, indeed, none of us is to blame, for we are but the product of our environment. The abuse festered not because it is a particularly Catholic thing—indeed, rates of abuse are at least as high if not higher among non-Catholic and secular contexts which allow for abuses of intimacy, trust, and authority—but because the motives of clerical administrators was skewed by a therapeutic bias. The aim was not to do the right thing, for such a course necessarily implies one can do or has done a wrong thing, has committed a sin, plain and simple, and that the right thing to do is to dispense and suffer punishment. Punishment is however an outdated shibboleth of dogmatic moralism. As such, the only right thing to do, the only socially commendable motive, was not to do right, but to do right by a psychologically maladjusted subject, the hope being that an adjustment in the subject's surroundings would yield an adjustment (not to use so high-handed a term as rectification) of the subject's behavior. Redeem the efferent phenomena by tweaking the afferent noumena, as it were.

1 comment:

Crude said...

I'm willing to bet that in 20 years, the behavior of some of these bishops during these scandals will be frowned upon in some quarters - on the grounds that they ostracized, hid and discouraged sexual activities of abuser priests that was entirely normal and healthy, just wrongly stigmatized at the time.