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well ... we could bake something

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Nov 11, 2009

Now here's a lousy idea. Ireland's talented Friar Joe wants to exhibit his artwork as "a visual response to the Ryan Report, a document which revealed widespread abuse in industrial and reformatory schools run by religious orders."

No question that the Ryan Report deserves a response -- beginning with prison time for those ecclesiastics who kept abusers in the hunt -- but there's something off-kilter, almost twee, about making child abuse into another fashionable calamity du jour, with its own awareness lapel ribbon and celebrity benefit luncheons. Friar Joe has a grip on the wrong end of the stick:

"I'm hoping [my exhibit] will touch people and if there is to be a debate that we discuss our perception of children and have a debate on childrens' rights which I think is badly needed."

Excuse me, but what is there to debate? Does anyone doubt that the children were victims and their assailants villains? Worse, isn't it a sizable step backwards to frame abuse as a violation of "childrens' rights" -- as if our objections to rape and pederasty were based on one of those trendy, newly discovered post-modern entitlements? Doesn't it partly exculpate the child rapist to see him as insufficiently aware -- like most of us, presumably -- of the best contemporary thought on society's perception of children?

Chances are that Friar Joe is just a dunce. But his scheme of focusing on the victims helps perpetuate the mischief he claims to deplore. As a rhetorical gambit, to bellow "it's about the children!" plays into the emotions that naturally attend our learning of their betrayal and abuse. But as our own Bishop Wilton Gregory knew so well, the more light you beam on the children, the less scrutiny you give to the bishops and priors and abbots and provincials who were so resourceful at keeping known molesters in the saddle. In Gregory's counter-offensive, the need to protect children and protect them instantly was so urgent that any other consideration, especially any investigation into how the abusers came to reoffend, was denounced as a distraction from and hindrance to tackling the real problem. Voicing concern for children, in addition, earns you media points as compassionate.

So remind me. After the dust settled, how many bishops, priors, abbots, provincials ended up losing their jobs because of disastrously irresponsible indulgence toward abusers under their command?

Wouldn't take long to paint that gallery, Friar Joe.

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