August 17, 2018


The Banality Of The Bishops' Evil (ROD DREHER, August 16, 2018, American Conservative)

I know y'all are worn out by all my takes on the Catholic abuse scandal, but if you can stand it, Megan McArdle's column on it is worth reading. This graf jumped out at me:

There are plenty of tales to tell about how church reality came to resemble a dime novel, yet most are essentially stories of individual malfeasance, of depraved molesters seeking the camouflage of priestly celibacy. That doesn't explain the bureaucratization of evil. For what is striking about the grand jury's findings is that this was not simply a matter of a few bad individuals, or even many of them; what impresses and appalls is how routine it all was -- that the church had, as the report says, "a playbook for concealing the truth."

"The bureaucratization of evil" is a way of saying "the banality of evil," which was Hannah Arendt's term in Eichmann In Jerusalem, her famous account of the trial of the Nazi functionary. Arendt discussed how the evil that Eichmann did had become disguised by embedding it in bureaucratic procedures. Eichmann's evil became banal through bureaucratization, which rendered it abstract. She wrote:

The essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men, and thus to dehumanize them.

A good example of this in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report (pp. 285-90) is the way Bishop James Timlin of Scranton handled the case of Father Thomas Skotek, who impregnated a 16-year-old girl, then procured for her an abortion. 

Posted by at August 17, 2018 4:21 AM