Pharyngula

I’ve been following the news lately, and have at last unearthed the most horrible, awful, evil thing you can do to a religion, the one simple thing that will get the faithful to melt down.

Tattling.

Oh, no, don’t you tell on the church! It ought to be the first commandment. Church leaders can engage in the most ghastly, demeaning, terrible crimes, like raping children, and the concern isn’t for the young people who’ve been hurt — instead, it’s a worry that the revelation of human imperfection among priests might diminish people’s dedication to the faith, so it must be covered up. The guilty can’t be punished because that would be an admission of failure by the hierarchy…so they get shuttled off to some new parish, their crimes concealed.

Personally, I find the crime of child molestation one of the worst — it’s a betrayal, and damaging psychologically and physically, and protection of our children ought to be one of the most important goals of a stable, successful society. Christopher Hitchens explains it clearly here:

One of the striking contrasts here is that the Catholic Church seems to think otherwise. Raping children is something to be tut-tutted over, the miscreant quietly shuffled off to some safe haven…their protests are reserved for those who tattle on them.

Here’s Bill Donohue, the ever-reliable paladin of the Catholic Church, turning about and finding the true criminals in the Wisconsin child-rape case: the families! A monster cloaked in godly authority takes advantage of an entire community, and Donohue’s words of condemnation are entirely for the families who were afraid to speak up for so many years.

Well, they’re speaking up now, Bill. They’re defying heavenly authority, no doubt torn because they’ve been told all their lives that their immortal souls are dependent on the intervention and aid of the man who has been sticking his penis in their sons and daughters, and you’re just confirming what they already knew: that testifying would only get them blame and condemnation from the ardent moralists of the church. Thou shalt not tattle, but if you do tattle, we’ll piss on you for not tattling soon enough.

That’s a mighty fine catch, that Catch-22.

There’s another excuse they’ll use. “Everyone does it”. You’ll find no more repulsive example than this article by a Catholic archbishop — his excuse is to list examples of doctors, judges, and teachers abusing children. See? Catholics probably aren’t any worse than other professionals! Except, of course, that medicine, law, and education aren’t closed institutions that go out of their way to protect molesters from exposure. And most of all, they aren’t institutions that insist, over and over, that they are society’s repository of moral wisdom.

That particularly galls us atheists. We are so tired of being told that we can’t be moral without an objective external source of goodness…yet here we have a group of people who most loudly claim as their professional calling a direct insight into the mind and will of the cosmic lawgiver, and what do we find? Violations of basic human decency at every level.

And the Archbishop’s excuse reveals another fundamental moral failing. What kind of child thinks that is a legitimate excuse? Matt Taibbi puts it well:

But even worse — what does Dolan’s whiny deflecting and excuse-making say about the church as an arbiter of ethical values? These pompous assholes run around in their poofy robes and dresses shaking smoke-filled decanters with important expressions on their faces and pretending to great insight about grace and humility, but here we have the head of the largest Diocese in America teaching his entire congregation that when caught committing a terrible sin, the appropriate response is to blame the media and pull the “All the other kids were doing it, too!” stunt!

Here’s another excuse. We atheists have been blamed for creationism by the likes of Ken Miller, so you just knew that someone with an even more exalted status in the church would find us a convenient scapegoat for even more serious problems. The Pope has an explanation for the atrocities in Ireland: “new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.”

What? A priest buggered a little boy? Look! An atheist! It’s his fault! How dare he stir up disturbing changes in society…Father Murphy was so distressed he had to stick his penis in Timmy’s butt! Aww, poor Father Murphy…

One bit of good news: people are waking up. Even in the Pope’s home town of Traunstein, people are disillusioned.

“We were proud to have a German Pope,” one woman tells me, “but that pride has gone.”

“The abuse scandal comes as a shock,” says another. “Now people are leaving the Church.”

I have no confidence that the effect will be lasting — people seem to be very good at burying their material worries when someone with a pretense to religious authority tells them God wants it so. But most of all, and here’s a difference between Christian and atheist morality, I would not want to see even the complete dissolution of their odious faith if it could be achieved with the pain of a single child. We do not build our world on scapegoats and blood sacrifice and a belief that torture and death are redeeming. But they do. They can justify turning a blind eye to tormented children because it is a small sacrifice to make to an omnipotent god; they have saints who glorified poverty and misery; they’ll tell Africans to expose themselves to deadly disease because prophylactics are a sin.

There is a wonderful story by Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, which is a fantasy tale about a beautiful city with wonderful people and a thriving, joyous culture, with one catch: it’s built around one necessary example of deep misery.

In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas,
or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there
is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps
in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed
window somewhere across the cellar. In one corner of the little room a
couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads, stand near a
rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar
dirt usually is.

The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet
or disused tool room. In the room, a child is sitting. It could be a
boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is
feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become
imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose
and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits
hunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops. It is
afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it
knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked; and
nobody will come. The door is always locked; and nobody ever comes,
except that sometimes–the child has no understanding of time or
interval–sometimes the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person,
or several people, are there. One of them may come in and kick the
child to make it stand up. The others never come close, but peer in at
it with frightened, disgusted eyes. The food bowl and the water jug
are hastily filled, the door is locked; the eyes disappear. The people
at the door never say anything, but the child, who has not always
lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother’s
voice, sometimes speaks. “I will be good, ” it says. “Please let me
out. I will be good!” They never answer. The child used to scream for
help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of
whining, “eh-haa, eh-haa,” and it speaks less and less often. It is so
thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on
a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks
and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own
excrement continually.

