Regular readers will remember two weeks ago when I gave credit where credit is due to the Pope for finally admitting that the abuse and its systematic and deplorable covering up of that abuse are the fault of the Catholic Church itself, and not a cabal of people trying to ruin a good organization. It looks like Benedict thinks that blaming ‘Sin’ was enough, and is now asking Catholics worldwide to forgive the Church:
Pope Benedict XVI has begged forgiveness from clerical abuse victims and promised to “do everything possible” to ensure priests don’t rape and molest children ever again.
I have a question for you, dear readers. Have any of you been in, or been witness to, an abusive relationship? Have you ever been stuck in a vicious cycle with some asshole who swears “I can change, I swear I’ll do whatever it takes” as long as you take him/her back? I’ve seen it, and believe me it isn’t pretty. We’d all like to believe that people can change if they love you enough – that their feelings for you are so strong that they’ll move Heaven and Earth just to keep you.
What ends up happening in those situations? I’ll tell you: the change lasts for about as long as it takes for you to stop being angry, and then everything goes back to the way it was before. People don’t change. As much as they’d like to believe it, people don’t suddenly become better people by sheer force of will. It takes years for us to form our personalities, and it will similarly take years to change those personalities. Press the apologizers for details on how they’ll change, and you’ll find that they have no plan, no specific behaviours, no real concrete idea of what they’re going to do. But they’ll do it!
So whenever I hear someone say something vague like “do everything possible”, I roll my eyes and say “sure, tell me another one.” Organizations don’t change wholesale, especially in the absence of real ideas for reform. When a change is proposed that offers zero specifics on how to make it happen, it’s the equivalent of saying ‘I don’t think what I did was wrong, but you’re mad, so I’ll feed you a line until you stop being mad.’ I’ve done it to my parents, I’ve had friends do it to their significant others, I’ve seen friends’ significant others do it to them, and I’ve been on the receiving end more times than I care to recall. It inevitably ends the same way.
So while I’m willing to believe that the Pope (and the Church by extension) feels really really bad about what happened, I’ll withhold any talk of forgiveness until I see real change. Asking for forgiveness does not oblige me to grant it to you. Seeing as the abuse happened for decades and was rife throughout the entire organization, it’s going to take a lot before I’m willing to believe that any progress has been made.