There is a value. It is a numerical value.

It is the number of children who have been abused. It is the number of incidents of an organization covering it up. It is the number of times a priest has been moved to a parish to avoid dealing with pedophilia. It is the number of times a priest who tries to stop these incidents or begs the Vatican to stop and change their course is told to shut the hell up and pray and reflect upon what they are trying to do. It is the number of times people are willing to look the other way before they can no longer look the other way.

It is the number of times these things can happen before a tipping point is reached.

That tipping point is when a person shifts from thinking “It’s either extremely rare, or completely false” to “Shit. This is really happening. They really are doing this. Oh my god — what beasts have lain in our midst for generations, hidden by robes plastered in ‘piety sequins’?!”

For each person, there is that value, that tipping point. It’s subjective, but it’s a real value of some sort.

For each incident brought to light, for each report published, for each case settled, more people tip over.

As more people tip, more people are having trouble pretending there’s not at least some kind of problem.*

So they start reading the articles more closely. They start thinking more about what’s happening.

And then they tip, too.

See?

Republic of Ireland abandoning religion faster than almost every other country in the world

It’s tipping.

When I started thinking about this, it was “Well, this is a great example of a group that has no clue about self-policing.” Then, I thought about it a few more minutes and realized that the time for “self-policing” is long past. Hundreds of years long past.

In a way they are self-policing. They are trying to “fix the problem.” Trouble is, they see the problem as very different than the rest of the world is seeing it.

Their chagrin is at being caught. Their chagrin is at this data leaking from the organization. Their chagrin is at how they’ve been unable to spin pervasive child sexual abuse and institutional protection of sexual abusers in such a way that doesn’t horrify people. They think of the whole problem as “a PR gaffe.”

As my mother says: “I shit you not.”

This is how they avoid trouble:
The Vatican appoints a new Director of Communications – at last, the days of leaks and gaffes might be coming to an end

This is how they avoid trouble:
Fast vs. facts: Vatican spokesman tries to quickly help media get truth

This is how they avoid trouble:
From St. Louis to Vatican: Meet the pope’s new PR adviser

They hire a new PR guy.

I shit you not.


* Sure, there’s always going to be a group that insists there’s no problem — no matter how many reports they see, no matter how many testimonials they hear, no matter how many souls are broken. There is no helping folks like that — the best one can do is hope they aren’t in charge of the PR engines. Wait-a-sec… damn!