They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have
come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They
all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and
some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty
of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of
their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their
makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of
their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.

This is usually explained to children when they are between eight and
twelve, whenever they seem capable of understanding; and most of those
who come to see the child are young people, though often enough an
adult comes, or comes back, to see the child. No matter how well the
matter has been explained to them, these young spectators are always
shocked and sickened at the sight. They feel disgust, which they had
thought themselves superior to. They feel anger, outrage, impotence,
despite all the explanations. They would like to do something for the
child. But there is nothing they can do. If the child were brought up
into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed
and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were
done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight
of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms. To
exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that
single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands
for the chance of happiness of one: that would be to let guilt within
the walls indeed.

In the story, some few people reject the terms of the sacrifice, and this is where I have mixed feelings about it: they quietly leave the city, alone, to go somewhere else, somewhere they can’t even imagine. They are “the ones who walk away from Omelas,” after all. They are the ones who will not accept bliss if it’s founded on another’s pain.

But I don’t know, it doesn’t seem enough. The story seems to accept that there is an act that cannot be committed: that protest and tattling are not an option, that no one ever sees that there is a justice in bringing the oppressed to light and doing something. Or even questioning whether a child’s sacrifice is at all causal in bringing about their happiness. It’s a thoughtful story, but it needs a sequel, “The Ones Who Storm the Gates of Omelas”.

So this is our sacrilege for the day: speak the truth, decry the crimes of those in authority, challenge the dogma that says we are sinful beings redeemed by the suffering of another.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    March 28, 2010

    Pointing out that the holy and ever-so-better one than the pagans and atheists is in fact as bad as, or even worse, than those wretches, is not to be done.

    The religious ones (pick your favorite righteous sect) are better, and it is a sacrilege to say otherwise. Especially when you have evidence to the contrary.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. #2 Stephen Wells
    March 28, 2010

    I think it’s quite telling that the people of the city are told _as children_ that the city’s happiness depends on a child’s misery. What would happen if a traveller came to Omelas- would anyone tell en about the child? If e asked for an explanation, what would they say?

    If e released the child, and the people rose in riot because e had broken the compact, and in that riot and disorder the city of Omelas burned and fell; would the people not say, we were right all along; as soon as the traveller loosed the child, all was lost; it is es fault, not ours; if e had not interfered, Omelas would still be beautiful and proud and we would still be happy.

    (The pronouns e,es,en – the e is short like eh, not long like ee – are neuter animates matching he/his/him and she/hers/her, nicked from portions of Left Hand of Darkness. Thought I’d give them a spin.)

    (Le Guin comments that she made Omelas from Salem, peace)

    (I use too many brackets)

    (pie)

  3. #3 jackal.eyes
    March 28, 2010

    “You’ll find no more repulsive example than this article by a Catholic archbishop ? his excuse is to list examples of doctors, judges, and teachers abusing children.”

    Even if the prevalence of pedophiles in those other lines of work were about the same as that among Catholic priests (and no evidence is given that it is), hospitals, courts and especially schools systems would take accusations seriously, cooperate fully with law enforcement, and fire the guilty parties. (Unless it’s a college student accused of sexually assaulting another college student. I’ve read that university councils tend to tell the victim she has no case, and to just forget about the incident.)

    I couldn’t watch Bill Donohue, but good post.

  4. #4 Sastra
    March 28, 2010

    I’m surprised that the Catholics haven’t been whining that nobody would ever dare complain about pedophile coverups if it were the Muslims.

    The suffering child in the Le Guin story, is a fair symbol for the entire idea of damnation. In order for salvation to be a great gift, there have to be people who are damned. They are the necessary collateral damage, that the meek and humble may be rescued, and be grateful that they are rescued.

    There’s an interesting twist to the dilemma between Salvation by Works, vs. Salvation by Faith. If only faith can save a person’s soul, that entails that good works have no value on their own; it also means that bad works, are no worse than good works, for all are unworthy in His sight — and the believer is handed a Get Out of Hell Free card. You can rape a child, and be saved because you accept that you’re a lowly worm in need of salvation.

    But the Salvation by Works doesn’t necessarily work out much better. Catholics are supposed to believe in salvation by works. To avoid devolving into humanism, though, it seems those works must involve doing proper rituals. You can rape a child, and cleanse your soul with paying penance to God on the rosary.

    The great sin against God, is being uppity. That can translate so many ways.

    In real life, the people who live in Omelas would probably tell themselves that the child chose its fate, while in a higher spiritual realm, and thus the suffering is not real and final, but a temporary sacrifice that even the child prefers to its absence, in the Big Metaphysical picture.

  5. #5 fester60613
    March 28, 2010

    Donohue is a truth twisting sack of shit.
    He’s got the facts all twisted around, has no clear concept of which Pope did what nor what the time line is. He’s an idiot.

  6. #6 Kieranfoy
    March 28, 2010

    What the hell? THAT’S this priests excuse? His chruch rapes young children and covers it up, and all he says is ‘But, Ma, everyone else is doing it!”?

