Saturday, April 13, 2013
All right, let us please dial it down again, continue to keep our heads about us, and ascertain whether we might learn something worth learning from the 'outrage' occasioned by this silly slide that first appeared in an isolated lecture given by a low-placed consultant to some Army Reserve personnel, then was excised and repudiated once brought to the attention of the higher-ups. I believe that there is in fact something very important to learn here - something about our true calling.
I start by restating two questions, then draw what seems to me a single important lesson upon which what strike me as the right answers to these questions converge.
My questions, originally for Patrick but really for all of us, are basically two.
The first is, what will or ought dissipate one's outrage, assuming one experiences it, over the Army Reserve lecture incident that has been under discussion these last several days? If the category of forgiveness isn't thought applicable here, even after the offense in question has been corrected and repudiated, I am happy to hear what other category or categories might be. Ultimately, though, I want to know simply what can or ought bring the evident rage in the outrage, which I do not think helpful and do think 'extreme,' to an end. I hazard my own suggestion, which does indeed sound in forgiveness as well as in cognate categories, below.
The second question is, in what, if any, ways should the standard of outrage (or 'accountability') to which we hold higher-ups in a hierarchy, when an offense occurs lower within the hierarchy and the higher-ups do not at first know about it, differ between important institutions in which all of us have stakes? My own view is that the standard should probably be more or less the same - and, again, sound in forgiveness - again for reasons I offer below.-
It is in connection with both of these questions that the two case studies - that involving the Army Reserve and that involving the Church - strike me as worth comparing.
As I see it, both in the military case that has Patrick outraged, and in the Church child abuse scandals that have others outraged and have Patrick 'grieve[d]' (more on which grief below), wrongs were done lower down, and higher-ups were then called upon to put things to rights. From the looks of things thus far, the wrong in the second case was immeasurably more grave than that in the first case, while, ironically, the higher-ups in the second case showed scandalously less alacrity about putting things right than did those in the first case. That seems to me important in a number of ways, but for present purposes I take it for important only inasmuch as it underscores the suggestion that I shall offer about grief, forgiveness, and 'in-group' and 'out-group' psychology below.
Now, Patrick might disagree with me about the comparative gravity of the offenses in the two cases ('raping priests are relevantly different from officials [i.e., an outside lecturer] lying [i.e., lumping Catholics together with al Qaeda operatives as 'extremists'] in their official capacity'). And I take it he disagrees with me also on the comparative alacrity question (though no one has yet asserted that the military was particularly slow to correct the error that outrages him). I would of course find that troubling, but as suggested above, what ultimately interests me here is something a wee bit more general - viz., again, whether the same 'outrage' or 'accountability' standard should apply between cases. Should it? Does it?
Patrick says, 'I grieve that our bishops did not do more to root about the evil of abuse of children.' He does not profess 'outrage.' In order to get at my 'should it?, does it?' question, I would like first to know why. Is the outrage/grief distinction here inadvertant and not intended to suggest mutual exclusion, or is it deliberate and indeed meant to suggest mutual exclusion? This question is not simply for Patrick. It is for all of us. It is ultimately the question that prompts this post and yesterday's posts. And it is the question whose answer, I think, counsels against rage.
Here's what I'm driving at: I can understand how the category of grief might initially strike one as more immediately salient than outrage if one feels in a certain sense personally implicated in a wrong via one's actual participation in the institution whose personnel have more proximately committed it and whose hierarchy has at least initially missed it or hidden it. But if that's what's at work here in underwriting rage in Case 1 and mere grief in Case 2, then it seems to me ultimately untenable. For surely the message of the Gospel is that we are all of us implicated in all offenses committed by all of our sisters and brothers. We are, that's to say, our brothers' and sisters' keepers. And if that is so, then it seems to me grief is more apt than is outrage in both cases here under consideration - as well as, I take it, in most if not all other cases. That's not to say remonstrance isn't likewise called for in most cases. It's only to say grief is more apt than rage in all cases.
The Church is not and cannot be a sociological 'in-group' in which the category of 'grief' rather than 'outrage' is salient, while other institutions such as our nation's military are 'out-groups' in connection with whose errors we entertain only 'outrage.' Insofar as we treat the Church as an in-group, we render it incoherent and impossible. We render it self-undermining. For its very existence is predicated on the proposition that there are no 'out-groups.' It is the institutional emodiment of the proposition that we are all of us, all of humanity, one Lord-beloved in-group. I propose, then, that we endeavor to emote accordingly.