Via Andrew Sullivan… Patsy McGarry, writing in The Irish Times about the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church, finds something absolutely fascinating in the Dublin Archdiocese report…
According to the Commission of Investigation report, “mental reservation is a concept developed and much discussed over the centuries, which permits a church man knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person without being guilty of lying”.
It gives an example. “John calls to the parish priest to make a complaint about the behaviour of one of his curates. The parish priest sees him coming but does not want to see him because he considers John to be a troublemaker. He sends another of his curates to answer the door. John asks the curate if the parish priest is in. The curate replies that he is not.”
The commission added: “This is clearly untrue but in the Church’ view it is not a lie because, when the curate told John that the parish priest was not in, he mentally reserved the words ‘…to you’.”
It [the report] continued that Cardinal Desmond Connell had explained the concept to the commission as follows:
“Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be — permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying.
If you lead someone to a false conclusion and, trusting you, they jump in, it isn’t your fault they jumped. Now, think of all the half-truths, disingenuous sloganeering and…yes…outright lying you’ve witnessed coming from various right wing “moral leaders” in the decades of the gay civil rights struggle. Did it seem like their book of virtue was full of holes? Well…yes…loopholes. For them.
Do you see how so horribly many cases of child abuse were not only allowed to happen here, but Could happen to begin with? The first assault on those kids was to their sense of trust. After that, the rest was easy. When you dismiss your neighbor’s trust you dismiss their humanity along with it. What these gentlemen did, was construct a situational ethics that allowed them to look someone in the face and lie through their teeth and still see themselves as moral people. And it took their brakes away. And that wholeheartedly absolute trust of a kid was of no more moral value then that of John’s knocking on his parish priest’s door. To consciously deceive someone, man woman or child, isn’t immoral behavior if you’re doing it for the greater good. Or your own.
But there is no greater good at the end of a road paved with self-serving lies. Just that dead end where civilizations die after all trust between neighbors is lost. The next time one of these self righteous creeps tells you they’re acting for the good of society laugh in their face.