Thought experiments on reform

We need body cameras on priests, recording 24/7.  We need it 50 years ago, but we’ll have to settle for tomorrow.  The reasons are 1) to protect priests from false accusations and 2) to give bishops something to shut up conservative morons and journalists when they start whining about how bishops “don’t get it” and “aren’t taking clerical abuse seriously”.  24/7 surveillance–it doesn’t get more serious than that!  What the hell more do you want?!  Once implemented, there’s clearly nothing more to do; we can move on to the business of survival.  Oh yes, and we can do a lot less pestering of seminarians about whether they’re really ready to live chastely, because if a man is to have his every moment recorded, it’s certainly going to force him to think very hard about whether he’s got all of his urges under control.

Consider some alternatives:

  1. (From a comment)  Priests should be kept chained in dungeons except when being brought out handcuffed by armed guards to celebrate mass or hear confessions. How could reformers object? Wouldn’t this give them all they’ve wanted: a rebuke to clericalism, no priests having gay or underage sex?  If you object, on what basis?  Suppose instead of dungeons, priests are confined to monasteries, as comfortable as you like, and now you have a serious suggestion.  Not as good as body cameras, though, because how can we prove that priests aren’t sneaking out unless the monastery is being recorded, so we’re back to cameras.
  2. Suppose in each parish, there are 30 men who together celebrate every Mass.  One of them is a priest, but no one but he knows which one.  The 30 men are not monitored any more than any other men, and from time to time one of them will be accused of some sin or crime and will be unable to prove his innocence.  Who cares, though, since the public is only interested in abuse by priests?  The danger, of course, is that the public would start regarding all of them as priests rather than none of them.  We’d just have to record all of them, so we’re back to cameras.

Lastly, a pure thought experiment, to make reformers consider their priorities.

  • Suppose all Catholic priests were (unknown to the public) replaced by super-intelligent androids programmed to behave always in a morally exemplary way.  Thus, the program of reform will have completely accomplished its objective.  In this scenario, would young people be less likely to abandon the faith when they go to college?  Would they be more likely to marry within the faith?  Would Sunday Mass attendance improve?  Would Catholic couples have more children?  Would professional philosophers suddenly start finding Thomism or some other Catholic philosophy credible?  Would Protestants find our claim to be the Church that Christ founded more credible?  Would more adult Catholics know the rudiments of the faith?  Would a significant number stop voting for anti-clerical, pro-abortion, and pro-sodomy politicians?  Would unworthy reception of the Eucharist become less common?  Would Catholics start taking pride in their history?  Would non-Catholics start converting in significant numbers?  The answer to all of these questions is obviously “no”.  At best, one might say that having morally perfect priests would be an asset when we begin some program to address these other issues that deal more directly with our collective survival and flourishing.  So, do we want to let reform absorb all our energy and destroy all our credibility before we even begin to think about the key problems?  I say let’s have body cameras and have done with it.  The reform will be accomplished, and we can begin the work of seeing to our survival.

3 Responses

  1. To be strictly fair; ‘compulsory body cameras 24/7’ is a neat slogansummary of *all* our futures, if current trends continue and the ruling totalitarian bureaucracy gets its way.

    Priests may be the first – but surely none will be exempt – excepting, perhaps, those who The State prefers deliberately to ‘ignore’.

  2. Re: your final Thought Experiment, Scott Adams of Dilbert fame describes a “Fake Because”. People already wanted to believe what they believe, and now they have an excuse. “I’m not (a practicing) Catholic because of the sex abuse scandal”. The cause is the sex abuse scandal and the effect is not following Catholicism, so they say, but that is a lie. The implication is that they were already fully formed Catholics and this happened and they were awakened to the supposed horrors of the Church.

    This puts the lie to the whole thing. To put it flippantly: “Newsflash, humans are sinners!” They wouldn’t suggest changing dogma if they understood it. Truth is Truth. We as a society need to regain our sense of reverence. I’m sure there are many many priests out there who get it and i’m sure there are still some hiding that are vile and evil people. Lets not sacrifice the sheep for the sins of the goats.

    This is the fundamental question I have from all this. How do you re-ignite reverence and virtue? Kristor suggested somewhere on Orthosphere that it’ll take a preference cascade. I guess all that requires is taking little steps individually and encouraging others to do the same.

    Reformers misdiagnose the problem. You don’t re-design a car because it gets a flat tire. You remove the tire, and replace it with a good one. If you keep driving with the flat tire, it’s going to damage the rest of the car.

  3. I agree, that’s how invocation of scandal usually works, as a way to discredit an opposing side without taking it on on its merits. Each of us secretly hopes that politicians of whatever party we don’t like will be caught in something lurid. It’s free points for our side and makes things so much easier.

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