First, let's look at the back story.
Hundreds of allegations, many going back decades, of systematic child abuse by Catholic clergy have come to light this year across Europe.The sexual abuse of children by clergy is world-wide, and one must assume that it has always existed. If we want to end this practice, we must determine what caused it and how it can be eradicated. Fortunately we have our elite to help us understand and solve complex problems. Take it away, Megan McArdle!
The scandal has surfaced in Germany - Pope Benedict's homeland - Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday the only way to come to terms with it was to find out everything that has happened.
Earlier, scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States, Canada, Australia and Mexico.
I am by no means an expert on the Catholic Church, or Protestant ones. But what I know about the latter makes me curious about the sex scandals at the former. In the media, they're generally written about as a product of one of two factors: priestly celibacy and the authority structure of the church.
Ignorance is one of my favorite qualities in our elite leaders and problem solvers. Why look to experts, who have been corrupted with education, intellectual training, and facts, when you can look to naturally superior people who instinctively know all about a subject by scanning headlines on their Blackberry? You see, if you acknowledge that you are ignorant, your ignorance is negated, just like if you acknowledge that you have a conflict of interest, your conflict of interest is negated.
Now that we have dispensed with the need for facts on which to base our assessment, let's move on to the problem.
But as I understand it, Protestant churches also have these problems. And the problems get hushed up just the way they did in the Catholic Church -- or at any rate, as effectively. The difference is that rather than a central authority moving them around, the same effect is achieved in a thoroughly decentralized, emergent, spontaneous-order kind of way. A pastor (frequently a youth pastor) is accused of something terrible by one of his young charges. The congregation has no appetite for a scandal, which would expose parents and child to terrible public airing of their grievances. And anyway, these sorts of things are difficult to prove, particularly since predators often pick on troubled children. So the thing is hushed up, and the pastor is told to resign. He does . . . and gets a job at another church. After all, telling the other congregation why the pastor left could expose you to a lawsuit.
"As I understand it." Thank God we have intellectually superior thinkers to do our thinking for us. They have such superior thought processes that they don't even have to actually do any thinking; they just swallow problems and burp out solutions without any dubious intellectual activity mucking up the works.
McArdle's digestion determined that the problem is not institutional, because centralized religious organizations and less centralized religious institutions both had problems with religious leaders raping children. Evidently dismissing the centralized part of religious institutional actions negates the institutional aspect of the situation as well, because McArdle overlooks or ignores the consequences of the institutionalization of religion. And it seems that the problem is lawyers (not their paying clients) who spontaneously decide to sue organizations, thereby making them suffer and, naturally, take steps to relieve that suffering by protecting child rapists.
It's the clerical version of the "dance of the lemons" that is well-chronicled in urban school districts, where principals write good recommendations for bad teachers rather than go to the trouble of trying to get them fired.
Hey, child rape isn't all that bad anyway--it's like bad teaching. Can't get rid of them either, thanks to the stupid lawyers. Note, also, that bad teachers are in urban school districts, because
According to Henke et. al. (2000), African-American and Hispanic teacher were more likely than Whites to work in schools with a high proportion of students eligible for the federal lunch program....Fifty percent of White teachers were hired by low-risk districts compared with 11% of Hispanic and 18 % of Black teachers. In contrast, 55% of African Americans were hired in medium-risk districts, whereas 60% of Hispanics were employed in high-risk districts. Hispanic students made up 70% of the students in high-risk districts whereas Black students comprised 20% in medium and high-risk districts. (From Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education.
So why is the media picking on the poor Catholic Church by discussing its perpetration and cover up of child rape?
It seems at least possible that the real reason the Catholic Church scandals are so bad is that the Catholic Church is one central institution that you can complain about.
What a surprise! McArdle makes an emotional argument that people are being mean to the Catholic Church, instead of assessing why it failed its members so horribly and consistently. Without explanation or factual support, McArdle simply states that the Catholic Church is being picked on, because it is, so there. McArdle was raised Catholic and unsurprisingly chooses to feel that criticism of the Catholic Church is worse than criticism of other churches because of anti-Catholic bias, as well as centralization.
Thousands of Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc churches across the country could have the same number of constituents, and the same number of abusers, but it wouldn't register as a central problem.
The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor might disagree. They and many, many others examined the problem and determined that the decentralized nature of protestant churches make it harder to assess and report on abuse, while the central authority and, much more importantly, enormous wealth of the Catholic Church means that lawyers are more likely to accept requests by abuse victims to sue organizations with money than organizations without money. McArdle could find this out if she bothered to look, but the nature of elite opinion making and problem solving means that doing a gut check is every bit as good as reading article and books. It also leaves much more time for socializing, shopping, and sneering at the lower classes.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that this is true -- I've been looking, but found no decent statistics on general clerical child predation. I just wonder if it isn't possible. Is there really something pathological about the Catholic church? Or are pedophiles attracted to professions where they have access to children?
It's odd that McArdle couldn't find any "decent" data, because the Catholic Church has eagerly and self-servingly been offering any proof they could find that child rape is not just a Catholic problem. "I just wonder" is supposed to be an adequate intellectual basis for McArdle's instinctive, authoritarian support for her Mother Church, and the real problem of authoritarian institutions exploiting their power over individuals is ignored. Instead, we hear that the problem is gays, or celibacy, or lack of information, not the unquestioning obedience given to authorities, and subsequent and inevitable abuses of power that result.
As long as people unquestioningly give religious institutions authority over their lives and especially their sexuality, they will be exploited. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.