Saturday, 27 March 2010

Catholic Priests, 2

The truth about cover-ups:

So how and why does a group get itself into a position where it tries to hide something like sexual abuse? I talked about this a little before in a previous blog..
I think that there are various elements that propel a cover-up, sort of a mixture of our good and bad natures, so let`s lay a few out in the open!

Certainly group loyalties will mean that a priest will be under pressure to cover up sexual abuse. We know from a basic understanding of group symbiosis that groups hold and dissipate and discharge guilt for the whole. Then there is a sense that it would be difficult for colleagues to believe, in a conscious way, that a fellow priest would be doing these things, and a feeling that to raise the alarm falsely would bring trouble on the priest in question, possibly someone innocent, and upon friends and colleagues.

But I wonder if there is something else going on here.....What if the Catholic church knows that it is so guilty, both of abuse and concealment, that the very scale and magnitude of its guilt is something that no one dare speak about. The proverbial can of worms. Would this "knowledge" of child abuse..and I am careful with the word knowledge here because I am aware that things can be so easily at once known and banished from our in some part an unconscious guilt that is carried by the church as a whole, rather like society carries all peoples' guilt within itself?

We discussed a while back that persecution and victimisation is, for individuals and for groups, a pretty useful way of discharging the guilt we have. Guilt has to be landed on those weaker or more vulnerable or hapless than ourselves, like children for example. Oh! that`s strange, "children" did I say? Well, what a coincidence !!!

So children would be the most likely victims for a priest to use in order to, how shall we put it? find a focus for his frustrations. I am thinking, though, that it is not just that children (or teenagers) are very vulnerable, suggestible and manipulable, prime targets for someone who doesn`t want to get found out. I think it is also that they are, as innocents, purer repositories for the guilt of a priest with sexual problems ....and guilt about homosexuality is indeed a serious problem. Maybe with a child he can more easily convince himself that he is innocent too. Whatever the case, "opposites attract", as they say.

There is often coupling of opposites, for good or for bad, in other relationships. On the negative side, domineering people often look for easygoing folks, bullies look for weakness, an astute bully will certainly feed from someone naive !!!! On the positive side, folks with little confidence will like someone confident, shyness seeks extroversion, dullness craves charisma. Of course, this is a little simplistic, yet there are clear evidential extremes here that are relevant to the moral polarity of priest versus child.

If we think about fairly average relationships, that is without ongoing extremes, we see that one person`s characteristics, perhaps a little argumentativeness, maybe a quick temper, a little stubbornness, will be balanced by someone else`s moderateness, perhaps greater balance, and these roles will reverse too. When we see greater....and even greatest, extremes, such as bullying for example, any sort of behaviour accommodation or exchange within that relationship, becomes impossible. In other words, people with extreme personalities need a greater facilitating extreme from the person that they are in relationship with. This is why a serious bully will need an extreme victim, and a priest with sexual problems will need a victim of the greatest purity. An extreme of sexual need cannot find release in a normal or moderate context, it HAS to have its antithesis.

The priest in difficulty with celibacy has, though, got himself into a trap. Of course he is entering the priesthood upon the seduction of religious virtue, but he is not different in general terms from men in society who abuse children; his religious seduction to achieve virtue in celibacy, though, means that there is set up an ever increasing contrary drive to be virtuous and to be a sinner. The compartmental conscience is used at its most extreme here and virtue against guilt becomes the priest's entire energy, pulling him apart and making one aspect more and more desperate for the other. The problem is that he needs the priesthood to make himself good, so he cannot leave it to take up a heterosexual or homosexual relationship in the real world. He is desperate to be innocent and to feel good about himself, so he clings onto his desire to be good whilst succumbing to his counter-need to be bad. The more he feels guilty, the more he wants/needs to remain a priest, and the more he is likely to need children.

Well, this is quite a journey of exploration !!!!!!! I think that it is important to examine these things because we need to know why such things happen in order to try to protect children.

