The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - February 25th, 2004
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The Interesting Thing About Bad Priests|
The one thing I heard over and over again:
"If he was a real repentant person, he would have apologized to his victims. He would have left a note."
The assumption, of course, is that he did neither. I worked with the facts that I had and drew conclusions, but other people filled in other facts - namely, that he abandoned his victims and never spoke to them again, and that he didn't leave a note - and then filled in blanks about what a terrible guy he clearly was based on information that they did not know.
We don't know, without talking to the victims. And we haven't.
The other thing I heard repeatedly was that he should have come forward. Again, that's an easy call to make - to say that he should have gone to the press. Except for two things.
One, to the priest, his boss and government was the clergy. The people I blame for this are the callous fucks who knew how prevalent this problem was, and "fixed" it by shuffling assholes about so they could spread their pox over a wider and larger area. Those are the guys who have never apologized at all, and they are rotting in hell (or waiting in line to rot) and I say God damn 'em. But again, a lot of people said, "Well, he didn't go to the authorities," but to a priest the Church is the authority. And again, we don't know what he did, or that he didn't turn to the people in charge - and we certainly can't assume that when he committed the crime, he knew of the plague that was spreading throughout the Church. I'm willing to bet that at the time, he thought he was the only one.
Me, I have this image of the priest saying, "I'll go to jail," and the elders replying, "No, that's not good for God, Father. It would erode our authority. You must do as we demand, for we are wise and can help."
But again, I don't know, either. To draw conclusions based on that is pointless.
But secondly - and more importantly - to go public is a terrible thing. Let's flip it around: Someone who molested your kids, perhaps a grandfather or an uncle, suddenly decides he is overcome with guilt, and he is a part of some nationwide organization that will cause a scandal. These are your kids on the line, their future health.
The uncle goes to the press and says, "YES, I MOLESTED A RELATIVE OF MINE! I'M A BAD PERSON! BUT I'M DOING THE RIGHT THING! HERE'S EVERYTHING I'VE DONE!"
Suddenly, your kids are looked at askance at every gathering. Even if the names aren't mentioned - and that's not a guarantee in many presses - every kid at school is going to draw conclusions about who they were and where they were and start to snigger. The press may actually be a triggering incident for your child, who may be coping admirably but doesn't want to have to see it on a daily basis and watch the guy who touched him in the press. And God forbid, literally, that his name somehow gets leaked or a reporter does a follow-up story, since it may follow him for the rest of his life. I'll tell you right now that the kid who got $10 million from Michael Jackson is having serious problems dating; there was a rather sad follow-up story that told how he was rich, but the publicity that it was him gets in the way of every relationship he has, as in "Oh, you're the guy." (No, I don't have a link; it was a paper magazine.)
Furthermore, if the names don't hit the press, then every kid who ever went to your uncle's organization is now in danger of being mocked and tormented on the school yard, and unfairly tagged with that stigma.
Now. Do you feel your uncle's done the right thing.... Or do you feel that the uncle has committed a second crime against your child now, robbing him of choice once again?
The "right thing" in molestation is a very narrow thing, mainly because molestation fucks someone up for life in a way they can't really recover from - particularly when it's an authority figure, which it usually is. It's a terrible, terrible crime, and in no way am I saying, "Well, fuck, it's fine." But to make it seem like the choices a man faces post-crime are simple when they're clearly not is to assume a self-righteousness that transcends the consequences of what the world has to offer. Coming forward with the crime may have been every bit as harmful as staying put - and strangely enough the priest might have wanted to confess to America but didn't want to harm the child further.
But again, we don't know what the parents said, if they said anything at all. We don't know that he didn't contact them, or beg forgiveness. We don't know that they didn't ask for him to stay quiet.
We're reading motivation into blanks. I'm just working with the facts I have.
The third and final thing I heard was that a lot of people seemed to indicate that maybe things would have been okay if he came clean and fessed up. Bullshit. I wouldn't, and I'm tolerant. My kid would be yanked out of that parish right quick, and I wouldn't shake the guy's hand. I know. I fucking hate child molesters. If you would send your loved ones off to a church where this guy was in charge and feel good about it, you're a better person than I am, but I'm willing to bet that you're not either.
