The Catholic church, distressed about their reputation for molesting altar boys, has decided to be proactive. Their reasoning is that there will be fewer cases of sexual abuse if fewer abusers were allowed into the priesthood. On the surface, that makes a lot of sense but the devil is in the details. And where would Christianity be without the devil?
Something must be done, preferably something more effective than putting “Are you a pedophile?” on the application form for seminary school. To accomplish this, the church will try to weed out people unable to resist every carnal impulse that pops into their heads. I have no idea how they will be able to test for that but if they manage to pull it off, so far so good. They also plan to exclude people who are or might be homosexual.
Huh? All the gay dudes I know are attracted to grown men, not little boys. Keeping these guys out will not protect the children. There is a risk of priests getting it on with each other, which may or may not get God’s panties in a bunch, but that will result in neither traumatized youth nor expensive lawsuits.
I’m not trying to bash Catholics here (I’ll save that for another post). What I’m attempting to do is point out the very human tendency to engage in massive oversteer to prevent bad things from ever happening again.
For example, there was the case of that nutjob who murdered all those people at Virginia Tech last year. His killing spree understandably got people thinking about how to prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.
As one would expect, there was some bullshit being bandied about. Pat Buchanan, who is suspicious of anyone whose ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower, pointed out that the killer was an immigrant and therefore not to be trusted. Never mind that America is perfectly capable of breeding its own whackos and the rest of Seung-Hui Cho’s family were by all accounts decent enough folks. Fortunately, Buchanan’s nativist rant fell largely on deaf ears.
But if you can’t blame evil foreigners, then what? Well, there was a lot of postulation over how psycho Cho flipped his lid and what to watch out for in others who might do the same. There was no shortage of material to work with. Cho, who was an attention whore as well as a mass murderer, broadcast his insanity all over the internet and even went so far as to put together a press kit before he got busy with his guns.
Psychologists, both professional and amateur, looked at his writings after the massacre and concluded that this was one messed-up guy. Since no one wants to see his actions turn into some sort of trend, they put forth a list of red flags for the rest of us to watch out for before things get ugly.
Like all plans, this one works until it doesn’t. I myself had a troubled youth and although no one I knew from my early twenties was lining up to nominate me for sainthood, I managed to muddle through without killing anybody. During that time, I filled countless notebooks with misanthropic ramblings chock full of feelings of persecution and self pity. If there was such a thing as MySpace back then, I would have posted my words there as well.
I was plenty dysfunctional but hardly unique. If you cast a net for every young person who is going through a rough period in the hope you’ll thwart a real killer, you’re going to expend a huge amount of effort harassing harmless neurotics. With all those false positives, how can you expect to find the one guy who is going to snap?
Perhaps I’m being paranoid. Kids with problems aren’t being rounded up and thrown into loony bins. After all, it’s been more than a year. The bright shiny object that was the Virginia Tech massacre has dropped from many people’s radar. Each passing day brings the promise of news of a brand new horror, one that engage both our fears and our short attention spans.