Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly?

In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that fame or reputation cannot be the greatest good, because we want to be known for our virtues and accomplishments. That may have been true in his day, but in this time of the Kardashian sisters, the insufferable parents of Balloon Boy and a couple of near-bankrupt socialites who, in the interest of getting themselves on reality television, crash a state dinner, I wonder whether he would still be right.
Celebrity and fame used to be the result of something: X was famous for y. Now, Z is simply famous for being famous. Maybe we have Warhol to blame for making us aware of this, but we only have ourselves to blame for making it possible. We honor the famous for being famous and so fame has become an end in itself. So, instead of universally damning people who put their own notoriety above a state visit of the head of state of the largest democracy on earth, we wait to hear their side of the story with the crypt keeper of fame, Larry King.

The problem may just be power

After three years, the Murphy Report, a study of pedophilia and its intense, over-three-decade coverup in and by the Archdiocese of Dublin has been released. Conservatives within the Church are sure, whenever they mention it—this is usually not often—to blame it on homosexuality within the priesthood and the liberalization of the Church after Vatican II.
Beside the fact that this ignores that many of the guilty were ordained long before the reforms of the Council took effect in the late 60s and that almost none of the men would have identified themselves as gay or homosexual and probably still don't it ignores the very real problem of power.
(For what it's worth, pedophilia is a problem across society, including in public schools, in religious organizations of all stripes, etc. And, in those cases where the victims are boys, the men almost always identify as heterosexual. This is why, pace the Pope's directives, expelling those who realize that they are gay from the seminaries will do nothing to prevent molestation; it's not the openly gay men you have to worry about.)
But back to power, because the problem of pedophilia isn't unique to the Church, but the response has been. Many parents of the hundreds of victims went to the Archbishop (four of them, in fact) and his staff and the police and in almost every case, the Church and the Irish state agreed to ignore what was happening. Of course, their reasoning was simply that such accusations might derail the very real work that the Church did and does. But this is exactly reasoning that the ends justify the means, a proposition hated by the Church, but one that is all too easy to accept when the Church has too much temporal and financial power.
Surely, that's not the kind of power Christ came to give. That kind of power almost never sits well with virtue and certainly undercuts any moral authority those wielding it might have laid claim to for other, more spiritual, reasons.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Father confessor

For the n-th time this semester, a student has taken it upon himself to unload his burdens on me. I'm now up to four confessed abortions for the semester—a new record. Apparently, I should have gone to seminary after all, since I put people at ease in ways that never am.
In the course of a forty-five minute conversation with a student today, only about ten minutes of which were actually about course materials, we discussed abortion, the way that pro-life groups seem to focus on clinics in white areas and what it is like to have to decide whether to shoot children and women who may or may not be involved in insurgency or jihad in Iraq. At the end of this conversation with this very damaged human being who I am in no way competent either to help or certainly to judge, I found myself wondering why the hell it is that the class that decides when to send our troops to war almost never actually has to, or is willing to, fight them. Why are our hawks of the Cheney/Bush model? What happened to the idea that you shouldn't be sending people to wars you wouldn't be willing to fight? I know that there are ample arguments against the draft, but I wonder whether re-instituting it—with no exemptions—might make us much less likely to fight wars or at least more deliberate about entering them. And, in the spirit of the finest period of the Roman Republic, it seems only right that Senators ride out with the troops.