Finally, after some testing thought, I believe that the Catholic church as a whole is guilty in regard to child abuse. Why? Well, not all priests have committed child abuse, of course, but the entire church is guilty to varying degrees, not just because of its cover-up, but because the leaders of the church know that only a very few men are capable of the highest spiritual level required, a spiritual quality that includes celibacy.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Catholic Priests

With the Pope`s apology this week for the abuse of children by priests, I am going to attempt to delve into this issue.

I feel that the central issue to this problem is celibacy. That is not to say that I believe that celibacy in itself causes child abuse, it just attracts men with the kinds of problems that can result in child abuse and magnifies those problems. Take away celibacy and the numbers of child abuse cases would surely diminish to expected levels we see in other members of the clergy. Why does celibacy illicit abuse of children on the scale that is apparent in the Catholic church ? Let`s take a look:

I think that we should begin by looking at people, whatever gender, who want to enter any religion as a priest (or equivalent)... Most of us want approval, positive regard, we want to be acknowledged for our good actions, and those of us with significant need to feel good about ourselves and gain approval, may opt to become a priest. There`s nothing wrong in this, of course, with this motivation, it`s a "calling" to our better nature and our aspirational goodness. Of course, part of this has to do with our pack instinct to lead and to command, but within this, many gravitate to a religious profession for positive reasons.

In the case of some of us, however, our need to have power over others, to DISPLAY our goodness for all to see, makes religious position an attractive thing for all the wrong reasons. I have personally seen, in Judaism for example, that religious position is a tempting prospect for the power-driven and the egotistical. In any religion, though, there will be a full range of people, from the most humble and least self-interested and goodly, down to the devious and base characters, with a mix in between. But if there is one thing for sure, the highest caliber religious figures will be in a minority because the qualities that serve these spiritual heights are exceptional. Of those entering a religious profession as a priest or teacher, as well intentioned people seeking expansion of their spirituality and increased capacity in compassion and good deeds, most will remain ordinary and will not rise above this.

This is no less the case in the Catholic church, no less and no more, the only difference is that we have to factor-in the requirement of celibacy. Given that I have previously stated that only a few priests in any religion will reach the highest spiritual level, it becomes obvious that only a few Catholic priests will have the capacity to fulfil the vow of celibacy, such are its demands. There will be a sliding scale beneath this of priests who manage this moderately well, priests who fall from grace, but regain their position and, given the special difficulties with the celibacy issue, many who will not only fail to maintain their vows, but will be in an aggravated state due to their sexual abstentions, in other words, due to the very struggle with celibacy itself.

To elucidate this further: for a Catholic priest to struggle with a requirement that is not within his capacity to achieve, is a recipe for child abuse.

I think though, that this is not the entire picture: the romance, if I can call it that, of religious celibacy, is a seduction for men with existing sexual problems. For these men it offers a "cure", in the sense that if they already have sexual tendencies that they feel are guilt-laden, perhaps are deviant, seeking refuge in celibacy will seem like a possible solution, as a way of making them good people on a road to purity.

The plain fact is that the Catholic priesthood will be likely to magnetise men with sexual problems because most normal men would not entertain the idea of celibacy, and most would not achieve it, terms of numbers, there will not be the numbers of men who have a normal sex-drive wanting to become priests, as those with sexual problems. But further, I believe that a man with preexisting sexual difficulties, whatever those may be...that is, even if they aren`t around homosexuality, will have his difficulties exacerbated, will be in a more suspect psychological state, and therefore more likely to find SOME kind of sexual outlet, when they strive to be celibate.

Coming soon, more, on the coverup !!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Crime: Child upon Child, 3

I ended my last blog with thoughts about the way the American Government represented itself in various actions around the world, after the Twin Towers. I wanted to emphasise, with this example, how we can all behave when we want revenge for acts committed against us and how we damage our own interests when we retaliate. I am opening this blog with a look at why behaving in an equivalent way to those we condemn, backfires on avengers.