    Everyone else doing it is a good enough excuse for pigging out on candy, NOT for violating children.

    If there was a just God, that self-righteous pig would be frying in it.

  7. #7 Kieranfoy
    March 28, 2010

    Er, sorry about that post. ‘Chruch’ should be ‘church,’ and the last bit should have read “If there was a just God, that self-righteous pig should be frying in his Hell.’

    Nowhere near enough caffeine today.

  8. #8 Yoritomo
    March 28, 2010

    I find myself in the rather uncomfortable position of having to agree with part of what Donohue said. Of course it was the moral duty of those parents (if the parents actually knew) to speak up on the Wisconsin priest.

    All too often I get to read that the victims contacted the Church, but demanded secrecy, not a criminal prosecution – demands the Church was all too happy to agree to. And who could disagree? The child probably has been traumatized by the experience, and neither it nor its parents are keen on having the abuse they were subjected to dragged in the open, or having to testify about it at trial. But there are other interests at stake – not just the ones of the child which has been abused, but those of other children which might also be raped if the priest isn’t brought to justice, too.

    As soon as the Church got to know of such allegations, the problem became exclusively the Church’s, though. At the very least it should have made very sure that such a priest doen’t get a second chance at abusing children (preferably by sending him off to some hermit’s cave in the wilderness to meditate on his sins). If that’s deemed impracticable or insufficient, it would have been the Church’s duty to fire the priest and/or to file charges, if necessary even against the victims’ desires.

  9. #9 fester60613
    March 28, 2010

    I am grateful that Hitch spoke my thoughts: The Pope should be arrested. Perhaps the Brits will do the honors during his state visit this summer? Probably too much to hope for.

  10. #10 Crudely Wrott
    March 28, 2010

    While listening to Bill Donohue my Vocal Intensifier and Interpreter sounded a discreet alert tone. So I gave a bit more attention to his delivery and noted some qualities that seem familiar.

    The pitch of his voice is predominately in the upper ranges. His speech conveys a sense of incredulity, even astonishment. His eyebrows are raised and his eyes fully open during most of his comments. His posture is upright and rigid. Too, all of his comments (save his token assertion that “some” in the church are guilty of something) are clearly focused on a singular point, that being the trumping of human nature by the necessity of preserving the (apparent) moral integrity of the church.

    Taking all of this together and comparing the tone, style and content of Donohue’s speech to other similar combinations I have stored in my vast data bank, I find it most similar to the tone, style and content spoken by an eight year old being asked about the unexpectedly low level of the contents of a cookie jar.

    What we have here are adult men, sworn to celibacy, imbued with magical power and trusted to intercede between the most high god and we mere humans, acting in a fashion that is virtually indistinguishable from the behavior of a common cookie thief. To me this speaks volumes. Volumes!! I say!

    The entire RCC needs to be sent to bed with no supper. After being spanked soundly. Emerging developments suggest that this has suddenly become much more likely. In fact, I’m personally anxious for future events to play out quickly. How I’d love to witness, during my lifetime, the marginalization of this destructive and debasing edifice into obscurity. Or into neglect and decay. Or into the role of a curiosity, a relic of some distant past. Or just left in a heap at the curb.

  11. #11 Toast
    March 28, 2010

    Words do not exist to express my outrage at the hypocrisy (“a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess”) of these so called good people.
    Every morning I wake up and thank gOD that he doesn’t exist.

  12. #12 Richard Smith
    March 28, 2010

    If a priest complained that all the other priests were jumping off the Empire State Building, so why couldn’t he..? Well… Okay, in that case I’d be okay with the argument. Bad example…

  13. #13 Stuart
    March 28, 2010

    Another example of Christian morality, the big difference is that children weren’t abused, they were burnt alive

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/03/20103281412779115.html

  14. #14 pcarini
    March 28, 2010

    Donohue is a truth twisting sack of shit.

    Donohue is a professional offense taker and a truly disgusting human being. Moderate, thoughtful Catholics, should there still be any left after the past two months, should be outraged that the news channels continue to use Donohue to represent them.

    That’s of course a minuscule portion of why they should be outraged …

  15. #15 Caine, Fleur du mal
    March 28, 2010

    That particularly galls us atheists. We are so tired of being told that we can’t be moral without an objective external source of goodness?yet here we have a group of people who most loudly claim as their professional calling a direct insight into the mind and will of the cosmic lawgiver, and what do we find? Violations of basic human decency at every level.

    Sing it loud! I’m beyond tired of it, and I’m tired of the outrage I feel every single time these sick, twisted, hypocritical excuses for human beings whines about being misunderstood, mistreated and persecuted.

    “new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.”

    *spits* Obviously, it’s upsetting to Nasty Ratzi and gang that the church no longer wields the control it once did. Their wholesale refusal to look to and at themselves in these matters is despicable. Not unexpected though. They’ve been doing this shit for centuries.

  16. #16 Deen
    March 28, 2010

    Bill Donohue disgusts me. Not only are the things he’s saying obnoxious, so is the tone at which he speaks. There is no compassion there, just anger.

