Thursday, November 8, 2018

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The ‘Ethics’ Of The Catholic Bishops? Freud Had A Name For That: Reaction Formation

Valerie Tarico describes the response of Catholic bishops to child abuse by clerics. 


pedophile-priest-with-hiv-who-raped-30-children-forgiven-by-church-counter-current-newsAs Pennsylvania investigators worked to confirm up to 1000 cases of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests, a panel of Catholic ethicist-theologians appointed by the bishops was also hard at work.

Like the Pennsylvania team, the panel serving the bishops sought to ensure that Church-affiliated institutions weren’t ignoring sexual evils. Good on them! you might think. They’re finally taking responsibility for the mess created by their obsession with priestly abstinence.

You’d be wrong.
Bad, Bad Birth Control 
The goal of the panel wasn’t to investigate, punish, heal or prevent child sex abuse. It was to ensure that Catholic-controlled healthcare systems don’t look the other way while doctors and other care providers offer contraception, vasectomies, tubal ligations, or abortions (or sexual transition care or death with dignity).   
The panel concluded that the bishops must prevent these evils in any institution where they have a say, including secular hospitals that have been acquired by or affiliated with Catholic healthcare corporations. In the past, mergers between Catholic-owned and secular hospitals have sometimes carved out separate legal entities to allow continued provision of reproductive and end-of-life services that are prohibited by the religious directives governing Catholic healthcare “ministries.”  
“The revised directives’ bottom line is that in any type of collaboration, everything the Catholic organization controls by acquisition, governance or management “must be operated in full accord with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.” Additional language bars the establishment of an independent entity to “oversee, manage, or perform immoral procedures.”—Harris Meyer, Modern Healthcare 
(As an aside, it should be noted that Catholic charities and hospitals mostly serve non-Catholic people. Further, they obtain less than five percent of their revenues from Catholic offering plates, the bulk coming from taxes and private insurance.  It should also be noted that they provide less free care for poor people on average (2.8 percent in 2011) than do public hospitals (5.6 percent). Church control is largely an artifact of history and accumulated wealth.)  
At this point in history, the irony of the bishops posturing as ethical authorities in matters of sexuality is lost on no-one but the bishops themselves. A New York Times article on care refusals in Catholic hospitals provoked over 400 comments expressing outrage from Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  Have they no shame? 
More Members, More Guilt, More Abuse 
The Church has long sought to control sexuality and procreation, of course. Competitive breeding, sanctified by theologies that glorify childbearing, has been part of the Church’s expansion strategy since the origins of Christianity.  “Women will be saved through childbearing,” promised Christianity’s most noted early misogynist, the Apostle Paul.   
By the Middle Ages, the Virgin, Madonna, Whore trichotomy—a woman must be one of the three—was well ensconced, shored up by stories of virgin martyrs and saints.  As for sexuality itself, what better marketing strategy for an institution selling absolution of guilt than to persuade people that most sexual desires and pleasures are sinful?   
The Church’s antagonism to contraception (it allows sex for pleasure) and abortion (it enables women to refuse childbearing) and trans care (it garbles the carefully-delineated theology of gender binary) all can be seen as extensions of two age-old institutional objectives: more members and more guilt. Problem is, the second of those—the guilt—worked a bit too well, so well that it backfired, creating a culture of secretive, abusive sexuality.  
Why Such Warped Priorities? 
You might think that excising this festering socially-transmitted infection, making amends to victims, and transitioning to a married priesthood that recognizes the range of healthy human sexualities might be a full-time focus for the Catholic hierarchy right now. So, why have the bishops decided that now is the time to instead double down on judging such contrived sexual sins as using or inserting an IUD, or terminating an ill-conceived pregnancy, or getting the snip, or removing an unwanted uterus? Sigmund Freud would have had an answer for that. He might have called it reaction formation.   
Freud would have said that the Catholic hierarchy’s shame and guilt and outright horror at their inability to suppress their own sexuality has lead them to try even harder at controlling the sexual and reproductive lives of others.  
Most people are familiar with Freud’s concept of defense mechanisms, including, for example, denial (I do not have a problem), repression (I can’t remember), and projection (the problem isn’t me, it’s you). Reaction formation is part of the same list, but often less understood.  Here are some excerpts from the Wikipedia definition: 
Reaction formation (German: Reaktionsbildung) is a defense mechanism in which emotions and impulses which are anxiety-producing or perceived to be unacceptable are mastered by exaggeration of the directly opposing tendency. . . . Where reaction-formation takes place, it is usually assumed that the original, rejected impulse does not vanish, but persists, unconscious, in its original infantile form.[ . . . .  In a diagnostic setting, the existence of a reaction-formation rather than a ‘simple’ emotion would be suspected where exaggeration, compulsiveness and inflexibility were observed. 
The concept of reaction formation offers one hypothesis about why the Catholic hierarchy is willing to go to such extremes to suppress and control the sexuality of people who aren’t part of that hierarchy, whether through refusing medical services or through propagating harmful myths and stereotypes about sex that affect many of us.   
Freud had a lot of ideas about child development and the human subconscious that have turned out to be wrong. (Even a science as squishy as psychology is self-correcting over the course of a hundred years.)  But what’s interesting about this particular situation – the problem of the bishops and their sexual obsessions—is that Freud developed his hypotheses about human nature in precisely the kind of situation that Catholic dogmas have created: a culture that is highly repressive of sexuality, one that layers on rituals and rules in an intricate system of proprieties aimed at distancing us from our animal nature.  In Freud’s case this system was the European culture of the Victorian era. But the parallels make his analysis particularly relevant when it comes to making sense of the inside-out, upside-down “ethical” priorities of the Catholic bishops. 
Just Say No 
Part of being psychologically healthy is learning to recognize when other people are putting their stuff on you, and learning to say no–kindly when possible, but firmly. The Catholic bishops need to be told that their sexual hang-ups are not ours and that they cannot force their harmful theologies on the rest of us, especially not on the public dime, and especially not in healthcare systems that disguise their religious affiliations and where we may be sent unknowingly 
When we are sick or injured and seeking care, we are vulnerable, especially at the beginnings and endings of life.  We must be free to make important and even sacred decisions according to the dictates of our own conscience with support from people we know and trust.  It’s time to ask the bishops to leave our bedrooms and hospital rooms.