If we look at a small scale situation we can immediately see how revenge/punishment is counter productive. Say we smack our children when they are "naughty", yes, we teach them the negative behaviour that punishment is the way to handle relationships, but we also show them that we ourselves are not capable of rightful behaviour. Some people seem to view this sort of enforcement in respect of children, as a way to instill respect in the child for the parent, but in fact it facilitates the opposite.
If we take any of these fairly normal parent behaviours towards children, whether they be smacking, withdrawal of pocket money or the imposing of some kind of sanction for behaviour we find unacceptable, all are things that we would not like our child to do to us, and likely if they did, more such punishment would ensue !!!!!! All we do in reality when we punish children is to teach them the power of our position over them and their having to comply. Like I said previously, children learn from this a power-based example of relationship and the wish to exert this over someone else and we merely store up their resentment of us for the future. How often do we hear a child behaving back to the parent in exactly the way the parent behaves towards the child and, boy oh boy, how angry the parent is to be on the receiving end!

When a parent, no less a country, wants to punish for acts against itself, this revenge requires there to be someone weaker than themselves to inflict revenge upon and in the act of retribution, there is personal loss of moral standards in the pursuit of the desire to gain back power.
The problem with this is that whomsoever deals out punishment in the name of right or justice or democracy, diminishes their own cause. They lose. Anyone who punishes others using the very tactics that they condemn their adversary for, loses totally their credibility and their respect in the eyes of all (example Guantanamo). Not just outwardly though, deep down, just as parents or courts or countries, behave unjustly towards others, deep down within themselves they lose their own self to an inner enemy that consumes them.

A parent retaliating for a child`s unwanted behaviour may not realise that the child remembers always the inequitability that the parent displays, still less that their own behaviour shoots themselves in the foot, yet for every unjust act, every ethical slide, the parent`s position is weakened. Likewise, when we degrade ourselves with cruel, unjust, or less than compassionate responses to the world around us, our position becomes weaker all the while. It`s strange, really, because we may discharge actions that we feel are justified (such as in the Venables/Thompsom case or the Twin Towers), that we feel protect our position and even that uphold right, but our emotions delude us into thinking that these are gains, when in fact we lose position, power and credibility.

This is why, no matter what our feelings are regarding Venables and Thompson and their desperately depraved murder of Jamie Bulger, we must not sink to that level when we deliver justice. The moment we seek revenge we degrade ourselves and diminish our society. This may be very hard to swallow, I know that, but when we know that Venables and Thompson were products of an animal environment, without proper nurturing and guidance, we know that we must not ourselves behave in this way because our fight, for Jamie Bulger and all our children, must be to raise social standards, to raise ourselves and our fellows above such base and depraved behaviours. The moment that we take upon ourselves revenge to deal with heinous crime, we lessen respect for each other and weaken the ability of all the world`s inhabitants to raise their spiritual level.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Crime: Child Upon Child, 2

So what is this fixation with punishment for acts deemed guilty?

I think that the idea that "guilt" should be punished is one of humankind`s long-needed primitive ideas and it is around us all, in our relationships, our societies, attitudes, culture and religion.

The problem is that we all grow up with the notion that acts that we regard as unacceptable, in society, in the home, or wherever we may be, should be punished. That the only way to curb unwanted behaviour is to threaten and deliver retribution.. Children learn this from parents, teachers try to enforce this in schools and society wants anything that is "not acceptable", punished. We seem to be so riddled with punishment as the only solution to unwanted behaviour, that we have to convince ourselves, somehow, that what we are doing is right. It`s as though all the officiousness, the trappings of protocol, the wealth and power of law, feed us with the idea that our justice system must indeed be just, since it is so invested with such esteemable structure.

When we consider the case of Venables and Thompson we, both as individuals and within the legal system, are very confused about what guilt is and what mitigations should be offered to those accused, and I think that this is one reason why we have a very shaky justice system (I mean "shaky" in the sense of morally confused). I really feel that since guilt is not something that is a universal, our system of punishment flounders from the start. What I mean is, we are dealing with issues of crime or misdemeanor with a wish to punish and yet we are not sure whether mitigation should play a part or not, in what circumstances, or upon whichever factor compels sympathy-value at any given time !!! The plain fact is that in a society that disadvantages large sections of the population, exculpation of guilt could be applied on a massive scale.

