How the Mugger Sees It

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April 20, 2018 by lucieromarin

During a meeting with one of my former director’s new managers, I asked, “Do I need to supply you with professional literature?” meaning professional literature about boundary-crossing, grooming, and the ethics of pastoral care. I was told ‘No,’ – the manager about to review the case was a clinical psychologist, so she would understand.

Eventually, I met that manager in person. (We met after her decision was made. Not once, during our phone calls, was I asked about the deliverance prayers.) She said: “You know, when two people are in a situation, they experience it differently, so there’s always two interpretations.”

She’s not exactly wrong. No paedophile, rapist, wife-beater, murderer or thug interprets his act of violence the way his victim does. Still, it was odd to hear a psychologist and manager of a Catholic office take the kind of post-modern approach to ethics that meant a crime was only a crime if felt like one to the criminal.

She then gave me an imaginary scenario in which a drug addict mugged her and stole her wallet. “I have a choice, don’t I?” she said. “I could pursue that man and maybe get him arrested, or I could try to understand him, forgive him, and move on from losing my wallet.”

In other words, she first equated her employee with an addict and a violent thief, and then, confronted with one of his casualties, decided that, rather than asking the thief to return the wallet and get into rehab, she’d explain to the casualty that the whole thing hadn’t felt like an assault from the mugger’s viewpoint, and she should try to understand his need for drugs, and just get a new credit card.

When she said, “All this obedience stuff is very strange to me,” I was grateful for her human warmth, which, in that moment, chose honesty over dissimulation. (I felt throughout that interview that the Chancery could learn something from her warmth of manner.) Again, though, it was an odd admission from a psychologist.

I made my enquiries too late. It turned out that she was never a psychologist at all. I don’t know why I was told that she was. The responsibility for a judgement about pastoral-care ethics, boundary-crossing and psychological abuse was given to someone recently-qualified in Business Administration. (Perhaps this was how she was able to investigate and settle a 20-year history without interviewing any of the available witnesses and without waiting for the information supplied by two other casualties during their own interviews at the Chancery!)

These days, she works at a college at the University of Sydney. I sometimes imagine the following scene:

19-yr-old: So, um…like, my ethics lecturer, he’s, like…well, we’ve been seeing each other outside of class, and like, he sends me text messages and things…

FH: Uh-huh.

19-yr-old: And, um… the thing is that, the other night, he came and visited my room, and he got me drunk, and we had sex. Was that date-rape?

FH: Oh, sweetie! You, know, really, in any situation involving two people, there’s always two different viewpoints, isn’t there?

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