After reading Pennywit’s piece about Rick Santorum last night, I thought I’d take a look for myself at exactly what he said. After all, I live in Boston’s back yard, so to speak, and that was the target of his denouncements.
I took a careful look at the Boston Globe account of their interview with Santorum, and I have come to the conclusion that he is right on several key points.
Is Boston (and, by extension, Massachusetts) one of the most liberal states in the Union? Indisputably. Was Boston one of the main “epicenters” of the Catholic sex-abuse scandals? Absolutely. And can the “sexual revolution” of the 60’s and 70’s, championed by liberals and denounced by conservatives, be fairly blamed for many of the sex-related social ills of society today, with permissiveness and promiscuity leading to rises in teen pregnancy, children born out of wedlock, and epidemics of sexually-transmitted disease? Arguably, yes.
But where Santorum erred, I believe, is in the logical fallacy of “post hoc ergo propter hoc” — “Because B followed A, A caused B.” It was that sort of reasoning that led to the theories of abiogenesis and spontaneous generation, when “scientists” of yore saw flies and maggots “appearing” out of non-organic material, and presumed they spontaneously appeared. And it’s that sort of so-called “reasoning” that leads, to cite a local example, to look at New Hampshire’s nearly all-white population and speculate that that is the reason that the state has such a low crime rate, or high SAT scores. Conversely, the overwhelmingly white population here also is blamed for “bigotry” and “racism.” It’s poor logic to presume that correlation equals causation.
In the case of the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse problems, it isn’t a political matter. The Church is not monolithically conservative or liberal; it tends towards both extremes, depending on the issue. In most social policies, it’s quite liberal, but when the matter comes to sex, it’s exceptionally conservative.
From my (limited) understanding, the problem first came to the fore when a large group of men with pedophilic tendencies joined the seminary in the early 1960’s (well ahead of the sexual revolution). Their reasoning, it seems, was that they had these “unnatural desires” and joined the Church in hopes of suppressing them. Instead of seeking help for their urges, they instead joined an organization where sexuality of any kind was to be repressed. I guess they were trying to make a pact with God: if He’d get rid of those desires, they’d give their lives to His service. Unfortunately, apparently God never agreed to His side of their offer.
This would have been bad enough, but it happened to coincide with a patriarchy in the Boston Archdiocese that was far more interested in protecting the Church’s image than their parishioners. They were very poor shepherds to their flock and when they couldn’t ignore these pedophile priests’ molestations any longer, they paid off the victims and transferred the priests to new, unsuspecting parishes — often with glowing recommendations and fervent hopes that they’d finally “find salvation” and give up their urges.
And that continued on for years and years, millions and millions of hush money and shattered childhoods, until finally the pressure from all those coverups finally burst, and the truth — as it inevitably does — finally came out.
So, Santorum is right in the sum of his argument, but woefully wrong on his conclusions. Massachusetts does indeed have all those problems, but to try to interconnect them is just plain wrong.
And as someone who’s largely made his “living” around here by bashing the Bay State, it gives me great pain to have to come to the People’s Democratic Republic of Massachusetts’ defense. But Santorum is wrong here, and needs to be denounced for it.