Valerie Tarico
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  

She writes about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society.



26 comments :

Barry Gilheany said...

Common sense writ large.

AM said...

I have long admired the work of Valerie and was pleased that she gave her approval to her work featuring here. I think it is very worthwhile carrying.

Northsider said...

Some day I'd like to see an analysis of the gaping disparity betwween media reactions to allegations of child abuse in the Catholic Church and allegations of abuse made against British establishment big-wigs. I'm thinking specifically here of the way the media viciously tore into the British police for daring to investigate allegations of abuse made against the likes of former British PM Ted Heath, former senior Labour MP, Greville Janner, former Tory Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, the late Church of England bishop George Bell, and many others. For instance the media heaped tons of abuse on the Chief Constable of Wiltshire for stating that he believed some of the allegations made against Heath were highly credible. By the same token the same media largely ignored the former Tory whip, Tim Fortescue's 1990s TV interview - in which he stated that part of his job as a whip was to use some MPs' interest in "little boys" as a a blackmailing tool. To this day the media likewise ignore Prince Charles's close friendship with another senior Anglican cleric, Bishop Ball - a convicted paedophile, and Prince Andrew's friendship with the notorious billionaire convicted paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein. If one didn't know better one might take from this that the media only object to sexual abuse when it is perpetrated by those outside the Anglo Protestant establishment.

What-aboutery on my part? Most certainly. But then I've never understood precisely why people object to what-aboutery. When it comes right down to it, it's just another word for context. If I'm not mistaken it was the Unionist historian ATQ Stewart who first coined the term "what aboutery" - as a clearly exasperated response to the way some Irish republicans of the non-poppy wearing old school insisted on bringing up the inconvenient fact that the British and their loyalist allies were also killing a lot of people in northern Ireland. Fake moralising is, after all, always much more effective when it goes unchallenged.

wolfe tone said...