  17. #17 keenacat
    March 28, 2010

    I’m so sickened and disgusted by the catholic church. I’m wrestling with the decision to leave it, though. I’m currently employed by the Caritas, working as a nurse help during studying medicine. Leaving the church would lead to my employment being cancelled. I don’t care that much about this particular job, but the Caritas owns quite some hospitals in germany and will never employ me again if I leave the church.
    I feel sort of blackmailed into staying. Not being able to work for the Caritas will limit my choices significantly. This has frustrated me for quite some time now and has been a great cause of worries and concern.
    It gets worse every day.

    Sorry for the rant, just felt the need to take my rant to like-minded people. Most of my friends are sort of weirded out by me actually wanting to leave the church. They are fine with just not giving a damn about it.

  18. #18 Crudely Wrott
    March 28, 2010

    Yes, Deen, Bill is angry. But the most telling point of his delivery is that he seems to be completely confounded by the attitude or almost everybody on the planet that diddling children and/or covering for those that do is quite beyond the pale of acceptable behavior.

    The very fact that Bill and however many others rate organizational stability above justice and human rights on the scale of individuals, be they within the church or without, is the vexing crux of the matter. How can they? How dare they? How long will they be allowed to do so? What can we do to shorten that duration?

  19. #19 Crudely Wrott
    March 28, 2010

    The awkward “or” in 18 is really a useful “of.” But you knew that . . .

  20. #20 Athena
    March 28, 2010

    Maybe the Catholic Church should be put in the Omelas dungeon.

  21. #21 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 28, 2010

    I’ve just posted the following on Archbishop Dolan’s blog. It’s pending moderation.

    There are going to be sexual deviants in any large group of people. So we shouldn?t be surprised that a certain percentage of priests are child rapists. What we should be surprised at is the Church hierarchy aiding and protecting these rapists. Archbishop Dolan tells us there are other child rapists out there. Unfortunately this is true. What the Archbishop fails to mention is when a school or hospital discovers a child rapist they call the cops. When Pope Benedict was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he sent out a letter telling bishops NOT to report child raping clergy to the civil authorities under pain of excommunication.

    I?m sorry but when the dignity and authority of the Church is more important than the welfare of children then I have got to wonder about the claims to moral authority the Church makes. Mark 10:14, ?Suffer the little children….? apparently has taken on a new meaning.

  22. #22 molto legato e sostenuto
    March 28, 2010

    I’ve been fond of this story for a long time. But the phrase “The Ones Who Storm the Gates of Omelas” may have been the most moving thing I’ve ever read on this blog.

  23. #23 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 28, 2010

    …new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.

    It used to be that when the Irish Catholic bishops said “shit” then the Parliament members would squat and make grunting noises. There was no legal abortion, no legal contraception, no divorce because the bishops didn’t like that stuff. But slowly, over the years, the bishops lost most of their influence. Nowadays ire has legal contraception and divorce and abortion is legal in Ireland if there is a risk to the life of the woman*.

    The Pope is whining because the Church has lost much of its power in Ireland. Maybe if that power hadn’t been so flagrantly abused the Church would still have it. They’ve only got themselves to blame.

    *More importantly, travel to Britain and Northern Ireland to have an abortion is not prohibited.

  24. #24 skatje.myers
    March 28, 2010

    I haven’t read everything on this matter, but in that video of Donohue, he’s condemning the parents not for tattling, but not tattling soon enough. He’s clearly scape-goating and diverting attention from the Church, but at least in this case, I don’t think it’s fair to claim he’s condemning them for reporting at all. Quite the opposite — he’s practically screaming that these sorts of events SHOULD be reported, and immediately.

    He’s still a sleaze-bag, but you’re putting words in his mouth.

  25. #25 PZ Myers
    March 28, 2010

    Catch-22!

    Thou shalt not tattle, but if you do tattle, we’ll piss on you for not tattling soon enough.

  26. #26 sammywol
    March 28, 2010

    Omelas? Oh help! I’m slipping into teacher mode and am in perilous danger of dumping 50 minutes worth of seminar material into the comment thread. … *must hold back* … Anyway it does have a sequel, a short story called ‘The Day Before the Revolution. In fact it has two if you count The Dispossessed. Omelas is a gedankenexperiment, a great ‘what if’ scenario. The sequels are not. Le Guin does not come up with a nice, neat destination for those who walk away from Omelas. If she does offer an answer it is that it is the walking that matters, the journey, because social justice is a process not a place, because as soon as you sit down and decide to build utopia somebody will start building little dark rooms and some sick fucker will be shoving suffering children in there because hey, look, everyone is doing it.

    Omelas is an imagined place built on the suffering of one, single, fictional child and a reader has to seriously question whether it is worth it. How much less worth it then is the illusion of heaven built on the backs of millions of suffering flesh and blood suffering human beings?

    Bugger god. Bugger god with a brick!

  27. #27 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    March 28, 2010

    There’s another excuse they’ll use. “Everyone does it”. You’ll find no more repulsive example than this article by a Catholic archbishop ? his excuse is to list examples of doctors, judges, and teachers abusing children. See? Catholics probably aren’t any worse than other professionals!

    The slogan for the Catholic ChurchTM: Become a Catholic and your child will have equal chance of being abused.

  28. #28 skatje.myers
    March 28, 2010

    @#25

    While I understand that the Church itself secretly doesn’t want anyone tattling, as it would seem with covering evidence and all that, Donohue himself isn’t saying this. And furthermore, no one is being condemned for tattling, by anyone. The only action demonstrably being condemned is delaying reporting, which is somewhat fair, though not very tactful.

