Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You Can't Handle the Truth

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Heh, here's a rather bizarre editorial - one that makes the case for less truth-telling and more secrecy from the Vatican.

The common wisdom is that stuff involving, you know, child molestation should probably be put to light to catch criminals and prevent them from amassing even more victims. Pretty common sense stuff.

Well, as it turns out, that's wrong. Some secrets ought to be kept, if for no other reason than to keep an authority legitimate in the eyes of the people.

Does that sound a little strange to you, too?

Well, it all makes sense if one considers the author's personal experiences - a catholic reporter whose investigation in priestly misdeeds unleashed a maelstrom of religious turmoil and doubt. But rather than embrace the doubt and concede that the institution has flaws and that one's faith may be misplaced, the author took it in the other direction - that secrets are good because the truth brings sorrow and recrimination. Somehow, I rather doubt this conclusion would have been reached if the author and the child-molesting priests were not of the same religion.
Societies cannot survive without authoritative institutions. But which authoritative persons or institutions can withstand constant critical scrutiny? In our culture, we are predisposed to see damage done from failing to question authority. We are far less capable of grasping the destruction that can come from delegitimizing authority with corrosive suspicion. How much reality must we choose to ignore for the greater good of our own souls, and society?
Indeed, which reality should we choose? One of harsh (and politically disadvantageous) truth or one of hidden evil, of vile misdeeds carried under a veil of secrecy?

Is our commitment to truth and honesty so flimsy and half-hearted that we must sacrifice it to protect our beloved institutions from public scrutiny and scandal?

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