Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sauce for the Gander

Here is a question for Patrick.

First, please consider this pair of sentences, which I’ll call ‘Claim 1’:

Claim 1:  A speaker,who was making a presentation at an Army Reserve venue, in the course of so doing likened Catholics and Evangelicals to al Qaeda members as ‘extremists.’  Hence the Army endorses that assimilation and, as an institution that makes war against al Qaeda, now plans a war against Catholics. 

[Please follow the link above if you do not know what occasions this remarkable claim, the last clause of which in particular continues to flabbergast me.]

Now substitute a few variables for several key terms in Claim 1, yielding this claim frame:

Claim Frame:  A p, who was q-ing in an r venue, in the course of so doing s’d.  Hence the r endorses that s-ing and, as an institution that t's, now plans more s against Catholics.

Now fill the variables with the following values, appropriately conjugated or preposition-supplemented where applicable:

p – priest

q – teach or otherwise minister

r – Church

s – abuse children

t – pursuant to its mission, receives regular access to children

I cannot bring myself actually to type the claim that results from thus filling the variables, so let us here leave it unspoken and call it ‘Claim 2.’ 

Now as all of us know, many people during the thick of the paedophilia scandals made claims along precisely such lines as the lines of Claim 2.  And in light of the shocking pervasiveness of the problem that emerged during this painful period, as well as the evidence of systematic cover-up in some quarters that likewise emerged, these charges were in a certain sense understandable.  Yet they were nevertheless wrong.  It simply did not follow that the institution endorsed or committed itself to further incidents of the unspeakable evil  that some had committed in the course of working for that institution. 

I wonder, then, what principled ground Patrick might offer for rejecting Claim 2, that does not warrant rejection of Claim 1. 


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Professor Hockett, for the sake of clarity, I think it is important that before you have Patrick answer your question, you are aware that it was not The Faithful who were responsible for the abuse crisis in The Catholic Church, it was persons who denied the Church's teaching on sexual morality.

Posted by: Nancy | Apr 12, 2013 6:01:32 PM

I think there are two flaws in the post:

1. First, a minor quibble: It's unfair to characterize Patrick's point as "the Army endorses that assimilation and, as an institution that makes war against alQaeda, now plans a war against Catholics." The first part of the statement is a fair characterization (i.e, the Army endorses that assimilation) but the second part is unfair (ie, the "now plans a war against Catholics"). (Now one can disagree whether the first part is true or not -- that is, one can disagree with Patrick's notion that the Army, as an institution, has endorsed the idea that Catholics are equivalent to alQaeda and that, instead, it was one lone wacky presenter who doesn't reflect institutional policy -- but Patrick isn't saying that the Army plans to start blowing bombing Catholic churches.)

2. My main point: I think the two claims presented aren't equivalent. Two claims are presented with an objectionable policy. In Claim 1, the objectionable policy is "Catholicism is equal to alQaeda terrorism"; in Claim 2, the objectionable policy is "child abuse is okay." But in Claim 1, the objectionable policy is publicly approved by the institution's leadership and publicly promulgated to the members of the institution as being the institution's policy (at least, that's Patrick's position consists of, which one can disagree with -- see parag. 1 above). In Claim 2, the objectionable policy is not publicly approved by the institution's leadership and is not publicly promulgated to the members of the institution as being the institution's policy --- instead, the objectionable policy is a private behavior that the leadership disapproves of (at least publicly) and does not endorse or promulgate to the institution's members.

Posted by: Thales | Apr 12, 2013 8:28:48 PM

I appreciate your effort to distinguish, Thales (as I appreciate your name), but I remain skeptical (call me 'Sextus Empiricus' for present purposes).

On point 1, please reexamine the first paragraph - and indeed even the title - of Patrick's post. (I first linked to the wrong post, which might be the one that you visited, but have since corrected the link.)

On point 2, the leadership referenced in Claim 1 did not approve - or even know of - the problematical message. As the story to which Patrick linked (in a notoriously rightwing organ, no less) indicates, the leadership and institution expressly denied, with evident embarassment, knowledge of the clumsy assimilation that so exercised Patrick, and pulled the slide once they found out. It accordingly seems to me that the institution officially/publicly endorsed that clumsy assimilation no more than the Church officially/publicly endorsed child abuse. As it happens, moreover, no general or colonel or any one else in the Army Reserve's 'Chain of Command' seems to have been accused of covering anything up or hiding the 'perpetrator' in Case 1. They corrected the mistake as soon as it was called to their attention, and publicly distanced themselves from the doofus. It seems to me, then, that the institution in Case 1 is no more to be taken, on the basis of one doofussy slide show, to have a policy of assimilating Catholics to jihadists (let alone planning to make war on them), than is the institution in Case 2 to be taken, on the basis of a surprising number of apparently paedophile Priests and priest-protective Bishops, to have a policy in favor of paedophilia or paedophilia-protection.

Thanks for your thoughts, though, even if I do not yet find them to hold water (if you'll pardon the appreciative allusion to your name's other bearer)!


Posted by: Robert Hockett | Apr 12, 2013 9:01:50 PM