As a Catholic, the Kavanaugh hearings have been eye-opening. Ignorance of the judicial system, of the Courts and the Constitution seem rampant in public debate. The passion of pithy tweets has obscured the lessons of civics, and the multi-faceted nature of the debates has pointed to the passion of the American people for justice. The realities of historical context, the importance of personal responsibility and the scientific research that is available about memory have been largely ignored. All of this comprises an invitation to look seriously at issues and how society and Catholics can move forward.
Catholics have suffered the tragedy of the abuse scandals for over 30 years. Scrutiny of past abuses is important, but what is past cannot be changed. Research has pointed to the reasons and causes of this, the systemic issues and the personal flaws. In the public sphere, entertainment and politics, the same has occurred. Power and gratification were tied to sexual behaviors and choices. Maybe the invitation going forward is to articulate standards of sexual behaviors that are appropriate for all. This necessitates the acknowledgement of persons as sexual beings with needs, desires, purposes. The boundaries and practice of sexual behavior demand clarity to avoid the agonizing pain of previous generations. Ambiguity has been costly for all. A clear understanding of sexuality for public and religious institutions is increasingly necessary.
Catholicism places a strong emphasis on personal responsibility. In a world where the onus of responsibility rests with other rather than self, there is a guarantee of continued difficulty. For instance, is it feasible that a drunk girl can accuse a perpetrator of taking advantage of her? Is drunkenness of a woman any different than that of a male in terms of responsibility for sexual activity? Is individual responsible for what is consumed? Or how much is consumed? In celebrating the rights of persons, can personal responsibility be considered again as a point of discussion?
Brain science and research has made startling progress over the last years. Memories, like persons, are re-shaped by time and experience. Eye witness accounts are often not credible, and yet can cause deep personal wounds of the psyche. There is so much data available that it might be time to seriously consider how that impacts contemporary understandings of the accusations and allegations that are steadily leveled at one another.
Catholicism in practice provides tools and a history of re-examination over the centuries. There is no excuse for the agonies that are visited one upon another in terms of behavior. But there is a moment when it is possible to take a deep breath and look more deeply at what is happening. There are remedies for ignorance, for mistrust and dysfunction. Taking the step to actually do something may be the real invitation that rests before all.