Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

'Outrage,' 'Forgiveness,' and 'In-Groups'

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.                            




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Oh, please. Spare us your sanctimony, Bob. This post is nothing but a debate tactic to position yourself "above the fray." What a crock. Who cares if it didn't come from the top? That this kind of garbage is coming out of a bureaucracy at all should at least raise serious concerns on your part.

Posted by: Don Altobello | Apr 13, 2013 4:36:24 PM

Seems to me sanctimony is precisely what we are called to, Mr. Altobello. I hope you might rise to those 'beautiful heights' above 'frays' yourself, as your name seems to suggest that your forebears once sought. When you get there, I would like to hear what concerns you might have about the 'garbage' (your word), in this case taking the form of child-abusing action rather than adult-irritating words, put out by our church's 'bureaucracy' (again your word). I believe I have made plain my objection to both, in so doing ascribing to each its appropriate measure of comparative gravity. Thus far I see no such ascriptions at all from you to the church, which at present appears to enjoy a free pass in virtue of its being your church. There is a log in our eye and a mote in the Army Reserve's. Yet here we are fixating upon the latter. Your church doesn't teach that. It teaches self-examination and sanctimony.

Posted by: Robert Hockett | Apr 13, 2013 5:08:15 PM

I'll stay within my area of expertise, which, in this case, is theology. You wrote: "For [the Church's] 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 don't think that's accurate. Perhaps the sentiment behind it is: that God loves us, that we have Him as our origin, and the call the possess Him as our end in common with the whole world, that charity extends to the whole world; yet the substance of it seems incorrect. Perhaps "in-group" used here is a technical phrase connoting a certain sort of behavior, but it seems that the Church, as the one People of God, is a particular group distinct from the outside. Only those in the Church may receive her sacraments, for instance. Only those who share in the faith of the Church (at least implicitly) can be saved and have their sins forgiven. I'll give a small theological discussion of this point. It might be beyond the scope of your blog, but I hope you'll indulge me.

While GS22 is certainly true ("by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man"), this does not negate the dogma that Baptism changes the soul. "For we are buried together with Him," we read, "by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). In Baptism we are born again, made a new creation, the old passes away, the new comes. We are adopted as children of God. All our sins are forgiven. Baptism is important. It changes us.

The scriptures continually make a differentiation between those in the Church and those outside. For St. Paul, our first obligation is toward Christians. He exhorts us to love the brethren and to outdo one another in generosity, and these are commands about how Christians treat Christians. Our vocation is to do good to all men, but it is first to Christians. ("Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith" Gal. 6:10) Each person, indeed, will be rewarded if he so much as give a cup of water to a little one who is the disciple of Jesus (Matt. 10:42), and we will be judged both by our faith in Jesus ("Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" John 3:18), but we will also be judged by what we do to the disciples of Jesus, because the Church is the body of Christ (cf. Matt. 25:40 & 1 Cor 12).

So there is a difference between the Church and the world. If the Church is the Sacrament of salvation and unity for the whole world (LG 1), it is only insofar as the Church is community of faith and salvation entrusted with the Gospel for the whole world: the Church is the Sacrament of salvation and unity insofar as Christ desires all the world to be saved and united by faith in her.

The Church has a nature. As the Roman Catechism puts it, the Church is a communion of faith, sacraments, and governance. Unam Sanctam puts it this way: The Church is one by virtue of the same Bridegroom, the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same ecclesial charity. The Church has governors and pastors different from the world. It has laws that do not bind non-Christians. It has its own distinct way of life and its own history, albeit a history very tied up with Western Culture. The Church is manifestly a group that has insiders and outsiders, even if part of being an "insider" (as bad as that term is) is loving the "outsiders".

To summarize: Those who have been are believed to have been given a new nature in Christ, a redeemed nature that transforms us ontilogically. Charity, or the love of God, applies especially to Christians, since the Church is body of Christ, and charity is that love by which we love God above all things and love those whom He loves for His sake. Christ came to earth and died for the Church (cf. Eph 5), therefore the love God calls us to is especially to those "in the household of faith." The Church, moreover, has a specific nature that is both visible and spiritual, and some on this earth are inside her and some outside her.