    It might not be your intention, but the phrasing of this post is conflating secretly wanting things kept quiet with actively admonishing people for tattling at all.

  29. #29 Thorne
    March 28, 2010

    While Donohue is certainly wrong in most of his rant, I have to agree with several others here that his complaint against the families not reporting the abuse may have at least some merit. But it goes far deeper than he lets on. In the first place, the families would have to have known about the abuse, which is not a given. Even in standard abuse cases, involving relatives or babysitters, the families seldom find out until long after the damage has been done. And in cases of religion, even if told by their child that the priest was doing things, would the families believe it?

    I know a woman who suffered abuse by a priest. When she was old enough and on her own she joined a class action suit against the parish and the priest. Not surprisingly, the Church made sure that all details of the suit were sealed, so they couldn’t make into the public records. What was surprising, to me at least, was that the woman’s own mother accused her of blaspheming against the Church and the priest! How are children supposed to react to that level of blindness?

  30. #30 davros
    March 28, 2010

    The catholic church needs to atone not defend, its as simple as that.

  31. #31 Al B. Quirky
    March 28, 2010

    Personally, I find the crime of child molestation one of the worst ? it’s a betrayal, and damaging psychologically and physically, and protection of our children ought to be one of the most important goals of a stable, successful society.

    In this, PZ is more Christ-like than the pedophiles (and those covering them) who claim to follow Christ.

    Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

    What part of Matthew 18:6 doesn’t the Catholic Church understand?

  32. #32 Pierce R. Butler
    March 28, 2010

    Le Guin’s Omelas story has the most recognition among modern readers, but she picked up the idea from William James via Fyodor Dostoevsky.

  33. #33 Danu
    March 28, 2010

    We had a similar situation in Ireland. A Catholic apologist wrote this in the national media:

    “This could go down as the week when the Catholic Church began to fight back. On Wednesday, two remarkable things happened. First, and despite the scandals, the bishops decided that they had to say something about the Civil Partnership Bill.

    Secondly Bishop Christopher Jones attacked the media for singling out the Church as though priests are responsible for the majority of child abuse in this country, when according to the one reputable study done in this area (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report, 2002) they are responsible for 3pc.

    That is 3pc too much, of course, but given the preponderance of coverage given by the media to clerical sex abuse you would think the ratios were reversed, and that priests were responsible for 97pc of abuse while the rest of society was responsible for the remaining 3pc.

    But the fact that the bishops have declared themselves so strongly and so well against the Civil Partnership Bill is also very significant. The easy thing would have been to say and do nothing, to tell themselves that the scandals make it impossible for them to speak out for fear of the inevitable backlash.”

    (Full text here: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/david-quinn-well-pay-a-heavy-price-for-allowing-samesex-unions-2096819.html

    I sent the following letter to the editor (although I don’t think it was printed):

    David Quinn argues that we’re being unfair to be so angry with the Catholic Church because, after all, their priests are only responsible for 3% of child sexual abuse. So much fail I hardly know where to begin. Okay, first of all that figure is only relevant when compared to the percentage of priests there are. I imagine priests make up far less than 3% of the population (I stand corrected if I am wrong) so ‘only’ 3% of the abuse is nothing to be proud of. Secondly, the Catholic Church rightly comes in for approbation because it, as an organisation, systematically covered up the abuse and allowed it to continue. No other organisation has done that. And finally, unlike any other group of abusers, the Catholic Church sets itself up as the moral arbiter for all of us, and so must hold itself to a higher standard if it is to have credibility. The truth is that now it has, by its actions, lost all credibility.

    And then David Quinn has the effrontery to dress up as bravery the Church’s attempts to heap misery on yet another group of innocent people – homosexuals who want to regulate their unions.

  34. #34 Yoritomo
    March 28, 2010

    Al B. Quirky @31: Maybe getting raped by a priest is not a sin, thus the rapists don’t “cause the little ones to sin”. I would have assumed otherwise though; that would be more in line with the usual “blame the victim” line of reasoning.

  35. #35 Mak
    March 28, 2010

    I agree with molto legato; “The Ones Who Storm the Gates of Omelas” sounds like an amazing story. How about we write it together?

  36. #36 Givesgoodemail
    March 28, 2010

    Attorney Jeff Anderson weighs in on the Catholic Church’s complacently on priestly pedophilia.

  37. #37 neonsamurai
    March 28, 2010

    Urgh. While I totally agree about everything else, I feel like I must speak up about the ridiculous utilitarian bashing going on here. Le Guin’s short story is a strawman designed to show the “flaws” of consequentialist ethics as opposed to deontological frameworks. I have no problem with saying yes to the problem of Omelas, so long as the benefits for the rest of the society are sufficiently high. The suffering of one child is inconsequential compared to the suffering of the rest of humankind that can be eliminated with the sacrifice.

  38. #38 Caine, Fleur du mal
    March 28, 2010

    neonsamurai:

    I have no problem with saying yes to the problem of Omelas, so long as the benefits for the rest of the society are sufficiently high.

    Omelas was a city, not a whole world, so the “solution” wouldn’t benefit all society.

    The suffering of one child is inconsequential compared to the suffering of the rest of humankind that can be eliminated with the sacrifice.