Northsider, only a 'conspiracy theorist' would claim prince big ears knew anything about Savile or indeed bishop ball. Never mind that big ears gave Ball a house to dwell in when he had to go under the radar due to the abuse accusations........the house btw, rent free, was on big ears estate. Never mind that the spooks job is to screen and background check extensively anyone who is to be contact with the Royal cabal, but missed everything about Savile,Ball etc etc etc etc etc. Nothing to see here lol

Northsider said...

Wolfe Tone: Great points. Also I noticed that during the recent coverage of the wedding of Prince Andrew's daughter, the media went out of their way to extol the noble magnanimity of the Royal Family in allowing Sarah Ferguson to take part in her own daughter's wedding - the line being that given all the "embarrassment" the flame-haired lass has caused the royals, this was an extremely forgiving gesture on their part. Apparently in the eyes of the BBC and the rest of the media, going topless on a beach a quarter of a century ago is deeply and permanently embarrassing, whereas spending your holidays at an island mansion notorious for under-age sex parties - not to mention being best of pals with its owner - a billionaire convicted paedophile and sex trafficker - is not embarrassing at all. You really couldn't make this stuff up.

Barry Gilheany said...

Northsider

Sex abuse perpetrated by Catholic Church clergy and by agents of the British establishment and the subsequent cover ups are no different. Powerful institutions merely concerned with protecting their reputation.

No need for a score card or ledger book of respective evils

Peter said...

Northsider
All child abuse and cover ups are pure evil, however the British Establishment doesn't have a unique place at the centre of private family life nor claim divine command.

Northsider said...

Barry Gilheany: ***No need for a score card***


Really? Why not? Do the victims of sexual crimes by members of the British establishmenet not merit consideration? Is it just and right that the same media that endlessly dwell on the crimes and alleged crimes of Catholic clergy should launch coordinated campaigns of character assassination against those who make credible claims of sexual abuse against this Anglo-establishment - calling them "paranoid fantasists", "criminal scam artists", and much else besides? Why do the professional Catholic bashers on both sides of the Irish sea (very much including Sinn Fein) express no outrage over this campaign of vilification?

Northsider said...

Peter: ***...the British establishment doesn't have a unique place at the centre of private family life nor claim divine command.***


Two distinctly odd assertions. The British establishment claims the right to spy on all its citizens (and indeed the citizens of other sovereign states such as the Republic of Ireland) - through CCTV, snooping on private personal communications and much else besides. It also reserves the right to arrest citizens for statements it defines as "extremist" or "hate speech" - concepts which are, by their very nature, subjective abstractions.


Your second assertion - that the British establishment does not claim divine command - is even odder than your first. Unlike the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Church of England is the established state church in England. Elizabeth of Windsor is both head of the Church of England and head of state, as Charles Windsor wil be, if and when he ascends to the throne.

Barry Gilheany said...

Northsider

The groundswell of proven allegations against Catholic Church worldwide has come from perhaps tens of thousands of abuse survivors born into the Church and who, in addition to their horrific experiences, have had the deeply internalised psychological conditioning familiar to everyone born a Catholic. Once a Catholic ...

Peter said...

Northsider
What a pathetic attempt at defending the indefensible. Catholic priests had unique access and reverence from ordinary catholic families all over this island. Many mothers would have believed their priest more than their own sons. This level of treachery is profound.
Secondly, the pope says that he is the infallible vicar of christ, god's representative on earth, the keeper of the one true church yet he not only covered up abuse but he moved buggering priests around so they could keep buggering. This level of treachery is also profound on a worldwide scale. That you can't see that or that you are butt hurt enough to publicly air your whataboutery is worrying for you.

frankie said...

Barry,
For someone who like to go on to a public forum and talk about moral intellect because they a have PHD...Question has to be asked is...

Why to you leave yourself open to some much flack?

