Thursday, September 24, 2015

our patron saints

Joseph Goebbels, a saint among organization men.
As the Roman Catholic pope, Francis, pursues a triumphal six-day tour of the United States, there are bound to be skeptical voices raising up the old questions of priest sexual abuses of small children. The Vatican has expended millions of dollars and in some cases dioceses have gone bankrupt paying off those seeking redress for past horrors. The payoffs are basically a way of keeping the allegations out of court where the Vatican might be held up not just to ridicule but also to legal account.

Over time, I have been vastly outraged by the pain inflicted and the cover-ups employed by an institution seeking to maintain its good and powerful name. If it would not arouse such powerful blowback, I have a sense that the Vatican would not have been shy about canonizing Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister who made such fruitful use during World War II of the Big Lie. For those sympathizing with the once-children-now-adults whose souls were riven, the Vatican's minions and words were a travesty beyond naming.

I have been interested and outraged, not as someone directly affected, but as someone who dislikes the self-anointing bullshit employed at the expense of those without powerful recourse.

And yet today, listening to the radio news and hearing of the pope's plans and actions and the sidebar criticisms of Vatican inaction on behalf of those abused, a very small fact creeps in around the edges. It is not something I mention as a way of excusing or explaining or of seeking out some oleaginous, TED-talk "closure" on the matter. I just noticed....

That in my time of interest in this matter, what began as a description of "alleged victims" has turned now into a routine willingness to refer without restraint to the "victims." The news media, which lays claim to an impartiality and a search for a balanced truth, uses the word "victim" without a second glance. I am glad, but I am also interested. Joseph Goebbels did not win this round and, while it may be too early to say he lost, still it is a small step in the right direction.

As I say, this is my perception over a span of, say, 20 years. Just my perception. I really don't want to convince anyone or excite a more refined caterwauling. Use of the word "victim" is a well-deserved slap in the Vatican's cherubic and self-anointing face. It solves nothing, but it is a step. People got hurt ... that's people, not some theoretical group or philosophy. Lives got wrecked under a banner of goodness and virtue. No shit -- no joke.

Among the take-aways, from where I sit, is this: Entering into a world or effort the purports to seek out the good and virtuous and decent -- joining a religious group, donning an over-arching philosophy, lighting candles in support of "the least among us" -- does not issue a ticket of exemption: A group or effort that does good things is by its very nature an effort that is capable of and often exercises a wide-ranging capacity for evil.

This is no reason to avoid whatever effort is espoused. Every effort has the same capacity. But ... imagining your effort is somehow exempt is demeaning to whatever true goodness that effort advances. This is not a philosophical argument ... it is an ipso facto fact. Imagining some immunity because of "God" or "enlightenment" or "compassion" or "altruism" is the broadest form of self-deluding nonsense.

And so the important part is to enter into an effort not so much with skepticism as with acknowledgment and acceptance and a willingness to keep an eye on the very personal corruptions that are part and parcel of the realm. A forelock-tugging, toe-in-the-sand, show-off humility is not enough. There is no escape. At every turn, Saint Joseph Goebbels accompanies the footsteps.

Is there goodness? Sure. Sure as the acid rain that falls at the mention of "goodness."

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

Poisoned waters are water nonetheless.

Pure waters are poison nonetheless.

It's your halo...

Your noose.

Pay attention.

1 comment:

  1. When you say victim, you look at the victim. I think it's time to say victimized, and turn our gaze to the church.