    I’d say something is seriously wrong with your thinking. The suffering certainly wouldn’t be inconsequential to the child; any society who would, even though initially shocked, go on living their happy life with no more thought to that suffering individual is a frightening one. Any society that is willing to see someone suffer horribly, is a society that at any time may see the need for more to suffer, upon a whim.

    Strength of character is not only in recognizing the wrong of inflicting suffering, it’s in speaking out against it, no matter how fabulous you find the unicorns farting rainbows.

  39. #39 Givesgoodemail
    March 28, 2010

    @37: “The suffering of one child is inconsequential compared to the suffering of the rest of humankind that can be eliminated with the sacrifice.”

    You, sir, lack even the least inkling of the moral backbone of someone who is truly human. Agreeing to set up one person to suffer immeasurably to the benefit of all others scarcely reaches the moral level of an animal.

    How many times have you seen headlines like “Two drown trying to save child”? How often do fire fighters rush into a flaming holocaust of a building in an effort to save those inside, and how often do those brave souls die or become maimed as a result?

    Such morality (not to mistaken for blind altruism) is humanity’s greatest strength and most potent weapon.

  40. #40 'Tis Himself, OM
    March 28, 2010

    I have no problem with saying yes to the problem of Omelas, so long as the benefits for the rest of the society are sufficiently high.

    Do you volunteer to be the one to suffer?

  41. #41 saerrock
    March 28, 2010

    keenacat #17
    If you a qualified nurse don’t worry about Caritas blackmailing you into staying with them if feel outrage & disgust at the activities of the church which controls it.
    You will be able to find a position almost anywhere in the Western World..

  42. #42 John Morales
    March 28, 2010

    neonsamurai, you might wish to acquaint yourself with the concept of an allegory.

  43. #43 Crudely Wrott
    March 28, 2010

    Re Dano, #33, who said,

    We had a similar situation in Ireland. A Catholic apologist wrote this in the national media: “This could go down as the week when the Catholic Church began to fight back.

    Against what, I wonder, will they fight, if not against the certainty of things. The Church has always championed truth, You know, the kind you hear declared by men in dresses with profound sounding proclamations and titles. You know, like the profundities pronounced by your drunken friends at the last kegger; like the incisive and decisive observations of the ineffable offered by the impressionable to the gullible; like the mindless mouthings of the faithful; like the meandering associations and random connections that afflict the unarmed mind. Truth, they all claim, is what they say it is since their personal Discorporate Invisible Supernatural Spook has told them as much through the agencies of myth, parable and contemporary preaching (which mostly tries to shore up myth and parable, not always successfully). The worst of the problem raises its ugly head when a significant percentage of my fellow humans think that their religious feelings are a more reliable barometer of human ability, potential and reputation than is direct measure of that ability.

    For such limited minds only an authority can give value to their existence, and how sad they are when left to fend for themselves. (Musta been bad, ya’ know.)

    OK. If they insist on an authority I recommend Irwin Corey. Hey, he may not be god but he knows more stuff than god does! If you don’t think I’m telling the truth just ask either one of them. You’ll get the straight poop.

  44. #44 Patricia08
    March 28, 2010

    “new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.”

    There is nothing “new” about the abuse. What is new and is a partial result of the “rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society” is the reporting and exposing of that abuse. Cause and effect confused here.

  45. #45 Leigh Williams, OneWhoStormstheGatesofOmelas, OM
    March 29, 2010

    molto legato e sostenuto:

    But the phrase “The Ones Who Storm the Gates of Omelas” may have been the most moving thing I’ve ever read on this blog.

    Yes. Well done, PZ. Very well done.

    sammywol:

    If she does offer an answer it is that it is the walking that matters, the journey, because social justice is a process not a place, because as soon as you sit down and decide to build utopia somebody will start building little dark rooms and some sick fucker will be shoving suffering children in there because hey, look, everyone is doing it.

    Let us storm on, fellow minions, under the CEO’s able leadership.

    neonsamurai:

    I have no problem with saying yes to the problem of Omelas, so long as the benefits for the rest of the society are sufficiently high. The suffering of one child is inconsequential compared to the suffering of the rest of humankind that can be eliminated with the sacrifice.

    Good. Then you can be the sacrifice. But wait, not to worry: those of us who have some ethics will free you. Have you not, like, READ the Preamble?

    (hint for the ethics-challenged: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    And no, I don’t care if you’re not an American: the Texas SBOE to the contrary, Thomas Jefferson was a profoundly influential Enlightenment thinker.

  46. #46 wanderinweeta
    March 29, 2010

    Donohue is simply parroting two of the more common excuses used by the churches (Catholic and other) to justify ignoring reports of abuse. “It was so long ago! And the parents should have spoken up!”

    I am a friend of several adults abused repeatedly as children by clergy, (Protestant in these cases) and I have heard the same story over and over. The child victims were warned not to tell, under penalty of hellfire. “You would destroy the witness of the church, and God would be very angry.” They were warned not to tell, because something very bad would happen to them or their parents. They were warned not to tell because nobody would believe them. Or all of the above.

    When, after years of fear, they finally went to their parents, some were believed, but not all.

    When either they or their parents went to the church with the accusation (and we were all told, repeatedly, that we should never go to secular authorities with complaints against fellow Christians. Even the Bible says so: check out I Corinthians 6:1-7.”Dare any of you … go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? …”), then they were as often as not disbelieved.