The groundswell of proven allegations against Catholic Church worldwide has come from perhaps tens of thousands of abuse survivors born into the Church and who, in addition to their horrific experiences, have had the deeply internalised psychological conditioning familiar to everyone born a Catholic. Once a Catholic ...

I was once a Catholic...I was an alterboy who had just smoked a spliff sitting on a chair in Holy Cross Chapel on a Sunday morning during the conflict trying to remember Hank William lyrics...while priests like Fr. Myles, Kauvangh and Fernando stood in the pulpit telling the masses how Jesus walked on water. When I said on the John Podesta thread about it reading like a bad acid trip I had in Camden Town in 1991...I had that bad trip.

Whats your point about once a Catholic?

Northsider said...

Peter: I was wondering when you would resort to the unutterably feeble "defending the indefensible" canard - the last refuge of those who seek to trump reason with shrill emotionalism. If anyone's attempting to defend the indefensible it's you matey, in you hysterical attempts to defend the British establishment. I notice that neither you nor Barry Gilheany make any atttempt whatsoever to address the main point of my comments: the extraordinary and scandalous revelations of Tim Fortescure - and the media's shrill campaign of character assassination against those who have made higly credible allegations of abuse against members of the British establishment. That tells me exactly where you're coming from in all of this. And by the way, contrary to what you and Barry Gilheany mendaciously imply, a huge number of the allegations against Catholic clergy remain completely unproven. Not only have many of these clergy never been convicted - they have never even been tried, and in many cases, the Church authorities undertook no rigorous investigations of the allegations before handing over large sums in compensation. The allegations against Heath (an ex Prime Minister no less) on the other have been deemed highly credible by the police who investigated them - in spite of intense media efforts to bully them into saying otherwise. To use your own adjective (redolent as it is of first year college debating societies), your attempts to downplay all of this are genuinely pathetic. When all your hysterical bloviating is stripped away, your basic point amounts to this: "the media are entirely justified in ignoring and covering up British establishment paedophiles, because unlike the Catholic Church, the British establishment is basically on the same side on moral questions as I am".

Northsider said...

Barry Gilheany: As I noted already to "Peter" - neither of you have made the slightest effort to address my central point. You both also exhibit a quite extraordinary level of charity, not to say loyalty, towards the British establishment, and towards the media that cover up for them. If these media are prepared to cover up the crimes of very senior figures in that establishment - when the evidence of this criminality is on the public record, what else are they covering up that we have no knowledge of? This, after all is the same British (and Irish - and international - media) that, by their own admission, agreed in complete unison to a British Ministry of Defence command to suppress all information about Prince Harry's tour of duty in Afghanistan - on the grounds that if they were to do otherwise it might hamper the western powers' unspeakably murderous invasion of that country Yet, you and the hysterical "Peter" evince no interest in the question of media cover-ups of establishment crimes whatsoever. As I already said to "Peter", when all the emotional and moralistic waffle is put to one side, your basic point seems to be that media cover ups of British establishment abuse is no big deal, because unlike the Catholic Church, the British establishment and the media that cover for them, don't oppose liberal social policies.

frankie said...

Peter,

What a pathetic attempt at defending the indefensible. Catholic priests had unique access and reverence from ordinary catholic families all over this island. Many mothers would have believed their priest more than their own sons. This level of treachery is profound.

Very poor dig. It is just not the Catholic Church that has covered up for sex abuse. Most if not all religious institutions are equally as guilty.

Reverend Mark Kiddle was given a 15-month suspended sentence in 1985 after admitting two offences of indecent assault. His victim claimed he abused him up to twenty times. But instead of being defrocked for abusing the 15-year-old boy he was instead moved to another parish.

Just eight years later, in 1993, Kiddle was reportedly offered the chance to be 'promoted' by the Queen to be part of her Chapel Royal.

Another feeble shot...

Secondly, the pope says that he is the infallible vicar of christ, god's representative on earth, the keeper of the one true church yet he not only covered up abuse but he moved buggering priests around so they could keep buggering.

What is the difference between The Catholic Church covering up child rape and the COE covering up for the same crimes, apart from religious dogma Peter?

