Friday, 30 April 2010

On 'moral panics' and the abuse crisis

A number of blogs, most recently Muse in Melbourne, have suggested that the current abuse crisis should be viewed as an example of what sociologists label a 'moral panic' - "a social alarm created artificially, by amplifying real facts and exaggerating their numbers through statistical folklore, as well as “discovering” and presenting as “new” events which in reality are already known and which date to the past. There are real events at the base of the panic, but their number is systematically distorted."  They point to past attacks on the Church that have used such tactics, including the Nazis and communists.

There is obviously a large degree of truth to this.  The outright fabrications and distortions repeated in the mass media have every appearance of a beat up.

But there are two points that need to be borne in mind.  First, how does one effectively counter a moral panic?  

Muse suggests that the German bishops in Nazi Germany took a tough action on paedophilia that effectively diffused the attack.  But the reality is that the attack just went on in different forms.  By 1939 10,000 catholics schools had been closed, and the children sent to nazi schools for indoctrination.  When the paedophile attack went away, the Nazis simply went after people for other reasons.  Millions of catholics died, including at least 50,000 priests and religious in concentration camps or along the way there.  And we all know the results of the moral panic the Nazis engineered against the jews.

If only people had recognised Naziism for what it was when it first emerged in the early 1930s, and been able to take effective action to counter it early it was, a terrible destructive war was the only means of destroying this great evil.

Secondly, how does one distinguish between something that is a mere beatup, and a crisis where the symptoms of disorder that have fed the panic are but the tip of an iceberg concealing real problems?

Nazism, like communism, was a true evil that sought any means of discrediting the Church and others, whether or not there was a real foundation for its attacks.  And it is true that extreme atheism and secularism, with the dreadful holocaust of abortion that they are wreaking, and the vigorous enforcement of a counter-truth political correctnesss looks awfully similar in many ways.  Particularly horrifying that our society is so brainwashed that it can't even see this holocaust for what it is.

But what about the liberal chorus that has joined in to push their own agenda?  I'd suggest that they are perhaps more akin to Luther's attacks on the Church - heretical, disobedient and distorted, but nonetheless pointing to some real underlying problems in the Church that did and do need to be addressed (albeit not in the ways either Luther or his modern day equivalents suggest).

Failure to address abuses within the Church effectively in the sixteenth century led to the Reformation.  It would be nice if we learnt the lessons of history, and tackled the broader problems of the liturgy, doctrinal orthodoxy, and orthopraxis quickly and effectively.

The approval of the new translation of the NO Mass yesterday is a big move in this direction.  We  - and more particularly the bishops and priests - need to get behind the Pope and support the reform agenda he has initiated.

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