    The length of time between the act and the accusation was brought up, as a “proof” that this was invented because of some fancied disagreement with church doctrine or some personal pique.

    The parents and child were cautioned to say nothing to anyone: “… do not speak against God’s anointed …” Promises were made; the offender would be asked about these accusations. Which, of course, he would deny. Case closed.

    When the parents or now-adult victim pressed the matter, they were threatened with everything from hell to personal “outing” as a trouble-maker, to loss of employment.

    Some of my friends have just given up. No sense going to the secular authorities; the statute of limitations has long since expired, and what evidence do they have beyond their word, and maybe the testimony of their brothers and sisters?

    Others are still petitioning the church to “do something”, even though their perps have died of old age. At least, they hope, guidelines could be put in place to protect future victims.

    A few have gone, finally, to secular authorities, where they hear Donohue’s accusation; “Why did you take so long? It can’t have seemed so important to you back then, or you would have spoken sooner.”

    He (and they) make me sick.

  47. #47 Peter Relph
    March 29, 2010

    Crudely Wrott:

    The entire RCC needs to be sent to bed with no supper. After being spanked soundly. Emerging developments suggest that this has suddenly become much more likely. In fact, I’m personally anxious for future events to play out quickly. How I’d love to witness, during my lifetime, the marginalization of this destructive and debasing edifice into obscurity. Or into neglect and decay. Or into the role of a curiosity, a relic of some distant past. Or just left in a heap at the curb.

    Be careful what you wish for, imagine what will happen when all those religionists whose innate savagery is currently only being constrained (some of them) from raping and pillaging, by their god given morals, are released from that constraint.

  48. #48 stealthdonkey
    March 29, 2010

    I think that the Omelas thing sure is a talking point. The thing is that, so far as I can tell, everyone is assumed to take the idea that “keeping the kid in a basement is essential to the smooth running of society” on faith. I’d be all for freeing the kid not only because I’m generally against the imprisonment and torture of kids in general, but also because I’d be curious as to what would happen. Even if it was a case of “keeping this doll in the basement is essential to the smooth running of society”, I’d still advocate removing it from the basement, just to see what would happen.
    But if you rewrite the scenario, something like “the weather is going crazy, and we know it is only going to get worse. Society will be devastated by flooding and tornadoes and ridiculous amounts of lightning. Scientists have discovered and built a machine that can control the weather and stop this, but is powered by a child’s soul. This requires a kid to be locked in a basement and tortured for some reason. Despite searching, no alternative solution has been found”. Now the situation is trickier, and, well, shittier.

  49. #49 Molly, NYC
    March 29, 2010

    The Church has been too wimpy about these monster priests

    Wow. Did I actually hear Donahue say that?

    I’ve been wondering when the moral disconnect in the RCC would get so obvious that even Donahue would think “screw it, I can’t defend these guys.”

    I suppose the above just-in-passing quote is as close as he’s going to get to that. But slender as it is, it’s more to his credit than anything else I can remember him ever saying or doing.

  50. #50 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    Peter Relph,

    Be careful what you wish for, imagine what will happen when all those religionists whose innate savagery is currently only being constrained (some of them) from raping and pillaging, by their god given morals, are released from that constraint.

    Actually, I doubt that there are that many such¹. More to the point, we already have a criminal justice system to deal with such.

    You may wish to consider the converse, too: how many acts of savagery are condoned/enabled by “god-given” morals?

    ¹ Of all the religious people that you know, what proportion do you think fit that category? ;)

  51. #51 Notkieran
    March 29, 2010

    Stealthdonkey @#48:

    At a guess, the kid in the prison was the last person to hear to “Well, children, as you can see, our happiness is founded on the misery of this scapegoat” and reply with “But how do you know?”

  52. #52 progjohn
    March 29, 2010

    Odd how excommunication is reserved for those who speak out, not those who rape children.
    To misquote Groucho “I would not remain in any club that would have a known child rapist for a member.”

  53. #53 froghopper
    March 29, 2010

    Donohue states that “the Vatican didn’t know [about the US case] until the 1990s”. However, these cases were usually handled at the diocese level (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/opinion/28allen.html) before 2001.

    What did the US RCC and Donohue know and when did they know it?

  54. #54 Arwen
    March 29, 2010

    The Omelas story reminded me of this article today:

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/our-society-will-be-worse-off-if-we-reject-down-syndrome-children-20100328-r51x.html

    Whay should they have to suffer (and they do) so that Mr Catholic Dude can say “Oh look, it enriches society!”?

  55. #55 Arwen
    March 29, 2010

    Sorry, should be ‘Why’ not ‘Whay’. Makes me sound like Mrs Bucket …

  56. #56 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    Arwen @54, yeah, sigh.

    The usual conflation of an fetus with a person.

    Presumably, eggs are chickens and acorns are oaks, too.

  57. #57 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawntEU60bc0__0bph263cXqvZgqX-Hoq7hQ
    March 29, 2010

    “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is a thought provoking story from the sound of it. “Storming Omelas” would make a great T shirt motto, or a name of a band, or the strap line for a political party or charity or a humanist organisation. Even a religious sect could use the concept (although the RCC might do well to keep their heads down at the moment). Everybody feels warm and toasty.

