Friday, September 7, 2012

Propaganda and lies: The Lie that Will Never Die

I see the usual comments following a news story about the Catholic Church – the Church is equated as being the biggest promoter of pedophilia.  It seems to be especially growing today with the American bishops taking a stand against the HHS mandate, abortion, gay "marriage" and other issues popular with one of the political parties but run counter to what the Catholic Church teaches.

In fact, it seems to be the modern version of Godwin's Law.  The modern version seems to be:

The longer an internet conversation goes on, the probability of someone invoking the Inquisition and the Abuse scandals approaches 1 – especially against someone who is defending the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Some people may be wondering when this gross misrepresentation will die.  Most internet comments show a grossly misinformed public who believes that the Catholic Church, as a matter of official policy from the Pope down, deliberately tried to hide the abuse scandal, and a person might be thinking, that these people can't be uninformed idiots forever.

Unfortunately, they can.  History is full of gross misrepresentations about the Church.  The claim that the Church executed millions of people during the Spanish Inquisition, the claim that Pope Pius XII was pro-Nazi, the claim that the Church is anti-Science, etc.  The facts which show that these gross generalizations and so-called "common knowledge" are inaccurate can be easily be verified – but they are repeated nonetheless.

Just like these gross misrepresentations (some people actually claim over 100 million people were killed during the Spanish Inquisition– which would have been more than the population of Europe at the time), we'll hear all sorts of gross misrepresentations of how the abuse crisis was handled.

Of course in both the Inquisition and the abuse scandal, things were done that should not have been done and some bishops in the Church failed to shepherd the flock as they were obliged to do.  Catholics have no obligation to defend either the Inquisition or the way some bishops handled the Abuse scandals in their dioceses.  In fact we should not.

Rather, we do have the obligation to refute the gross misrepresentations which make it sound as if the brutality of the Renaissance era and the failure to protect the innocent children in modern times were due to a willful decision by the Catholic Church as official teaching.

These things shouldn't have been done , so nobody should try to justify wrong done.  But when someone acts as if all priests are abusers, they make the same kind of statement as "All Muslims are terrorists" or "all Hispanics are illegals" or "all Blacks are violent criminals."

Yes, some priests did abuse – and I pray we root them all out.  Yes some Muslims are terrorists.  Yes some Hispanics are illegals.  Yes some Blacks are criminals.


Not all of them are, and it would be unjust to label the whole because of individuals who do these things, or to claim that only these groups did these things.  There are atheist terrorists, Chinese illegals and white violent criminals, after all.

The attack on the Church (or the other stereotypes) is an example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle, drawing a universal conclusion from a limited group:

  1. Fr. Smith is a Priest (A is part of B).
  2. Fr. Smith is an abuser (A is part of C).
  3. Therefore priests are abusers (Therefore B is part of C).

The problem of course is that pointing out that A is related to B and C says nothing about how B is related to C.  In fact, there are several areas where the argument is flat out false, which can be shown in a Venn diagram:

Where allegation is false

If A = [Father Smith], B = [Abusers] and C = [Priests], the shaded part of B shows abusers who are not priests, while the shaded part of C shows Priests who are not abusers.  The point is, you can't argue from the fact that some priests were abusers that all of them are.  Nor could we say (if A = Bishop Smith, B = Those who cover up and C = Bishops) that the existence of some bishops who failed to report means the whole Church is guilty.

But this is the argument which is used to claim child abuse is  solely a Catholic issue and to argue that the whole Church is guilty.  I have seen countless times where some people try to argue that abuse is mainly committed by Catholic priests and that religious persecution is solely the provenance of the Catholic Church, when in fact instances of abuse within the Catholic Church is at similar rates to that of the Protestant churches and both are far less than in the Public School system.

This isn't a tu quoque argument made to excuse the Catholic Church.   Far from it – even if there had only been one case in the history of the Church, it still would have been one case too many.  Likewise, the existence of the excesses within the Inquisition is something that should sadden the faithful Catholic.  The point is, the claim that these things were exclusive to Catholicism is a lie.

Catholics need to remember never to give the impression of indicating that abuse is unimportant or sometimes not the fault of the abuser (as Fr. Groeschel regrettably did) when defending the Church from the growing myth.  Non-Catholics of good will need to realize that the rhetoric out there is grossly unjust in seeking to insinuate (or directly claim) that the sins of some priests who abused and some bishops who concealed does not indict the whole Church, nor that the Magisterium chose to make concealment an official policy, and to make that charge is as repugnant as the claim that all Blacks are violent criminals because some were arrested for violent crimes.

All people are called to seek out the truth and not to continue to repeat old charges without verifying the truth.

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