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Scapegoating the Abusers

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 26, 2003

Heads have rolled as a consequence of the Air Force Academy sex scandal. Four new senior administrators have been appointed. So which member of the Senate Armed Services Committee declared "It's not just a change in leadership. It has to be a change in values from top to bottom"? The junior senator from New York. Presumably the cadets will henceforth be instructed in that profound respect for women showcased in her own household. She insisted, "We don't send (cadets to the academy) to become part of a fraternity where they defend one another and protect one another against criminal activities that keep going on."

No one laughed.

In itself, the senator's Pat Schroederite opportunism is not surprising. Scandal entails payback, and few politicians grasp that fact better than she. That said, Juanita Broaddrick and Katherine Willey might object that few people are in a worse position than Mrs. Clinton to climb on a soapbox and rail against silent complicity in criminal activity. How does she get away with it? Because everyone recognizes that her purpose is not to help the Academy accomplish its mission but rather to change that mission fundamentally. This is how the culture wars are fought: subversion masquerades as reform.

Last June, the U.S. bishops gathered in Dallas to deal with a sex scandal of their own. Here too, the culture wars were engaged. Here too, the experts brought in for the fix were known dissenters, intent not on reinvigorating but on redefining the mission of the Church. Here too irony was piled on irony, as Fr. Canice Connors, former president of the St. Luke Institute and former executive director of Southdown, not only gained a sympathetic hearing but later deplored the bishops' zero-tolerance policy in these terms:

In paying this purchase price for their moral credibility, the bishops in effect could be perceived to have become one with the voices of the media, unreconciled victims and a partially informed Catholic public in scapegoating the abusers.

Scapegoating the abusers? Five minutes' reflection on this extraordinary phrase, and the assumptions about human sexuality and responsibility that underlie it, will do much to explain the terms of the abuse crisis and its relevance in the culture wars.

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