To promise a penitence that does not exist is a lie. Don't lie to yourself. His life was over the second that got out, and there wasn't a damn thing he could ever have done to make it up. Some crimes are unforgivable.
Was there anything he did wrong? Oh fuck yes. First of all, touching a kid was pretty goddamned bad. That's the original sin, and the one I'd never forgive him for. But even with that, suicide was the coward's way out, and I've never said otherwise.
But me? I've considered suicide under far lesser circumstances. I don't condone it, but I can understand what led him there. Sometimes, it's hard enough trying to repent for something on your own - to know that your life will be destroyed because of a sin you committed years ago and spent the rest of your life trying to atone for, and there is nothing. There is no solace, no hope, no rock.
He had a crisis of faith, and if the Church is to be believed the man's in hell now. I find it sad that someone might have worked so hard and yet fallen in the end, even as I can't say that he doesn't deserve it.
Two Thoughts On Father S.|
In the wake of my post, two things have become clear:
Firstly, we cannot measure penitence. We can only measure punishment.
Some people thought that if Father S. was truly penitent, he would have gone to jail and served his time. Except that assumes that jail helps with penitence.
Penitence is, according to dictionary.com, "regret for wrongdoing." It then mentions repentance, which is defined as:
* To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
* To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it: repented of intemperate behavior.
* To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
None of this happens in jail. There are a hell of a lot of people in jail who feel no remorse whatsoever for their sins; they're being punished, but they're not penitent. Furthermore, the ability of people in jail to make a change for the better is next to nonexistent; they can't go out and do good deeds. They can't do anything other than write letters to the people they've wronged. They're powerless.
To say that "if you were really sorry, you'd go to jail" is a misnomer.
Jail exists because we can't measure who's sorry and who's not. Penitence is something that is deeply personal - it doesn't appear on charts, and it doesn't show up on psychological tests because even the least penitent realize the need to appear penitent. As a society, we have no way of determining who's sorry and who's not, and so we do the smart thing: We lock up anyone who's guilty of a crime and keep 'em where they can't do any harm.
Or do any good, either.
Jail is worthwhile because we can measure to the exact length how much to punish someone. Punishment comes in neat dollar figures or months or years. But we all know of people who've been in jail for years and aren't penitent, and we know of people who never got caught at all who were sorry. The two are completely different entities.
And we know that. Ever run a red light by mistake and there was no cop around? Were you sorry you did it? Most people are; they go, "Shit, I misjudged the light." They judge, and accurately, that they're penitent for what they did, that they don't intend to run red lights at every aspect, that this was a mistake and they'll be more careful next time.
I almost guarantee you not a one of you said, "You know, I won't really be sorry for running this light until I get a ticket," and sought out a cop who would slap you with a fine.
In that sense, it is possible to be truly sorry and not want to go to jail. You can have the self-knowledge to realize that you are not the same person who committed that crime, that you want to devote the rest of your life to fixing that breach. That revelation can come without jail time, and arguably you could do a lot more good outside and free and genuinely remorseful for your deeds.
Of course, it is also equally possible to be truly guilty and not want to go to jail. This is, in fact, the majority opinion, and it's why we jail people. The needs of society are not the needs of the individual, and some folks - like Father S. - probably shouldn't be running about in public anyway.
But it does not logically follow that the only way to show penitence is to go stick yourself in a cell. The church officials were certainly fucking 100% wrong for allowing Father S. to continue, but it does not follow that if Father S. was really sorry, his only recourse was to abandon his life and go to jail. He may have thought - or worse yet, may have been convinced by his superiors - that he could better make amends in the Church.
In other words, and I know this is shocking to many, he may have actually thought he was doing the right thing, and wasn't just some scumbag whooping, "I'M NOT GWINETER JAIL TEDAY!"
Secondly, getting a database call to function via object-oriented programming in PHP is fucking impossible. I hate this. I'm sure I'll get better.