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"mistakes were made..."

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 05, 2003

Fr. Brian Cox's multiple episodes of deviant sexual assault were (oops!) "mistakes." Fr. Ken Waibel's masturbating in front of a police office was (oops!) "a mistake." Fr. Dan McBride's paying $120 for underage gay sex was (oops!) "a tragic mistake."


He's somewhat out of fashion these days, but J.L. Austin makes some still-valuable clarifications à propos in his essay "A Plea for Excuses" (Philosophical Papers, London: OUP, 1970):

You have a donkey, so have I, and they graze in the same field. The day comes when I conceive a dislike for mine. I go to shoot it, draw a bead on it, fire: the brute falls in its tracks. I inspect the victim, and find to my horror that it is your donkey. I appear on your doorstep with the remains and say -- what? 'I say, old sport, I'm awfully sorry, &c., I’ve shot your donkey by accident'? Or 'by mistake'? Then again, I go to shoot my donkey as before, draw a bead on it, fire -- but as I do so the beasts move, and to my horror yours falls. Again the scene on the doorstep -- what do I say? 'By mistake'? Or 'by accident'?

Obviously Frs. Cox, Waibel, McBride and company didn't commit sodomy by accident, but did they do so "by mistake"? If so, then what was the misapprehension under which they were laboring at the time of the blunder? Did they imagine that their sexual partners were adult women to whom they were validly married? "I say, old sport, I'm awfully sorry..."

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  • Posted by: frjimc - Nov. 06, 2003 6:41 PM ET USA

    This is why I prefer the midwestern and southern term for what we New Englanders refer to as an automobile 'accident.' They call it a 'wreck,' removing the euphemism about its causation. Some of them, no doubt, are accidental, but so many more fall into the category of reckless disregard for human life. The shenanigans engaged in by Frs. Cox, Waibel, McBride et. al. were neither accidents nor mistakes, and no euphemism can excuse their reckless disregard for their victims or the priesthood.