Sunday 27 March 2011
Collateral Damage just isn't good enough
I wish that were true. An institution is only as good as the people who run it. When you focus on the people who run it, you are not criticizing the institution, you are criticizing the people. That is part of the problem - and part of what I am arguing in the numerous blogs that I have written on this book. See in particular "All the Usual Suspects" at http://www.sheilaredmond.com/2009/12/all-usual-suspects.html, which was meant to begin a larger dialogue on the issue of the institution. (I have not followed up with the rest of my comments on the book because my personal life took a major hit last year – I am, for the most part, giving myself about a year to integrate the loss of my mother from Alzheimer’s – a horrible way to die)
Part of the problem is that the book is not a very good indictment of the institution. I am well aware that socialization into an institution creates great difficulties - people seldom question their socialization. There is no one in this book that challenges the institution - I reiterate that if that was McIntyre's point, he failed there and with his characters, none of whom question the institution.
Collateral damage happens - isn't that the claim? If what happens to the characters in the novel is collateral damage, then you are reading a book about how the institution is not the problem, it is the "flawed people" who run it that is the problem, and they are the ones that cause the "collateral damage". Thus it is not a criticism of the institution; it is a criticism of the people who run it.
The real question is when is someone responsible for their actions or, in the case of the Bishop’s Man, their lack of action. To the end of the book, he does nothing to stand up and be counted. If he did kill the abuser (there seems to be some question about that), so what? Even there, he is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. I have discussed other areas where I take issue with the structure of the book and its characters in previous blogs. Are you suggesting that because the Bishop’s Man had been damaged by the institution and, thus is collateral damage, he should be excused for his lack of moral fibre? He is a victim like Danny and that makes it all right that he didn’t do anything?
As I am writing this, I am struck by the fact that these characters are actually exactly what the Roman Catholic church is full of. McIntyre has said in an interview that he talked with priests who all said that this was a realistic portrayal of what it is like to be a priest. In that case, I will reiterate what I have said elsewhere – the sooner Roman Catholicism bites the dust and becomes a footnote to history, the better. If you read more of my blogs, there is a fairly decent critique of Roman Catholicism that is taking shape. It is the core of its belief system that is the problem, not the institution – the sooner people understand that, the better. Needless to say, I am not holding my breath waiting for that to happen – nor would I bet a plug nickel on it happening anytime in the near future. Christopher Hitchens may have an axe to grind but it is a righteous axe!
Since I am teaching WW2 right now, let me use that as an example. If the institution of the NSDAP government was all powerful (as I assume you might arguing that the institution of the Roman Catholic church is), then all those people who were damaged by the institution were "collateral damage" and that includes all of the members of the SS and the Waffen SS who ran the death camps and put millions and millions of people to death (and who brutally slaughtered Russian soldiers in their drive to destroy Russia). May I say, aw shucks and gee whillikers, those poor guys (please not the sarcasm). There were many resisters in Germany – not successful, but at least they tried – I cannot say the same for the Roman Catholics – priests or otherwise.
Over all of the years that I have been studying and writing about this issue, I have found a minuscule number of resisters to the Roman Catholic institution. There are more and more of them all the time, and I have highlighted a few of them in my blogs. Maybe, it would have been nice if McIntyre had showed the Bishop’s Man as just once trying to do the right thing – for example, telling the reporter the truth!
What the priests did (and continue to do) to sexually abused children is soul murder and all those people in the institution (many of whom you suggest are collateral damage) are accessories to that soul murder. To my way of thinking, McIntyre’s book lets them off the hook and ultimately, so do you, “anonymous”, if you consider “collateral damage” a viable excuse for doing nothing at the least and aiding and abetting at the most.
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