The Scandals at St. Gertrude the Great

West Chester, Ohio

The Full Documented Story


January 8, 2010

Defining Decency Down

The Editors

Have we lost our sense of outrage?

SGG has tried so hard to persuade us that the brutal emotional and spiritual mistreatment of children is "normal".  How many times have we heard that Mark Lotarski, for example, is tame in comparison with the nuns of the 1950s.  So are we exaggerating our sense of moral revulsion?  Or does SGG simply excuse the inexcusable under the pretence that it is not only excusable, but totally acceptable in a Catholic School.  Like the use of the "F" word used by a student to threaten a teacher, for example...

In a 1993 American Scholar article, “Defining Deviancy Down,” the liberal sociologist and U.S. senator Daniel P. Moynihan wrote a now famous essay about the redefinition of deviancy “so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized.” He also noted that there was a parallel effort at “quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any early standard.” Among his conclusions was that “we’re getting used to a lot of behavior that is not good for us.”

We have certainly seen that Bishop Dolan and his familiars have been very busy at redefining much of what still shocks and disgusts decent folk.  The pastor’s mouthpiece never tires of e-mailing us that the indecencies practiced at St. Gertrude the Great School are normal in traditional Catholic schools and that our moral revulsion is both overblown and trivial.  According to Moynihan’s article, normalization is one of the three modes of redefining deviancy, and it encourages our passive reaction to it. Normalizing deviancy makes it appear as if bad behavior were simply inevitable. As a result, outrage is useless and perhaps even abnormal itself. Yet even an elitist member of the liberal establishment knew the dangers of such an attitude, and he saw fit to quote a NY State Supreme Court judge who warned that “a society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction.”

The problem with Bishop Dolan’s effort to downgrade deviancy is that it lowers standards of decency, too. By dismissing the catalog of abuses at the school as a “numbered list,” he disguises the monstrosity of the principal’s conduct and thereby contrives to blunt our natural abhorrence to the mistreatment of children. By cooperating in the denouncement of the Rev. Mr. Hall, Bishop Dolan participated materially in the perfidy of his associate who had mendaciously promised assistance to Mr. Hall. Yes, we know that Bishop Dolan is in the fight of his life. In the secular world, one does everything necessary to survive, and in this context we fully understand Bishop Dolan’s prevail-at-any-cost behavior. What we object to is Bishop Dolan’s assertion of high-minded principles in his defense. By abandoning decent behavior at every turn, Bishop Dolan has lowered standards and as such has forfeited any benefit of the doubt. Let us realize that peace—and the return of decency—can only come with his prompt resignation as pastor of St. Gertrude the Great Church.