In the case of Venables and Thompson, there may be various mitigations that would make the purpose, or consequence of punishment, both unfeasible and immoral... Their age may be considered pre-competent or they may have learned aggressive and destructive behaviour that gives them a psychological condition of mental incompetence. However, though we all feel the deepest horror at the way Jamie Bulger was murdered, somehow the humanity of mitigation did not seem to play its hand in this case.

The age of deemed competence is 10 years old, yet I feel that the emotive weight of the Bulger murder denied Venables and Thompson proper, humane treatment. In other words, "the mob", society, was so incensed about Jamie Bulger`s murder (and who wouldn't be?) that our sense of rightfulness was swayed by animal-driven lex talionis. (I am mindful that these instincts for retribution were the very justifications for the American treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.)

My final thought here is, I think that our prosecuting two children in an adult court will be seen in the future as an act of serious cruelty, matching the emotional need for revenge for Jamie Bulger. And, in fact, this example of even our (primitive) justice system at work, shows us we are both confused about what we are doing and that our attachment to punishment has roots in our animal nature.

I feel that the measure of us as a society, as human beings, is represented............. just as the American Government represented itself in its conduct around the world when they sought revenge for the Twin Towers......... in the extent of our compassion at times of our own greatest suffering.

Crime: Child upon Child.

I am coming to this blog this week upon the news that Jon Venables has been taken back into custody. (You will know that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were convicted of the Jamie Bulger murder.) There has been much ensuing speculation about the case around all the issues: Should Venables and Thompson have been tried at all, given their age? Should they have been released after so few years? Does rehabilitation really work?....and many more facets to this deeply problematic issue.

Because we are faced with such complexities here, I want to take a look at what we think criminal justice is and how it relates to our perception of what is just, if it does at all. I want to tease apart some of the elements of the very quality of being just and ask some penetrating questions about our purpose in seeking retribution. It`s so big a question though, that I may have to extend to two blogs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let`s look at the criminal justice system:

The justice system acts upon laws according to prescribed principles based upon what is accepted as criminal or just in any particular society. It metes out punishment deemed appropriate to a crime. Within this system of punishment, there may be a consideration of fairness, proportionality, and various mitigations, but essentially criminal justice is retribution exerted upon the guilty.
But what constitutes guilt and does its changeable nature cause us to confuse our purpose when we deal with it ? After all, a person is not intrinsically guilty, they are only guilty by the attribution of guilt leveled at them by the society or people around them, and the extent of their culpability is adjudged by the hands of subjective compassion.

Let`s look at guilt: Of course, guilt is man-made, it is something that changes from one culture to another, one circumstance to another, one era to another and even one jury to another. It is not something that is fixed universally and certainly is not dispensed fairly, however we might wish it to be. Guilt depends upon the perception of the observer, individually or collectively, and punishment is resultant upon the power that observers have over the person deemed to be guilty. The end result is a changeable subjectivity.

Of course, knowing that guilt has to do with power brings another dimension to our understanding. If the very attribution of guilt is about the power, status, social position, majority, group-think, of the accusers, it tells us that society makes laws according to animal/biological motives. This is quite a shock to us, I think, because we tend to think that it is about such noble ends as "right and wrong" and creating a civilised and safe society for us all, but when we look closely we see the curious fact that the law seems to penalise more of our disadvantaged classes than would make its purpose quite so altruistic.

Well, the law, demonstrably, doesn`t always encompass "right and wrong", it claims criminality over selective acts that are practicable to enforce and are of majority, or most powerful, opinion. This means that, for example, it is not a criminal act to commit adultery, it is not illegal to punish children, nor is it illegal to be homosexual, but if mass opinion should change, as fickle as fashion, these things could become punishable by law. When we consider if the law is about power over others... and not about right and wrong.... we see, with at least an uncomfortable suspicion, that the penal system is full of disadvantaged classes, men who have grown up without fathers, drug users, the mentally ill and women who are well used to being victims. Strange isn`t it?

