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The Silence of the Lambs

Column debut.

by Barnabas
May 8, 2002

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The Silence of the Lambs_Barnabas-Column debut. “Catholics Torn by Emotional and Theological Turmoil,” declares the headline as though it were news. But buried in the salacious stories about men seducing boys—stories giving permission to the media to be at once both pornographic and responsible—is an ethical problem that has nothing to do with sexual misbehavior and everything to do with truth and honor. I am referring to settlements made under the condition that the victims remain silent. There is no repentance in such a settlement, because repentance is unconditional. “We’ll be sorry, if you will shut up,” tempts the victim into the moral equivalent of blackmail.

This is not Catholic bashing. I’ve been aware of such deals among Protestants for some time: We belong to the same fallen race as the Catholics and we hire the same advisors. We hate to give anything away without some sort of return. So, “We’ll pay you off if you will stop making trouble” becomes a part of the routine. We’ll turn our fault into your problem. We’ll pay you not because you deserve redress for what was done to you, but because it will be best for us if we can buy your silence.

It must work sometime, because the attempts continue; it also falls apart regularly because it is fundamentally dishonest and cynical. If I am falsely accused and make a deal, I am enabling the accuser and encouraging false accusation. If I am guilty and make a deal I am admitting that I have no right to your silence. I am admitting that your silence protects me from further punishment or embarrassment. Together we are putting a stumbling stone in the path of justice and a true resolution.

But Mr. Curmudgeon, you are confusing religion and law! You are expecting the churches , when they enter the legal arena, to be ethical in the ordinary meaning of the word!

Well, I guess I am, because churches happen to be religious. So what’s your point?

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