Last week a Catholic Priest made a comment to the National Catholic Register that Priests are often seduced by the children they are accused of abusing. The backlash was swift and prompted an equally quick retraction and apology by Reverend Benedict Groeschel. The back peddling included comments by the priest that “My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be”. Apparently he had been in a car accident at some point in the past. Strangely the church felt he was still in a position to talk to the media in his diminished condition. The priest also conveyed his sympathy for Jerry Sandusky and that first time offenders should not go to jail “because their attention was not committing a crime”.
While you are pondering this case, it comes closely on the heals of Representative Todd Akin’s comments that in cases of “True Rape” women’s body’s are able to control whether they get pregnant or not. Aside from being equally stupid statements, they are responses to a similar conflict in logic.
In grade school we are often faced with silly logic problems. Johnny likes being under water. Fish live underwater. Therefore Johnny is a a fish. This is an exaggerated example, but in the case of the church it reflects a need to believe that all Priests are true to their calling. If they stray from that calling it must be because someone steered them in that direction. Hence you get the logic that children seduce priests. In the Akin example , he holds a belief that there are no exceptions for abortion. Rape complicates that belief. You need a mental model that allows you to deal with an absolute belief and a recognition that rape is a crime. Wouldn’t it be nice if the human body knew the difference between sexual interactions that are appropriate and those that are not? That must be it. Pretty soon the hope becomes a reality. Then you go on national TV and look like an idiot because the rest of the world can’t see how you put 2 and 2 together and got 5.
This mental drama plays itself out on a smaller scale in most of our children’s abuse cases. It may be as subtle as another parent asking “weren’t you watching your child?”. It’s insulting and self protective at the same time. I’m a good parent. I wouldn’t let this happen. Therefore someone who would let this happen probably wasn’t doing their job. It’s flawed logic, but it’s how people make sense of a conflicting world.
All of these examples are symptoms of a lack of education. When there is a lack of information about a complex situation, the brain wants to fill in the blanks so it can make sense of things. And with situations this complicated, the logic to make sense of them is often as convoluted. What we need is real education so people know that some people can do really good things and really bad things. And much like magic, it involves manipulation. We’ve learned to not scream in horror when a magician cuts a woman in half. We know it’s not real. We have come to recognize that what our senses are telling us are in conflict with what we know to be true. Sexual abuse is a similar manipulation. It’s just not entertaining.