Monday, March 26, 2012

Classic Shamelessness

A news item appeared recently about the trial of a clergy abuse case in Pennsylvania.  The case involves sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.  This may seem almost like old news, but it is significant for a couple of reasons.  First, it is legally significant because one of the accused is being charged with endangering children for his handling of complaints lodged against priests under his supervision.  He, no surprise, covered up the allegations and reassigned the accused priests to new parishes.

The case is also significant to my thinking because it illustrates a phenomenon I have seen on many occasions when dealing with the religious.  They treat people so badly that it causes psychological damage, then turn around and say that the symptoms of that damage prove there was something wrong with the victim and that he or she should therefor not be given any credence.  At the end of the news article one can find evidence of a plan to do just that:

"Defense lawyers plan to argue that the accusers are out for money or hope to explain away their troubled lives. Both accusers have criminal records and a history of drug addiction."

This is truly an example of utter shamelessness.  Of course the victims have problems.  How could they not after suffering such horrific abuse at the hands of trusted authority figures?  For the perpetrators to then argue that the very problems the abuse caused are proof that the claims are false and (let's face it) to imply that the plaintiffs are unworthy is to display a complete lack of a conscience.  This is the behavior of a psychopath or someone with severe narcissistic personality disorder with psychopathic traits.  Yet, I have seen this sort of behavior from the religious numerous times both in news reports and in real life.

Such people apparently believe that because they are "god's agents" they are entitled to special privileges.  They think their well-being is more important than that of the sheep (and lambs) in the flock.  They think that the sheep should be happy (or at least quiescent) to "serve their needs".  The fact that the victims feel damaged and display signs of damage simply proves their unworthiness--apparently.

Lest it seem like I am overstating the case, remember that attacking a person's motivation for saying something is not a logical argument regarding the merits of the dispute.  It is a personal attack on one of the disputants. 

People always have motivations for their actions, thus such a disingenuous argument can always be made.  Because they can be argued to undermine a witness' credibility, however, they are usually allowed.  Please note, however, that this is barely one step removed from arguing that a rape victim was a slut who was asking for it. 

The actual purpose for introducing such evidence is often to cause the plaintiff to drop the case rather than undergo the embarrassment of being cross-examined about the worst parts of their lives, or, if that doesn't work, turn the jury against the accusing party--to convince the jury to rule against that party not because of the merits of the case but because they don't like him or her. 

This is a tried and true tactic of the religious and they use it both in and out of the law courts.  Even if their victims don't sue or press charges, you can bet the victim will be subjected to a slander campaign if he or she dares to complain to anyone--and sometimes merely on the suspicion of complaining about the mistreatment.

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