Today, in Idiots: Thom Nickels
Thom Nickels thinks that priestly sexual abuse of minors was maybe caused by the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, probably because he’s an idiot.
I am not, normally, considered to be an ally to the Catholic Church…but I am a well-known enemy of sophistry. My response to Nickels’ post, after the jump.
It’s more than a little extraordinary, to me, that in such a shaky economy as the US presently suffers from, with unemployment hovering around 10%, with legions of educated and underemployed graduates eager and ready for work, that Thom Nickels can be paid to refute himself. His article, “Priestly Sex Abuse: Who’s to Blame?” presents not a single shred of actual, verifiable evidence for his implicit claim—that the sex abuse scandals the Catholic Church is now enduring are a direct result of the “liberalizing” of the Church after the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Instead, his entire argument is predicated on a single statistic: if the average age of an abusing priest in 2002 was 53, then the sex-abuse events must have (mostly) occurred shortly after Vatican II.
Anyone reasonable familiar with the foundations of human thought will recognize this for what it is: the Post/Propter fallacy (from the Latin: Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc). One of the foundational principles of basic reason, the Post/Propter fallacy states that “correlation does not imply causation;” in other words, just because one thing happened after another does not mean that the first thing caused the second. Chanticleer the rooster crows every morning, and then the sun rises; it is a fallacy to say that Chanticleer causes the sun to rise.
The Post/Propter fallacy is one of the most important fallacies, because of how often it is so recklessly, either by grotesque cynicism or blistering stupidity, abused. It is at the heart of bad decisions and superstition. It is self-contradictory, false by definition. And here it is, the lynchpin of Thom Nickel’s dissatisfaction with the Vatican II: (most) priest abuse scandals occurred after 1962, therefore (most) priest abuse scandals were caused by the Vatican Council.
I shouldn’t (nor, really, should anyway else) need to explain how completely, absurdly ridiculous this is. Not only is it false by definition, but it’s not even universally true: maybe most scandals occurred after Vatican II, but importantly, some of them did not. That alone should require the formulation of a new theory, but even if Thom Nickels doesn’t care for it, there’s more: the fact that the same statistic (the age of the average priestly abuser in 2002) implies the average age of the priest’s victims: somewhere in the 20 to 30 range, precisely the time that an adult might start needing to deal with a history of sexual abuse. Or that the “liberalizing” mores post-Vatican II might be, rather than the cause of the sexual abuse, the cause of the discovery of the sexual abuse: the fact that it was under-reported prior to 1962 (though, as Mr. Nickels must admit, not at all unheard of) is not evidence of it’s non-existence, only of the fact that it wasn’t reported. Do liberal sexual mores cause sexual abuse? Or do they make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to come forward about it?
Who knows? Thom Nickels certainly doesn’t, and he certainly didn’t bother asking. He’s got his opinion, hung on one of the most basic and stupid logical fallacies conceivable, and is apparently quite happy to propagate his misguided understanding in a public forum. I would hope that he’d be ashamed to have written an article like this, but it seems unlikely; to write it in the first place requires either sociopathic cynicism or else blinding ignorance, and neither of those characteristics is well-suited to self-awareness.