All child abuse and cover ups are pure evil, however the British Establishment doesn't have a unique place at the centre of private family life nor claim divine command.

The British Establisment who makes the laws people on these islands and further a field have to abide by have been covering up for the same crimes the Catholic Church and the COE for decades if not centuries. Or David Cameron who covered for an aide for almost a month even though Cameron nknew what Rock was up to..

Questions were mounting tonight over the alleged cover-up of a Downing Street aide’s child porn arrest, with David Cameron blasted for a “lack of transparency”.Patrick Rock – a close friend of the Prime Minister – secretly quit his role three weeks ago but was not quizzed by police until the next day.

Does the Catholic Church, COE, British Establisment, corridors of power in Brussels and Washington all cover up for each other and are they all connected...?

How many coincidences does anyone need before things become mathematically impossible

Peter said...

Frankie
Children being raped don't care what shade of god bothering bastard is abusing them. What neither you nor "Northsider" will accept is that the RC church had unique access and a unique place and authority in homes all around the world and esp in Ireland. Or that the RC church asserts unique moral authority in this world.

"Most if not all religious institutions are equally as guilty." I would like to see your data.

My original comment was: "All child abuse and cover ups are pure evil" I am defending no-one, esp not the toffs of the British Establishment, I just find it bizarre that some catholics aren't horrified by what was perpetrated by their religious overlords and seem butt hurt that they receive more flak than other institutions. The depth of betrayal and scope of the cover up should make that clear.

Peter said...

Northsider

I haven't been called "matey" in a long time. Made me chuckle!

Barry Gilheany said...

Northsider

You have made completely unsubstantiated assumptions that I and Peter do not care about the victims of child abuse at the hands of British Establishment figures and institutions simply because I agreed with the author of this article. All sex abuse involves the abuse of power over the vulnerable and defenceless. The Catholic Church in Ireland was a particularly egregious example because, in the words of Professor Tom Inglis, it has historically a compulsory and coercive organisation which limited Irish discourse and practice; the effects of which were laid so bare in the Ryan Report. Thankfully, after the removal of the Eighth Amendment, this is no longer the case.

Barry Gilheany said...

Frankie

My 'once a Catholic' is a comment of how difficult it is to free oneself from Catholic guilt and psychological conditioning even after renouncing intellectually Church doctrines.

frankie said...

Barry,

institutions merely concerned with protecting their reputation.

Exactly what John Podesta and Hillary Clinton have done. Why can't the FBI or Mi5 investigate properly the links being Epstine, Bill Clinton and Air Miles Andy from the House of Windsor?

My 'once a Catholic' is a comment of how difficult it is to free oneself from Catholic guilt and psychological conditioning even after renouncing intellectually Church doctrines.

I can only speak for myself but liberating the space between my ears from the shackles of the Catholic Church was very easy. If you are struggling to 'free oneself from Catholic guilt and psychological conditioning'...Just a suggestion, take a pack of beer, smoke a spliff while sitting Sailsbury Plains on a Spring night and look at the stars. while listening to Cool Hand Luke sing about Plastic Jesus ..(done that in the early 90's....) should do the trick.

AM said...

Frankie - you are bonkers and after reading that I am determined to go bonkers too! Beer, spliffs, Salisbury Plain and some music - the nights spent in a cell dreaming about that state of serenity.

frankie said...

Peter,

Children being raped don't care what shade of god bothering bastard is abusing them. What neither you nor "Northsider" will accept is that the RC church had unique access and a unique place and authority in homes all around the world and esp in Ireland.Or that the RC church asserts unique moral authority in this world.

What about school teachers, youth club leaders, social workers who have 'unique access and a unique place and authority in homes all around the world' who tell parents they should be believed and not their children......? This is the findings by Office for National Statistics who posed the question

asking adults whether they were abused as a child. The analyses of these questions covering psychological, physical, and sexual abuse as a child, are published within the report.


I will give you more data Peter and answer your question...

"Most if not all religious institutions are equally as guilty." I would like to see your data.

