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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Let's Talk About it: The Decision

Dear Friends of SCCB,

I have decided that whatever good Sylvia's advocacy of sexual abuse victims has done and is doing, I tend to see it now as a private forum for victims, thus I do not think that its inclusion on the SCCB list aids that goal. Victims needs to express themselves, and don't need their every word measured and thrown back at them by people - like me - who are concerned about other goods, like reputations, etc. The same courtesy that I wanted extended to Bishop Wingle, I will extend to those who benefit from Sylvia's Site, by letting them be. This is the courtesy to exist in the manner they deem best. I too must let others be, and, as such, will no longer carry her blog on the SCCB list.

I wish all victims of sexual abuse every solace in Christ. I have not been the victim of this and can only imagine the toll it takes on people. The 'little' things I have suffered in life I find hard enough to carry. By comparison, I have nothing to compare... I hope that Sylvia will promote healing and justice. I hope we all can in our own ways.

A whole lot rests on who turns out to be correct - those who say Wingle's motives were nefarious or those who say they are benign. I had hoped that people would see that when it comes to 'guessing' it doesn't matter who turns out to be right. Philosophers often say that knowledge is justified belief. No one, in other words, who hasn't specific evidence upon which to base their assumption of his innocence or guilt has knowledge. They have a blind shot in the dark. It is either yes or no. It is luck to be correct in this case, not some special mystical knowledge. It is a disgusting vice to look at the colour of someone's clothing and feel the right to impugn their reputation; it is not graced insight. Some people make such guesses out of hurt, some out of hate. In neither case is it justified belief. In the end, if Wingle's supporters are correct, what do they gain? His detractors, what do they gain? Has anyone gained greater peace, or simply smug satisfaction?

Frankly, I find people's nosing into my character because I urge caution when making assumptions rather distasteful. (It happened again in the comments section of that blog.) I cannot contribute to anyone's healing on the internet. I will turn to prayer to do this and I will do this by walking with my hurt friends, hand-in-hand, in person. Arguing with people in com boxes can profit nothing. I like a good debate. But I have found that many do not, not in the hallowed halls of learning, not in boardrooms. I will not change my deep love of the principles by which I live - love of knowledge and the principles of the liberal democracy, as I understand them - because others cannot refrain from ad hominem attacks. I walk away to seek the fraternity of those who don't need to win at all cost, but who love truth, goodness, etc.

The SCCB is meant to be a celebration of Catholic life in Canada. No, I can't view the world through rose coloured glasses (that I rarely do!), but I must draw a line around certain excesses, like playing fast-and-loose with others' reputations. That's my call. Hopefully it's the correct one.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Let's Talk About it, Part II

There was some good feed back from a few people. Thanks. Please keep it coming.

So far, my opinion in a big fat 'Nay.' What has really moved me was the sudden implication that I have 'reason' for defending Bishop Wingle in the comments section of Sylvia's Site.

Yesterday I had written this in her comments section:

I find this entry a little disturbing. Very Stalin-esque. I hope I don’t actually have anything in common with someone who did something bad – like eat at the same fast-food restaurant!
Sure, we are all curious about Bishop Wingle’s sudden disappearance, but that gives us no right to make the kind of suggestion you seem to be making. What if he had a nervous breakdown? Is this helping him any?

Sylvia, gracious as always, responded:

I assure you there is nothing sinister in posting this information and asking a few questions. For the past three years many Catholics throughout Ontario have been wondering where Bishop Wingle is and why his sudden and mysterious disappearance. In this day and age that is not the way to deal with a resignation of this nature. He is a public figure. While many people in the Pembroke area may know exactly why the bishop resigned and where he has been and what he has been doing for the past three years, many more in the Pembroke area and beyond do not.

And then a little later a third party wrote:

Further to my previous statement, why are you so concerned about helping him, Colin? What about the victims down in the St. Catherines/Hamilton way. Do they not need help first? (Emphasis added by me) 

To which I then responded:

Invent your own reason for my ‘why.’ I guess I have something to hide. Maybe I too have done some shameful things…
Or, I just think it’s wrong to assume the worst about people.
And what about you, Mike, are you trying to divert attention away from yourself by attacking Wingle? Come to think about it, where were you the night of… I am starting to wonder about you.

Not good, my friends. It is not relevant why I am 'defending' Bishop Wingle, is it? Every Canadian has a moral obligation to presume innocence so long as it is remotely reasonable to do so. I know several people - even people I would consider friends - who have been hurt by abuse, clerical abuse. That too is irrelevant. Also, against many requests urging me to remove Sylvia from the blog roll, I kept her on for about two years. Even still my motives are suspect to some. How dare I defend a priest! I have friends who are victims of clerical abuse. I also have friends, dear friends, who are clergy. I do not have friends who are Muslim, but, even still, I certainly would not paint all Muslim with the jihad brush. 

In sum, people have all sorts of reasons for wanting to preserve their privacy. It is unethical to publicly provide the worst interpretation of this. 

Unless someone can really change my thinking at this point, Sylvia will be removed shortly.

All of this reminds me of a corny, but nevertheless poignant, episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

The clip makes more sense if you've seen the whole episode.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Let's Talk About it

Some of the members have expressed concern to me over the time of the Society's existence about Sylvia's Site. I have always had a 'wait and see' attitude, fueled in no small part by my desire to extend a little bit more slack toward the victim lobby than pure jurisprudential reason alone would allow. Today, however, I was rather disturbed by what I read in her latest post: read it here.

I have communicated with Sylvia a few times over the last few years and have always found her to be very humble and obliging. That has tended to reassure me. Yet I have read enough about justice going bad to have been really disturbed by the kind of things I was reading in this latest post.

I think more - much more - work needs to be done to clean out the Church, and in that regard I am 100% alongside the goal of her blog. Yet a blog is not a private sphere of private contemplation. Legislation is catching up with the internet and perhaps some day we will have a better idea of what constitutes online defamation, etc. But so far, a blogger seems to have a great deal of freedom to harm another's good reputation. I am practically libertarian when it comes to free speech, but fueling speculation that another person is perpetrating, or has perpetrated, illegal activities should be against the law, in my opinion. Frankly, priests don't have it easy these days, and it is the fault of the few bad apples, not the majority. Law is at its best when it serves to ensure every person receives due-process, including the presumption of innocence.

As many of you know, I spent one year in the seminary. When I announced my desire to become a priest, a family member, someone very dear to me, said, "I hope you don't become one of those molesters." Suspicion hurts. It is unchristian. But people are astronomically stupid, even the best of us. Because of human stupidity, we need law. Innocent people deserve it, and it is usually very difficult to sort out the innocent from the guilty - that is why the legal system is so expensive to run.

If you want to make sure that none of the guilty get away, you employ the tactics of someone like Joseph Stalin. But no one got away from Stalin, neither the innocent nor the guilty.

So, now that I have stacked the deck, I put the question out in the open, as all these things deserve to be: should I remove Sylvia's Site from the SCCB roll or not? I am all ears.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Catholic Insight Aboard

My favorite Canadian Catholic publication is now listed here. Please check out all the latest from their slew of great bloggers.