How this theological discussion (which I trust you would largely agree with) relates to your overall point, I cannot completely say, except for offering an opinion that it makes sense, from a human perspective, to be outraged when you are treated unjustly, and it makes sense, from a human perspective, to be grieved and repentant when you have treated other unjustly. Since it is the shepherds of the Church who treated these victims unjustly, it makes sense that I would be ashamed, grieved, etc. But since I am not part of the military but am the victim of an injustice related to it, a certain level of outrage makes sense, since I would desire the rectification of the injustice done to me, as in the case of just anger (on this point, see the Summa Theologica, Q. 46).

Pardon the length of this reply.

Posted by: Joseph Anthony | Apr 13, 2013 6:18:12 PM

In order to be in communion with The Body of Christ, one must be in communion with The Word of God, our Savior, Jesus The Christ.

Posted by: Nancy | Apr 13, 2013 7:06:04 PM

Thanks, Joseph, this is great stuff. Three quick related thoughts:

1) You are right in suggesting that I intend 'in-group' as 'a technical [term] connoting a certain sort of behavior,' though I hasten to add that the term I have in mind also connotes a certain attitude or form of regard from which the behavior in question issues. In this usage, the term's an old sociological term of art that I learned in high school, I think, which for all I know might be obsolete in that discipline now. In any event, I don't believe the attitude or behavior associated with the term to be consistent with Church teaching or tradition, or with a spirit of faith, hope or love. And that in turn is why I use it here. I don't think we should, or that the Church holds we should, regard fellow citizens or national institutions as 'out-groups.'

2) You are the expert in theology, I most certainly am not, and so you are much, much more likely to have the theology of the Church correct than am I. To much if not most that you say in expositing that theology, I am able, depending on how much play there might be in some joints, to assent. To some of it I possibly am not. By way of one example that seems particularly pertinent here, to the proposition that '[o]nly those who share in the faith of the Church (at least implicitly) can be saved and have their sins forgiven,' I cannot in good faith assent save insofar as the word 'implicitly' is read in a manner far more capacious than I think was the norm in times not very far past. Similarly, to the proposition that 'the love God calls us to is especially to those "in the household of faith,"' everything rides here on the sense or extent of 'in' and 'especially.' If the terms imply something to the effect that another person's bona fide (not metaphysically self-serving) Christianity serves as one of a number of possible markers showing that person to be more likely than not to partake of a certain shared other-regarding orientation of soul with me, and in that sense to be more immediately recognizable to me as a fellow lover of all sisters and brothers than s/he would otherwise be, then I of course buy it; for one part of love, I believe, is shared subjectivity or bend of soul. If 'in' and 'especially' in your usage instead entail that I am to care more about the Christian qua Christian than about the non-Christian, then I fear I must utterly reject it, and suspect Christ would do likewise. If, then, official Church doctrine maintains some contrary of this (of course I hope it does not), then at least on this matter I will sadly be 'on the outs' with that 'out-group'-less-loving Church.

3) Finally, on your explanation of the relative places of grief and repentence on the one hand, outrage on the other, I hope I left clear in my post that I share the same view of those placements. We grieve inasmuch as we share in the guilt, we feel outrage inasmuch as we see victimization - be it of ourselves or of others. You and I might see things differently where the correct invocation of grief and of outrage in particlar cases is concerned, I don't know. As for my own invocations in connection with the two 'cases' under discussion in the post, I must confess that I see no indications of repentence, up to now, for Church scandalization of children and apparent coverups thereof in the attempts made in the Army Reserve 'outrage' posts thus far posted to distinguish the two cases. Instead these seem to me to smack of quite muted criticism of the hierarchy that ignored or concealed child-abuse (and no criticism at all of ourselves), accompanied by intemperate vindictiveness toward the hierarchy that first did not know about, then quickly repudiated, an unwarranted aspersion-by-association. My impression, to link back up now to the scope-of-affinity, -love, and -'in-group' matters touched on in (1) and (2) above, is that this surprising disproportion stems in part from an excess of in-group-favoring on the one hand, accompanied by an excess of out-group-demonizing on the other. Why do I say 'excess'? Well, among other things, because (a) we do, after all, partake of our nation's military insofar as we are citizens of the nation whose instrumentality it is and in whose name it acts, and (b) by the same token, the child-abusing priests wronged Catholics as surely as did the slide in the Army Reserve slideshow. I accordingly think attempts at categorically distinguishing the two cases dangerously misleading. They miscast differences of degree as differences in kind, and in so doing they work indefensible in-group/out-group segregation. That segregation, in this context, I think entirely at odds with the spirit in which this Church was founded or can be long maintained.