This is some data complied by the Child friendly faith project that exposes some of the abuses within the big three monotheistic religions. Here is Andrew Brown writing recently in The Guardian detailing some of the 'Collusion, cover-up and child abuse in the Church of England'. Here Roy Speckhardt an executive director of the American Humanist Association with his article in The Huffington Post exposing The Religious Sex Abuse Epidemic.


Again....

How many coincidences does anyone need before things become mathematically impossible

Northsider said...

Barry Gilheany: This is a very simple issue: Either the very extreme media character assassination of those who credibly claim to be victims of abuse by establishment big-wigs such as Heath and Brittan, is scandalous or it isn't. If it is scandalous, why not say so? Why not say, yes you have a point about the media's glaring double standards, but that doesn't detract from the crimes of Catholics." You don't say that, because it's become a form of secular blasmpheny (not least, I might add, among Stockholm Syndrome Catholics themselves -on both liberal left and "traditionalist" right), to even suggest that there may be anything disproportionate about media outrage of Catholic crimes, real and alleged.

The idea that there's anything remotely unique about Catholic clerical abuse is complete bunkum. C.S Lewis, in his childhood memoir, 'Surpised By Joy", recalled that the sexual exploitation of pre-pubescent boys by adult males was institutionalised in the Protestant British public school which he attended. After he died, his elder brother, Warnie, who attended the same school, posthumously rebuked Lewis for dwelling unduly on this aspect of school life - not because he denied that such behaviour went on at the school, but because he said that when he went to Sandhurst to train as a British army officer and compared notes with the former pupils of other British public schools, he found "there was little to choose between them in this respect". Incidentally, Lewis's biographer, Andrew Wilson, has his own tales of sexual abuse at a Protestant public school - as have many other writers.

When the Anglican Protestant Bishop Ball was charged with child sexual offences, it was the fifth or sixth item in British news bulletins that day - in stark contrast to the saturation coverage given in British media to stories relating to allegations of abuse made against ordinary lowly Catholic priests in faraway places such as the United States and Australia. When the Anglican choirmaster of the Queen's very own Windsor Chapel was convicted for multiple child sex offences it was likewise barely mentioned in the media.

The Irish Protestant journalist, Victoria White has noted how teachers who abused pupils in the Irish Protestant community were given references and moved on to teach at other schools. The Protestants David Norris and Derek Leinster have both noted the prevalence of absuse in Protestant institutions in Ireland.

Also it can't be stressed often enough that many of the clergy - living and deceased - the institutional Catholic Church has pronounced guilty of sexual offences have never been found guilty by a court of law. In this one arena anti-Catholics exhibit a weirdly paradoxcial faith in the judgement of Catholic bishops and bureaucrats - and their ability to infallibly pronounce on the guilt of men who have never been tried in a court of law. I'm afraid I don't share this faith in Catholic episcopal infallibility in matters completely beyond their ken. Bishops, in my view, are every bit as likely to throw innocent men to the wolves to save their own bacon as the bosses of other institutions are.

DaithiD said...

AM/Frankie, off topic but Salisbury Plain brings back old memories, grew up just down the road from the stones. They slightly ruined the ambience building a pub in the middle of the arrangement , but yeah it’s eerie.

frankie said...

Daithi

off topic but Salisbury Plain brings back old memories, grew up just down the road from the stones. They slightly ruined the ambience building a pub in the middle of the arrangement ,

Salisbury Plains..Forget about the pub. Pack of beer, spliff, music and look at the stars.

Anthony

the nights spent in a cell dreaming about that state of serenity.

Got me thinking... When you were debating Irish Republicanism in prison I can I remember going to a party with Richard ORawe's cousin. We both got seriously drunk, crashed some where in the Newtownards Road and both woke up with very dodgy haircuts..(In 1988.)

I don't know what reception Wee Seany got when he made it home..When I rolled in at 4pm on Sunday, my parents were anything but serene.......

AM said...

Frankie - you don't know what you were missing by not being in the blocks. I am so glad I was not out enjoying life!!!!