Listowel December 21, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Such an expression of sympathy for a convicted sex offender in a court, as seen in Listowel, where the victim is present speaks of some sort of disconnect between the reality of what happened and the perceptions of those expressing sympathy. This inability to come to terms with the nature of such crimes seems near-inexplicable, particularly now when the veil of secrecy around them is much less than it used to be, this inversion of sympathy whereby the victim can be bypassed both literally in the courtroom and figuratively – one thinks of the comments of Fr Sheehy, and in particular his thought that ‘the victim didn’t seem to him to be traumatised or particularly nervous’ which locks straight into a discourse of minimising these crimes and the effects of these crimes and – of course – into an older and pernicious dynamic as regards gender balance of power.
Sheehy seems entirely gormless in his approach, and it is hard to understand why he was unable to find the ability to step back from these events until he removed himself from the picture. His misfortune, on top of his sheer idiocy in shaking hands and sympathising (sympathising? – even to say it makes the oddity of such actions come clear) and then exhibiting a tone deaf understanding of why others might be genuinely outraged by such actions, is that he provides a sort of explication redux of a greater disconnect between Church and society at the very point where it is the simple inability of the many in the Church to comprehend why their actions and inactions were wrong is laid bare by the slow slow journey towards resignation by a number of Bishops.
But this isn’t about the Church. It’s about the response of a broader group of citizens who just don’t get it. If Listowel points up a sometime disconnect between sexual crimes and perception of those crimes there is one basic truth. The crime stands. All the outpourings of sympathy and support mitigate not one iota the reality of the original offense. How could they?
Fundamentally this is about taking responsibility both for ones own actions and – as far is applicable – the actions of those one seeks to support (the Irish Times editorial at the weekend made the valid point that this undercut directly the decision of the jury). That crowd in Listowel forgot or ignored that latter point. Implicitly and arguably explicitly they disregarded their greater responsibility to the victim than the perpetrator. By their actions they compounded the hurt and dislocation of the victim and they did it in the most provocative way possible. And in doing so they compounded the hurt and dislocation of other victims elsewhere who might wonder what justice is served if the courtroom itself potentially becomes a forum for their further isolation.
That may scan as sanctimonious, but sometimes language is unable to step up and deal with events like this. They quite literally beggar belief.