Friday, February 01, 2019

The Preferential Option for the Criminal

As mentioned previously on this blog, there is going to be no restoration of the West until a re-evangelisation of the people occurs.  For a variety of reasons, I don't feel that the Protestant churches have the ability to execute this function, which leaves the Catholic Church as the only institution capable of doing so. If the Catholic Church fails, it's all over. Fortunately we have the word of Christ, so we're going to win.

However, as things stand, the Catholic Church is in a lot of trouble and is fighting for its survival. Therefore before any re-evangelisation can occur it needs to get its own house in order and therefore its problems, and the battles to fix them, are of vital concern to anyone with an interest in a Western restoration.

From my perspective the Church has several deep theological and structural faults which have seriously hampered its ability to tackle Modernism. The sexual abuse saga in many ways illustrates some of the problems affecting the Church and I think it's worthwhile looking into them in order to diagnose, and then work out correctives to these institutional pathologies. And as an aside, I think that Francis is correct in that a simple "judicial" approach to this affair is wrong, and that a deeper analysis of the problem is required.

As I see it, the institutional failure in response to this crisis has several dimension which include.
1) Clericalism, which in this instance is the presumption of priestly impeccability by virtue of holding the office.
2) The avoidance of scandal. Which in this instance meaning the preservation of reputation at the expense of truth.

3)The influence of materialistic psychology which viewed moral fault as an "organic disease" which absolved the the guilt of perpetrator by removing responsibility because "he was sick".

4) Theological developments in the 20th Century which elevated the role of Mercy at the expense of Justice. i.e. the victim doesn't matter.
I actually think that this last one (4) is probably the biggest issue. Issues like homosexuality and greed are actually peripheral, as they they determine the types of crimes committed not the institutional response to them. What reports into the corruption of the Church have shown is that it was equally inept at punishing or reporting crimes no matter what their nature. Hetero's, homo's and thieves were all given free passes.

I suppose a good illustration of what I'm getting at is by looking at latest amendment to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Death Penalty.
The death penalty

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

Astute readers will notice that the whole focus on the entry is primarily on the criminal and their redemption, secondarily on the protection of society, with there being no mention at all of the justice owed to the victim: The victim doesn't matter.

The recurring theme in the sexual abuse saga, across all continents, is the fact that the complaints of the victims were dismissed, suppressed or not openly acknowledged, and that priests were given multiple opportunities for redemption at the expense of their victims. Given the consistency of this response across various times and cultures it points towards an institutional feature and not a local anomaly.  It was standard operating procedure to have a presumption in favour of the priest at the expense of the victim.

I don't think that it was explicit malice that drove this presumption, rather theological developments in the 20th Century have led the Church to develop an implicit doctrine which results in a real world "preferential option for the criminal"..... at the expense of the victim. It may not be formally stated as such but it's what happens in reality. Being merciful to the wicked means being unjust to their victims. It's this institutional and cultural imperative--despite the well meaning natures of many who had to investigate sexual crimes within the Church--that led to the total organisational failure with regard to the protection of minors. It's a systemic problem with its roots in modern theology with its strong emphasis on the personal aspect of the faith at the expense of its communitarian " Church" dimension.

What the old guys understood and what the new guys have forgotten is that the thing about Mercy and Justice is that they are in opposition, and a theology which focuses exclusively on Mercy is one that is going to downplay Justice. They knew that the good ordering of society was just as necessary as the redemption of the criminal  and that's why they came down hard on the criminals in the past, sometimes too hard. They knew, as magistrates and judges, that they had a duty primarily to the victim and to the criminal to see that justice was done, otherwise they would be answerable to God. Letting the criminal off the hook was just not going to cut it.

Paradoxically, this new theology of mercy is just as likely to result in injustice to the criminal as well. If the primary metrics have now become redemption of the criminal and protection of society who determines when this has been achieved, how do long to prison sentences last? You don't have to be that bright to see the horrific potential for abuse in real world settings.

My own understanding of Christianity leads me to the conclusion that God is merciful, in fact He wants to be merciful: He's not a hanging judge. But the existence of Hell leads to the implicit conclusion that this faculty of mercy is at His discretion and is not always exercised. There are also good reasons to believe that his mercy may at times be conditional and that he is primarily just. This new theology seems hard to square up with scripture and tradition and goes a long way to explaining the mess in the Church and the reforms needed. This isn't just about homo's and sexuality as the Trads would like you to think, the problem is far deeper.

BTW, this isn't a swipe at Francis. From my perspective he's a mixed bag as a pope but he does seem to have grasped, in a way that his predecessor's haven't, that this is a far deeper problem than first appears.  He seems to have a good grasp of the structural reforms needed while being blind to the theological ones.  Fortunately, he seems to have the capacity to change his mind, whether he does so is a different matter altogether.