Thanks again!


Posted by: Robert Hockett | Apr 13, 2013 9:05:49 PM

Good comments! I thought you might be using that phrase in a technical sense. If I am getting your meaning, I suppose I can agree that it is not in the spirit of Christianity, which is to rather suffer injustice for the sake of our neighbor.

Let me clarify to the best of my ability what we know about the extent of implicit faith.

While it is true that many of the Saints took our Lord's word, such as "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt. 7:13-14) to mean that many would not be happy in heaven, it is also true that many Church theologians, not the least of which is Benedict XVI himself, have taken a more broad view of salvation in recent years. It is not considered heretical to take this broad view, at least as far as the salvation of humans goes (we already know the Lucifer is not saved). Still, the possibility that someone won't be saved is present, and that possibility acts as a spur to introducing one another to the saving love of God.

Vatican II summarizes this in Lumen Gentium 15:
"Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention."

This is that God if free to extend salvation through implicit faith to those who do not know with explicit faith the truth of Jesus and the Church. Pius IX put it this way: "Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments."

Faith is held to be necessary because "the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23) but "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Faith is necessary because eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ (John 17:3), but "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?" (Rom. 10:14), so it is held to be necessary to believe in God in order to know Him, call upon Him, and be saved. "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Rom. 10:14).

So faith is necessary, but it doesn't necessarily have to be explicit, because God certainly would not hold back the helps of salvation to those who, without it being their own help, do not know the true faith. Implicit faith could probably be stated in a condition, like so: "If Tullius Cicero had known that the God of Israel was the Living God and that He would send His Son to redeem the world, Tullius would have entrusted his life to the God of Israel and wished to belong to chosen people."

It is possible that most people alive, even those who appear to not have supernatural faith, are in a state of implicit faith. God knows. It is possible that salvation could encompass most everyone born of woman. God knows; I do not.

This speculation ends up going beyond what we know from Revelation. We have to be faithful to what we've received. We can speculate. We can pray. We can wish. But God will ultimately be the judge. "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law" (Duet. 29:29). We can and should pray for the salvation of every human being, but their judgement will be in the hands of Jesus, who "alone searches the heart and examines the reins to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve" (Jeremiah 17:10).

But if there is anyone trustworthy in judging, it is the God who is "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows" (Ps. 68:5). Everything will be alright in the end. We can be confident of that. Our God is Goodness and Love.

Posted by: Joseph Anthony | Apr 13, 2013 10:25:00 PM

We have to be Faithful, tor to whom much has been given, much more will be expected. This does not change the fact that some, like the Good Thief, who, at the moment of his death, recognized Christ in all His Glory, and having been lifted up with Christ, came late to the fold. Do not let your hearts be hardened like a pillar of salt. All things are passing, only Love remains. The wheat must be separated from the chaff, because Perfect Justice requires Perfect Love.

Posted by: Nancy | Apr 14, 2013 10:18:07 AM

Thanks again, Joseph, this is just wonderful. One or another less fully theologically articulated rendition of your exposition here is essentially what I've been banking on, so to speak, ever since childhood. The ways in which your, Lumen Gentium's, and some other renditions put the point into words are just breathtaking. Incidentally, Archbishop Tutu's new book - in essence, a collection of relatively recent sermons - covers some of this ground as well, albeit in decidedly more 'popular' terms, owing to its provenance.

Posted by: Robert Hockett | Apr 14, 2013 10:43:01 AM

I'll have to check out Archbishop Tutu's book. Thanks!

Posted by: Joseph Anthony | Apr 14, 2013 6:48:44 PM