Critics of the Catholic Church and their mishandling of the current sex abuse scandal are understandably full of righteous anger. Andrew Sullivan among others, speak of their horror at how the institute covered up the actions of the perpetrators.
They would never allow such behavior to occur, they say with justifiable disgust. How dare the church be more concerned with their image than with the welfare of the victims. How could they do that? How can bishops, cardinals and the pope sleep at night knowing what they knew?
It’s very easy, really. The French recently recreated a famous experiment as a game show to demonstrate how people go along with authority. The subjects in the test, the experimenters and critics were surprised at how easily the crowd mentality took over personal convictions.Whenever someone joins a collective there is an unwritten rule that it must be protected at all cost- no matter what. Individual thought is replaced by group think and the survival of the collective depends on everyone protecting it.
Every one of us is susceptible to this thinking despite our deepest belief that we would never sink so low. Police departments, medical professionals, school administrators, politicians and sports coaches have all engaged in shameful cover-ups. They have always done so, why are we surprised the church is doing it too? They are doing the same thing any of these other fraternal groups have done for centuries.
Shame, denial, fear of retribution or lose of face. These are the reasons fraternal groups to close ranks and protect their own. It’s dishonorable, it’s despicable and all too human. Before we start hurling stones at the guilty let us remember that we are all capable of doing the same thing.