Author: Jason King

John Jay Report

The general conclusion of the recent John Jay College report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was No single “cause” of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is identified as a result of our research. Social and cultural changes in the 1960s and 1970s manifested in increased levels of deviant behavior in the general society and also among priests of the Catholic Church in the United States. Some claimed that the report was just what the bishops ordered: it was society’s fault and not the Church’s.  Others claim the report was covering for the gay priest agenda in blaming society, while others noted that the report dispelled many misconceptions, including the one that homosexual priests were to blame.  Still others noted the $1.8 million dollar price tag  while others marveled that the price came with such a paltry conclusion as “well, you know, it’s really, really complicated.” One aspect of the report that seems to be missing from these discussions, however, is that social isolation and a lack of relationships seemed to play a significant role in the abuse.  Priests seemed to abuse “at times of increased job stress, social isolation, and decreased contact with peers.”  The priests who did abused were those “who lacked close social bonds, and those whose family spoke negatively or not at all about sex” and...

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The Use of Torture

In his May 6th Wall Street Journal essay, Mr. Mukasy, the former Attorney General, claims that the much of the information that led to the killing of bin Laden was the result of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Consider how the intelligence that led to bin Laden came to hand. It began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information—including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden. Moreover, these approaches were used discriminately. The harsh techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of these techniques. Senator McCain disputed Mr. Mukasey claim in a May 11th Washington Post op/ed piece, writing that Mukasey’s account was “false”. The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a...

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Overcoming Extremes – Four Practices

It is no real surprise that United States’ politics is polarized. (See the recent Pew Study). It is a bit surprising that people have started to reshape their religious beliefs to fit into these political extremes. As Robert Putnam concludes in American Grace, “The ranks of religious conservatives and secular liberals have swelled, leaving a dwindling group of religious moderates in between.” Catholic moral theologians must refuse to rely on these categories, especially the versions of them that have dominated our own discipline for the past forty years. Among the many problems these binary extremes create (think lack of charity for one), they threaten the very heart of our enterprise by compromising our attentiveness, insights, and judgments.  Below are four practices that I hope can overcome these extremes. 1.  Avoid Relying on Liberal and Conservative Categories: Part of the weakness of these categories is that they oversimplify analysis of and solutions to problems. As a practice, avoiding these categories would entail actions like:  Checking our resources to make sure they are diverse, not just drawing on one school of thought Reexamining our conclusions to ensure that they are warranted on their own merits and not just the default conservative or liberal response. Checking our methodology to make sure it is not just an application of a conservative or liberal approach. Refusing to use the terms to define ourselves or...

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We Had to Kill Bin Laden?

Many of the articles, reflections, or posts that I have read on the killing of Osama bin Laden lament the situation, expressing a desire for some other solution and, simultaneously, recognizing that no other way seemed possible.  Let me sketch five narratives that I think have led to the seeming necessity of killing bin Laden. We cannot be isolationists.  In the build up to and early stages of World War I and World War II, the United States privileged an isolationist foreign policy.  As a country, we preferred not to get involved.  The consequences of this approach seemed to lead to all out war.  When we became a superpower in the wake of WWII, we felt not only forced to take a leadership role in international politics but that war would emerge if we did not.  Thus started the assumption that the United States must respond.  First it was communism, and then it was terrorism in the light of 9/11. September 11th was an act of war.   The violence, destruction, and suffering that emerged in 9/11, left a wound in people, society, and the country.  It was and is a wound that cannot be healed by human efforts. After we emerged from our initial shock, we understood these events as acts of war.  Someone had declared war on us and attacked us, successfully, on our own soil.  We...

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Be Attentive Instead of Liberal or Conservative

Bernard Prusak recently reviewed Leaving and Coming Home: New Wineskins for Catholic Sexual Ethics.  While having the book reviewed is itself an honor and while Prusak hailed the book as “courageous” for addressing sexual ethics, he concluded that overall it was a failure (my word, not his) of scholarship and in overcoming the liberal-conservative bifurcation of Catholic moral theology. Prusak stated that the book was insufficiently critical, historically inattentive, and mostly irrelevant to the needs of the Catholic Church.  He noted only one essay was critical of Humanae Vitae, two essays were in agreement with Church teachings, and the rest dealt ineffectively with such “college ethics class” topics like cohabitation, dating, abuse, and pornography.  Driving Prusak’s review seems to be the idea that “it is difficult to imagine, without a change in the Vatican’s teaching, ‘effectively moving beyond the impasse’ occasioned by Humanae Vitae.” As a contributor to the volume, the review stung.  As a scholar though, the review indicated why the categories of liberal and conservative function more like biases than frameworks for intellectual inquiry. Bernard Lonergan, the Canadian Jesuit who is best known for his work on epistemology and theological method, said that bias is “a block or distortion of intellectual development”.  The liberal and conservative frameworks are biases in that they fail to grasp the reality of the situation.  In other words, the perspectives make us...

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