Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Assessing Failure: Institutional Abuse

Let's watch Megan McArdle try to think her way through a problem. She is, after all, one of the nation's Big Thinkers, on whom we depend to guide us through our current crises and give us solutions to our nation's myriad problems.

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 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.
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!
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 minority urban teachers are worse than White suburban teachers.
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.


Downpuppy said...

Every time she goes back to her "I don't know anything but lets use my superior superiority to analyze something anyhow" mode a kitten dies.

Susan of Texas said...


There goes another one!

Clever Pseudonym said...

"I am by no means an expert on the Catholic Church, or Protestant ones."

For a sensible journalist - indeed, any sensible person - that sentence alone would be followed by FULL STOP and no further comment on the subject until things like "learning" and "research" can be acquired.

Am I reading her wrong, or is she really arguing that because Protestant church leaders are also committing acts of sexual abuse and covering them up, it's wrong to focus specifically on the problem within the Catholic Church? I know she's written some pretty disgusting things before, but that would take the cake.

Anonymous said...

That's where you are wrong, clever pseudonym, you will never come to the "cake takingest" horrific thing that Megan writes until she is dictating her last words on her deathbed. She will always manage to surpass herself.


Kathy said...

"Equivalence" is the latest theory of the blibber-blabbering class: conservatives/neocons/teabaggers or self-styled libertarians.

Lately they are insisting that everything they say or do is the *exact equivalent* of something Liberals also do, SO THERE!

Their comparisons are nonsensical, unprovable in any rational way; but they trot them out just as if they are original, factual observations. Doesn't matter if they don't even make sophomoric type of sense. The "equivalence" notion is now "Out there", and all the Repugs or teabaggers or what ever they call themselves, can now say to us Liberals with conviction: YOU do it, too! The 60's Hippies said just what we're saying now! Kennedy was a teabagger at heart and so was Roosevelt (who made the Depression worse BTW).

Clever Pseudonym said...

Yup. It's just a stupid game of whataboutery." The idea of shouting "but themmuns do it too!" and thinking it somehow deflects personal guilt for wrong doing. It doesn't matter, in the context of a discussion about institutional sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, if Protestants or Buddhists or Jewish rabbis do it too because we're not talking about them while discussing the problem specific to Catholics.

Unknown said...

Wonder if libertarians are allowed to breed? I think these opinions (and about healthcare reform)
might adjust if a child with a preexisting condition was counseled by a Catholic priest.

Batocchio said...

Somewhat OT: No measure of callousness will spur McMegan - unless it's those nasty pro-choice people saying things to the pro-lifers lovingly harrassing women entering abortion clinics. Why, didn't you know McMegan is pro-choice?

My favorite comment in the thread so far:

This is so disingenuous. Let me get this straight. You get a press release from an organization called "Progress Ohio". I assume this was the press release you refer to?

The title was "A Bull Connor Moment in Ohio's Health Care Debate?" The subtitle, which you refer to, was "Ohio Tea Partiers Mock, Throw Things at Parkinson's Victim."

The second sentence states "In shocking video taken by a Columbus Dispatch reporter Doral Chenowith yesterday, Tea Party protestors mock a seated counter-protestor with a sign indicating he has Parkinson's disease. They then proceed to hurl wadded up bills at him shouting, "I'll decide when to give you money!""

So, you worked up your outrage in the 5 seconds it took you to get from the subtitle, all the way through the first sentence, and into the second one?

Umm, OK.

I just having trouble believing you read a press release from a group called "Progress Ohio" in the first place. Do you follow them closely?

Kathy said...

Just like my snotty 12-year-old daughter. And, like my daughter, she thinks she's being witty, when in fact she's just being snide and rude.