I`d like to ask, are we really comfortable with punishing people for the crimes they commit, even if those crimes reflect their social background? Is someone really deserving of punishment if they come from a broken home, a drug ridden social environment or have been drawn into gang culture because gangs control their neighbourhood? And are we not responsible if we do little or nothing to make social change? With this thought, everyone has a mitigation when it comes down to it: a child has an incomplete comprehension of their position, someone from a deprived background has a rooted mindset that propels their actions, even someone well off financially who becomes a thief, is the victim of their own greed, insecurities or one-upmanship-drive. A persons psycho-social makeup causes them to commit criminal acts and this is all part of our insider/outsider, inclusivity/exclusivity, group structure. In plain language: we, as a society, create the victims around us and we punish them for it, to boot.

Continued in my next blog.......

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Abuse of Animals 1: Fish

Why should it matter that we use and abuse animals? What impact does it have on us? Will our treatment of animals, and fish too, backfire on us in the end?

It`s a tough subject with many aspects and I`ll be coming back to it in future blogs. As usual, I want to attempt to think about things with a slightly different slant, so here goes...

I have just seen a shocking documentary about worldwide over- fishing which is pushing many species of fish to the point of extinction. Fishing vessels of industrial capacity trawl for fish, catching all manner of sea creatures in their nets and when landed on deck, the unwanted species are dumped, dead, back into the sea. All of this sea life is part of the ocean`s ecosystem and plays its part in perpetuating a healthy and diverse marine environment, yet there is no concern for a practice that kills every creature as if it is merely a bi-product with no value whatsoever. The pervasive attitude is "take what you want, make your money, and don`t give a damn."

This attitude exists even though fish have been, and are being, fished to a point where it may be impossible for them to recover numbers. So why doesn`t even our greater self-interest prevail over this abuse of our seas? Why would we abuse our oceans full-knowing that we are destroying our food resources for the future? After all, we are repeatedly told that we may have difficulty feeding our growing population in times to come !!!! The answer is, of course, short term greed, but it is not just about greed, it is also about attitude, the way we regard our fellow creatures on this planet and the manner in which we fulfill our needs for food:We tend to think that it is our right to rear and slaughter animals and to catch and eat fish, that we are superior and they are there for us, that we may use them as we see fit. It is this presumption of RIGHT, in all it`s arrogance, that enables us to abuse the creatures around us with impunity.

Now, this blog is not about whether one should eat animals ....I`ll come back to that at a later date..... it is about how we treat them and why we think it okay to do whatever we wish without regard for them, their lives or, "heaven forbid", their feelings. Ah, feelings !!!!!!!!! Of course, once we compartmentalise animals as "other than like us", without feelings such as we possess, it becomes very easy to be cruel to them and to exploit them as a resource.

Within this regard for animals as being of lesser worth than us humans, I think that fish represent a special category and, really, demonstrate how we detach our sensitivities in a hierarchical way...We thought, in earlier blogs, about how we draw people into our group when we perceive them as "like ourselves" and that dolphins may be considered as honorary humans by virtue of their human characteristics, so, conversely, fish would be considered so "unlike us" that our compassion for them is on the bottom end of the scale.
Like I said in my dolphins blog, just as we discharge racism and discrimination and prejudice towards our fellow humans, so we do in respect of animals. We are so species-ist that we are (generally) committed to denying animal rights in the same way that we dug our heals in regarding the rights of black people. There is no difference.This position is, I believe, a kind of racism that can be termed here, speciesism.

A fish, commonly seen as "cold-blooded", unemotional and unintelligent, will not attract compassion and the way that blue fin tuna were barbarically impaled with giant hooks and dragged onto the ship with them, tells you everything you need to know about what happens to people or animals or fish when we perceive them as totally unlike us, without feelings or intelligence. As soon as we begin to view them as having like-qualities we can identify with them in some way,and it becomes impermissible to treat them this way.

Let`s create a global impulse to respect our planet and ALL of our creatures. We`ll get back to a discussion of animals as sentient, non-human persons a little later. I really hope you`ll join me.