Friday, October 20, 2017

America's Unpeakable Filth Not-Seeism...,

theweek  |  There are industries and careers with access to vulnerable children, which criminologists tell us attract predators like water rolling downhill. The Catholic Church runs schools and orphanages. Hollywood churns through countless child actors and would-be actors, most often away from home, whose parents must navigate a highly strange and sophisticated environment.

There is the problem of an illustrious institution that aspires to moral leadership in a culture war context. Sympathizers don't want to think the unthinkable about "the good guys." Insiders don't want to give ammunition to the "the other side." Bishops wrapped themselves in moralistic rhetoric to brush off allegations of moral turpitude; Weinstein thought he could distract from his alleged depredations by picking a fight with the NRA.

Most of all, there are the dynamics around power, money, and glory. They enable the abuse even as they prompt the coverup, since the institution and its prestige must be protected. Those around the perpetrators become accomplices, actively or passively. The system becomes self-sustaining. The more abuse, the more coverup. The more coverup, the more abuse. Everyone looks the other way because everyone looks the other way. No one will speak up because no one will speak up. Bit by bit, isolated incidents that might happen in any context metastasize into a monstrous system that feeds on itself. The guilt of a few becomes the guilt of all, as the system is sustained by its own rottenness.

If the Catholic Church, which is at least nominally committed to a grand moral vision, could fall prey to these dynamics, why should we believe that Hollywood, which at the end of the day is a for-profit industry, should be any different? Don't get me wrong: I'm absolutely sure that plenty of people in Hollywood believe in art and not profit, and sincerely hold their industry's professed humanistic values. But that's the point: The systemic dynamics are bigger than that. Even staunch anti-Catholics will concede that plenty of priests are upstanding people. We won't understand those systemic dynamics if we don't grapple with the fact that the same institution that produced Mother Teresa could produce what later churchmen called "the filth."

None of what I'm saying can be presented in a court of law. I have no smoking gun, no bombshell revelation. But nor am I hallucinating. That all the signs are there is not speculation. It is fact. We know for a fact that there are serious allegations, and that allegations about other forms of sex abuse in the same context not only turned out to be true, but much worse than we imagined. We know for a fact that some of these allegations get suspiciously ignored, and we know there is the motive and the capability for coverups. Go back to the old saw about criminal investigations: means, motive, opportunity. Check, check, check.

Children's lives are at stake. When will we as a society start seriously asking questions?