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When Parallel Lines Diverge
2005.02.15 (Tue) 18:26
Ed Brayton over on Dispatches from the Culture Wars reports on the sentencing of convicted child molester and — surprise! — priest, Paul Shanley. In his blog entry, Ed brings up a very pointed observation:
But here's what bothers me about the whole priest sex scandal issue. Why are there no bishops being brought up on charges of obstructing justice or failure to report child abuse? In dozens of cases, the church has been made aware of priests sexually abusing children and has required them to go to counseling and moved them to another parish. In no case, so far as I know, has any priest ever been turned over to the police once his bosses found out what they had done. If a doctor, teacher or social worker even suspects that a child has been abused, they are required to report it to the police. Why are church officials excused from that responsibility? And why has no prosecutor had the nerve to charge one of the church higher ups with obstruction?
This struck a note with us. The larger question that Ed is hinting at is this: why the fuck do we allow a "parallel society" (religion in general, and Christian fundamentalism specifically) to coexist within (not alongside) our society, reaping all the benefits of living in the most powerful and advanced industrialized country on earth, while displaying utter contempt for the laws and policies of that country?
As Ed notes, these groups do not turn over to the authorities those of their agents who break the laws of our greater society. They also don't pay taxes. They can learn of crimes up to and including homocide (through any clergy-communicant dialogue, such as confession or religious counseling) and are exempt from either reporting those crimes or testifying against the criminals in a court of law. (Guess what: the law doesn't care if your invisible magical superhero in the sky forgives you for killing your mother; you still have to answer for it to real authorities.)
This ridiculous double standard is legislated (in the case of the latter two examples) and tolerated (in the case of the first example). There is simply no excuse for this policy in what is supposed to be a secular society.
Religion and its agents are, for all intents and purposes, held to be above the law (or at least certain laws). So why should it surprise anyone when our proudly "faith-based" president thinks he can run roughshod over the Constitution and both federal and international law?
This problem has to be addressed at its root; the parallel society of religion and religionists must be absorbed into our mainstream civilization and held accountable for its actions. They must pay taxes, as any organization does; they must be responsible for reporting criminal behavior, and testifying against the offender in court. They must use the full extent of medical science to protect and preserve their children, rather than abjuring medical treatment as some religionists do (which is tantamount to child abuse). If we are truly to have a cohesive, cooperative nation, we can no longer permit certain internal elements to pick and choose the laws with which they will comply.
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[ Filed under: % Government & Politics % Religion ]
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