Which Victims Do You Believe?

Yet another mainstream figure bites the dust — Matt Lauer of morning news fame whose performance only matter to mmmeeeEEE when he interviewed Larry David; I just can’t figure out any of the appeal of morning network news. Once again, women have come forward to accuse Lauer of inappropriate sexual behavior. NBC executives believed the women. And so Lauer loses his job.

What I can’t understand is the willingness of business, political, and journalistic authorities to believe what is generally one person’s word against another. This is not an opinion based on male privilege. It’s a legal reality hammered home by the Netflix series, The Keepers, in which Baltimore prosecutors and Roman Catholic Archdiocese officials were unwilling to believe the testimony of women who came forward almost 30 years later to accuse a specific priest of molesting them (and setting up meetings for other priests and police). No priest lost his standing (though a trip outside the country swept the controversy under the proverbial rug for a time). The reason as one of Baltimore’s States Attorneys explained was that the testimony of one person — even if memories were credible — was insufficient to start the engine of prosecution. (Of course, what is liable to prosecution in a court of law is not the same as public opinion or the rules of private employers.)

So what happened only six months after The Keepers was gaining some attention from video streamers?

And imagine writing today what one author did about the documentary series when it appeared:

How can anyone believe this?

The central thesis of The Keepers is that an alleged abusive priest, the now-deceased Rev. Joseph Maskell, can be tied to the disappearance and murder of Sr. Cathy. However, some of the central accusers in all of this, who claim that Maskell sexually abused them when they were young girls, have quite a bit of explaining to do.

For example, in 1995, a woman named Jean Wehner – whose claims play a central role in The Keepers – filed a civil lawsuit against Maskell under the name Jane Doe. What was uncovered in the course of her suit can only described as disturbing. It turns out that all of Wehner’s claims of abuse surfaced through the dangerous and discredited practice of “repressed memory therapy.”

It turns out that, according to court documents, Wehner has not just claimed that Rev. Maskell abused her in her life. Wehner has also claimed that she has somehow also been abused by:

four additional priests; three or four religious brothers; three lay teachers; a police officer; a local politician; an uncle; and two nuns.

Good grief. Really, Jean?

For a fuller account of the Archdiocese’s responses, see here.

Is it I or does it seem that Roman Catholics have been a little shy about weighing in on the current spate of revelations if only because of the church’s recent scandal-ridden past? Never to be intimidated, though, is Father Dwight:

What does this new and unexpected social phenomenon mean?

I think it indicates that a new generation of women don’t give two hoots about the old feminist agenda. The main objectives for women have been pretty much obtained-fair pay and fair treatment in the workplace. Now a new generation of women is saying, “We don’t have to put up with the harassment and objectification that still continues.

Hands off!

This is very interesting because, whether they like it or not, the modern women who take this view are echoing a very traditional set of values–ones which their great grandmothers would have recognized.

Its called modesty. In the past women were expected to draw the line, slap the man’s hand away and refuse a kiss until he was worthy.

The woman was the one who was supposed to be pure and unsullied and the keep the horny man at bay.

Father Dwight does realize, doesn’t he, that this “just-say-no” approach did not apparently work for the girls in The Keepers.

Meanwhile, some think the new found disgust with male appetites is not so much a recovery of virtue as an acquisition of power:

…what puzzles many of us is why the definition of deviance varies so dramatically over time. We cannot always predict who will become defined as deviant, and when the definitions will change. We do know that power plays the most important role in identifying who gets to define deviant behavior.

Until recently, allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men were not taken seriously—they were not viewed as deviant because the acts were perpetrated by powerful men on less powerful women. Now, the power to define sexual deviance has shifted to women—those who have collaborated with the media to bring attention to the issue and reform how such behavior is perceived and dealt with by society.

Until recently indeed — only 4 months ago.

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7 thoughts on “Which Victims Do You Believe?

  1. There is one wrong response to these claims of past abuse: the failure to vet them. By vetting claims, the Washington Post was able to discover a false claim about Roy Moore intentionally give to discredit the paper. But in vetting claims, it is wrong to assume the claims to be false because some other claims have been found to be false or because these claims arise from unconventional sources.

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  2. A comment from another blog post:

    This is a bad example of the issues I was trying to bring to the forefront of a discussion. I was just lumping all these news revelations of influential people doing some dark things that makes us think more deeply about how we might act if put in positions of influence and authority. The temptations are almost boundless when anyone wields too much power and authority without many checks and balances.

    There is also a possibility in all these stories for others to exploit the persons influence for their not so noble advantages. That was my point about the story behind the stories. So the whole scenario becomes quite complex over the period of time the person rises to his influence and authority. And then there are those who want to see this guy fall for a variety of reasons.

    Then there are all the coping mechanisms a person develops when confronted with hostile opposition. Again, it all gets very complicated.. It can get to be too much for anybody and they end up doing things that maybe subconsciously get them out of these bad predicaments that they have gotten themselves into. The point being is that it could happen to anybody and it gets worse when you have some talents that can get you to positions of influence and authority.

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  3. Maybe the solution to learn and develop an acquired taste for suffering like the Apostle Paul did:

    2 Cor. 1:3-10:

    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

    2 Cor. 4: 7-18

    7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

    2 Cor. 11: 24-30:

    24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

    2 Cor. 12: 9-10:

    “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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  4. Turns out that justice is not so simple:

    “The sexual harassment racket is over,” Peggy Noonan excitedly declared in the Wall Street Journal last week. No longer need we be stumped by conundrums based on “he said/she said.” Instead, Noonan rejoices that “now predators are on notice.” Overlooked in the celebration, however, is that the presumption of innocence—long problematic in sexual harassment charges– is going even further down the tubes.

    Despite Peggy Noonan’s current views, he said/she said situations are notoriously difficult to disentangle, especially when much time has elapsed between the event and its reporting. Abandoning the presumption of innocence because women “must be believed” is a dangerous step, but sufficiently commonplace these days that it’s not surprising to see some of those accused grovel, apologize publicly even while claiming to have intended no harm, declare their readiness to undergo sensitivity and harassment training, enter rehab or counseling, and otherwise attempt to redeem themselves via excuses intermingled with abject mea culpas.

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  5. Update on accusations against priests:

    Under the Dallas Charter, when an accusation of priestly abuse is made, the priest is immediately suspended from public ministry, regardless of the accusation’s merit. Some will reply that the claim of “immediate suspension” is inaccurate; a review board must first determine an accusation’s “credibility.” But author after author, from Avery Cardinal Dulles (in First Things and America) to David Pierre (in Catholic Priests Falsely Accused), has shown that “credibility” is a laughably low standard. Evidence is barely required. Indeed, almost every accusation is deemed “credible” unless the accused can prove that thirty years ago (and most accusations are from decades long past) he was on a different continent when the alleged abuse occurred. In other words, “credible” has come to mean “not entirely impossible.” With such a standard, accused priests are placed in an untenable situation.

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