    But, although I’m not sure I agree with neonsamurai #37, he/she moves the debate from a philosophical thought experiment to one involving ‘real’ choices.

    Are there any known examples of child suffering ‘supporting’ the good life of others? I think you will find that there are plenty of known examples of child labour helping to produce cheap consumer goods. Or child soldiers pressganged into supporting political regimes. Or children living in poverty. It seems many people, mostly in the developed world, are *already* living in Omelas.

    I’m not running some sort of perverse Dutch auction about what is the worst type or amount of child abuse. I don’t support child labour, child abuse, child lack of education, absence of medical care, or insufficient food. I don’t excuse the RCC for their failings. What I do say is feeling virtuous or righteous about the failings of others is not enough. Walking away from Omelas is not enough. You have to do something. This might clash with your ideas about free trade or your desire to own cheaper goods, but who says moral choices are easy?

    SparrowFalls

  58. #58 hilary.nelson
    March 29, 2010

    Just for fun, I checked the Internet Anagram Server to see if Le Guin came up with “Omelas” by scrambling some relevant word or phrase.

    The most promising possibility was “also me,” the real treat was in the random quote that the generator served up with the anagrams:

    “Speak the truth, then walk away quickly.”
    -Serbian proverb

    Web sites must be psychic!

  59. #59 Knockgoats
    March 29, 2010

    the Texas SBOE to the contrary, Thomas Jefferson was a profoundly influential Enlightenment thinker. – Leigh Williams

    Ah, Thomas Jefferson, the well-know and respected slaveowner, hypocrite and rapist!

  60. #60 Stephen Wells
    March 29, 2010

    @58: Le Guin said in another essay that she started with Salem, meaning peace, then inverted it to get Melas; O peace, O salem, O melas, Omelas. Not sure which collection I read that in.

  61. #61 PZ Myers
    March 29, 2010

    No. She lives in Oregon, and saw a sign in her rear view mirror for Salem, Oregon.

  62. #62 Andreas Johansson
    March 29, 2010

    Crudely Wrott wrote:

    The Church has always championed truth, You know, the kind you hear declared by men in dresses with profound sounding proclamations and titles. You know, like the profundities pronounced by your drunken friends at the last kegger; like the incisive and decisive observations of the ineffable offered by the impressionable to the gullible; like the mindless mouthings of the faithful; like the meandering associations and random connections that afflict the unarmed mind. Truth, they all claim, is what they say it is since their personal Discorporate Invisible Supernatural Spook has told them

    Objection! My drunken ramblings come straight from very material and scientifically verifable spirits!

  63. #63 Andreas Johansson
    March 29, 2010

    Leigh wrote:

    And no, I don’t care if you’re not an American: the Texas SBOE to the contrary, Thomas Jefferson was a profoundly influential Enlightenment thinker.

    He was. That justifies your argument from authority how?

  64. #64 Andreas Johansson
    March 29, 2010

    Givesgoodemail wrote:

    Such morality (not to mistaken for blind altruism) is humanity’s greatest strength and most potent weapon.

    Weapon against what?

  65. #65 Gadfly47
    March 29, 2010

    The Omelas story is heart breaking. I always wondered why those who walked away didn’t try to rescue the sacrifice, or change the whole system. But who are we to criticize? We’ve let abuse like this continue for centuries.

  66. #66 lesbianjesus
    March 29, 2010

    Don’t kill me for posting a south park image.

    http://images.southparkstudios.com/media/images/1011/1011_no_party.jpg

  67. #67 j-brisby
    March 29, 2010

    I could be wrong, but I think LeGuin borrowed the idea for her story from The Brothers Karamazov.

  68. #68 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlpz7jEh4Bd2ZEPBFRrUjWoV1sjep_eJEw
    March 29, 2010

    “There’s another excuse they’ll use. “Everyone does it”. You’ll find no more repulsive example than this article by a Catholic archbishop ? his excuse is to list examples of doctors, judges, and teachers abusing children. See? Catholics probably aren’t any worse than other professionals!”

    Hah. I know of another Catholic apologist who uses that bullshit excuse.

    “While sexual abuse is obviously grotesque, the number of occurrences in the Catholic Church is neither higher nor lower than any other denomination or religion and the same as those in education, sports and any other institution that involves a power dynamic between adults and youth. This is proven in numerous studies by objective authors. Yet if we are to believe the media, abuse is almost exclusively Catholic and ? here we go again ? all because of celibacy and an all-male clergy.”

    Guess what this clueless jackass says about the whole affair:

    Let?s confront the problem of abuse without attacking the Catholic Church

  69. #69 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    id=AItOawlpz7jEh4Bd2ZEPBFRrUjWoV1sjep_eJEw (hey, you know other Google users have managed to edit their nym?),

    While sexual abuse is obviously grotesque, the number of occurrences in the Catholic Church is neither higher nor lower than any other denomination or religion and the same as those in education, sports and any other institution that involves a power dynamic between adults and youth.

    Heh. Zugzwang.

    Their professed defense is that the Catholic Church is neither more nor less moral than any other institution?

    Quite an admission.

  70. #70 Horse-Pheathers
    March 30, 2010

    “Sometimes, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”

    I’d rather everyone suffer sometimes than purchase eternal prosperity on the assured misery of a child. Count me in for storming the gates.

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