Truth and Integrity Are Under Assault

If anything becomes clear as we consider the current raging questions on the American scene, it is that concern for truth is readily cast aside. While falsehood and deceit, to be sure, are nothing new in human history—they began when Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from God after their sin—it’s fair to say that a stress on honesty and integrity typifies certain periods more than others. This era of runaway moral relativism and “man the measure of all things,” unsurprisingly, is not one of them.

Take the allegation against Trump Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. We saw credence quickly given to a claim of something that not only happened over thirty-five years ago (if it happened at all), but which was made by someone who possibly didn’t even know him personally, brought forth no witnesses to back up her story (in fact, even her friend disputed it), never raised it before despite previous opportunities when Kavanaugh received other high federal appointments, and had clear political biases that could be a motivation to make a false claim. The very fact that Senator Diane Feinstein—who previously distinguished herself for seeming to want to keep serious Catholics off the federal courts—accepted a vague allegation, which no one is even sure concerns Kavanaugh, and then sat on it only to reveal it after the confirmation hearing was over showed a halting lack of integrity.

The lack of integrity and concern for truth was also seen by her party’s Senate colleagues who were automatically ready to believe the allegation—and a subsequent one by a college classmate that was even more incredulous—without even considering the evidence. Such an automatic, lock-step reaction also seems to routinely characterize leftist politicians in making public policy decisions. They don’t even analyze complex problems, dig deeper, or pay attention to obvious facts; they seem to mindlessly embrace whatever prominent spokesmen, ideologues, and interest groups have anointed as the leftist position. Forget the truth, if they even believe there is such a thing. The imperatives of ideology and political self-interest must always win out.

Then there are the feminist ideologues and MeTooers who have done their best to make the public believe that we are in the midst of a sexual harassment crisis—even though they never define the term and are unwilling to repudiate the Sexual Revolution which spawned the very degradation of women they claim to decry. Instead, they routinely hold that women bear no responsibility whatsoever in any context for men coming onto them or taking advantage of them. Effectively, as I’ve written previously in this column, they place women above the demands of the natural moral law. Thus, we see a complete imperviousness to the truth regarding sexual harassment allegations. From the abuses of Title IX on university campuses to unsubstantiated charges against public figures, mere allegation is held to establish guilt—even if there is no evidence.

 

Indeed, some don’t think that the question of determining guilt or innocence is pertinent because, after all, women have been historically so mistreated by men that claims of sexual harassment and abuse are justified no matter what. It’s as if their characterization of the past legitimizes indiscriminate targeting of men today. With Kavanaugh, the MeTooers claimed right away—even before the accuser testified—that he was guilty and unfit for the Court even though they hadn’t examined the case. Interestingly, the online comments of some of the feminist alumni of my University and their collaborators who have attacked it for supposedly inadequately upholding Title IX showed this same reflexive readiness to find Kavanaugh guilty irrespective of the evidence.

Speaking of Title IX, the outright kangaroo court-like proceedings of some colleges and universities where the accused is concerned have received much public attention. Even if they all don’t go that far, some allow mere anonymous complaints of sexual harassment to trigger unsettling investigations of male students, professors, and staff without allowing the accused the opportunity to confront the complainant.

To be sure, it isn’t just Congressional Democrats, leftist interest groups, and feminist ideologues who disregard guilt or innocence when allegations of sexual harassment are made. We see it today in the criminal justice system in general. This is where the standard of the presumption of innocence has historically been the ruling principle. While we need to also apply it outside of the criminal justice system—in matters such as the typical sexual harassment claim—it is imperative there. Nevertheless, we see a criminal justice system where plea bargains rule. People are routinely put under pressure to admit guilt even when they are innocent because of the costs and personal strain of navigating the legal system and the desire of prosecutors—who hold most of the cards, with the full force of the state to back them up—to put another notch in their belts without having to go to the trouble of building an air-tight case. Again, truth and integrity are dispensed with.

We have heard much about the Pennsylvania grand jury report that showed many alleged cases of clergy sexual abuse in most Catholic dioceses in the state. Even if most of the allegations are true—questions, however, have been raised about the report’s conclusions after a careful analysis by the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue—there are two basic issues that make one wonder about the intentions of the Pennsylvania attorney general who assembled the grand jury. First, grand juries are convened to determine if persons should be indicted for crimes, but the attorney general investigated allegations which were decades old and whose alleged perpetrators were either deceased or not indictable because the statute of limitations had long since run out. He knew this, but proceeded anyhow.

Well, what were his intentions? Was it simply to embarrass the Church? Since grand juries—whose traditional purpose was to protect people from false criminal charges—are nowadays notoriously dominated by prosecutors, the attorney general was probably reasonably sure he would get the result he wanted. Second, as Donohue has pointed out, why did the attorney general not investigate other institutions, such as the public school systems? As far back as 2004 a federal study highlighted the problem of sexual abuse and misconduct in public schools. Again, is truth the objective or something else? Does twisting the usual purpose of grand juries bespeak a spirit of integrity? And what about the selective targeting of the Church, when other groups and entities would seem to merit it as much or probably more? This seems especially the case considering the very tiny percentage of credible sexual abuse claims against Catholic clergy for some time now (the Catholic League reports that these have involved .005 percent of clergy in the past two years).

Throughout the entire sexual abuse scandal, the Church’s spokesmen and various members of the hierarchy have certainly not been immune to failures in integrity. Even apart from any questions of a cover-up, this is shown by the screaming reluctance to own up to the fact that this has been, as the John Jay Report indicated, mostly a homosexual scandal. This silence cannot help but to make the people in the pews wonder if either the homosexual presence in the Church is so strong as to stifle this fact or if some in Church leadership can’t bring themselves to challenge the homosexualist hammerlock on the current culture. Whatever the case and regardless of how great the institutional Church’s culpability is regarding the scandal, there is an evident problem of integrity.

Whether it’s sexual harassment, abuse, or something else, it’s troubling to see institutions making their first concern not protecting people from false allegations, or even getting to the truth, but public relations and their image. It seems as if they are often too ready to allow good, innocent people to have their names besmirched if it will deflect criticism—even if unmerited—and take the spotlight off of them. For example, we see Catholic dioceses rushing to remove the names of former bishops from buildings even if it’s not clearly established how or if they were complicit in the whole sexual abuse scandal. If an unwillingness to address the problem and be open about what happened shows a lack of integrity, so does a readiness to brand a person as ignominious just because a mob is howling about him or may start to do so.

Speaking of truth and integrity, we can hardly forget to mention a large chunk of the media. It seems that long ago basic ethics, to say nothing of professionalism, were jettisoned by many journalists, especially those who achieved prominence. Thus, we have an age of fake news, opinion posing as news reporting, and the routine spinning of or ignoring of important stories for ideological ends.

These, of course, are only some of many areas of public import that are “truth-and-integrity-challenged.” To be sure, renewal will be needed in many areas to restore a culture that has been morally devastated. Perhaps, though, we need to start with what we especially see afflicting individuals, professions, and institutions in a big way: restoring integrity. Ideology and self-interest are perhaps the major corrupting forces in all this. One of the first things a good parent tries to impress on his small child is the importance of telling the truth. It’s a lesson many people as individuals and as institutional operatives need to learn or learn again.

Stephen M. Krason

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Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He holds a J.D. and Ph.D. (political science) and an M.A. in theology/religious education and is admitted to a number of law bars, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His latest book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus. The views expressed here are, of course, his own.

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