#MeaCulpa in a #MeToo Age
The propensity to cloak our failures by feigning innocence, claiming privilege or protecting prominence is to mask the deeper truths of our culpability and culture.
We are probably too close to the epicenter to draw too many conclusions. Feelings remain intense and hearts are still too raw from the public bruising. It’s not clear that justice has been served or even can be. Nor is it even clear how much blame we can ascribe. “Sin speaks to the sinner in his heart” — and we cannot discern the hearts of others.
But what we have been given over these past few months is a kind of modern-day morality tale. A vignette of characters who could easily serve as prompts for our own examination of conscience. On the stage are “profiles of the penitent,” a kind of triptych of iconic characters of the all-too-familiar experience of attempting to confront our regrets, our remorse, our failure – and, maybe, even our sin.
Stage left stands The Innocent. The tousle-headed fifty-something with the teen-something voice. So sensitive, so fragile, so “collaborative,” so attentive to the needs of others. Who can imagine anything other than Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm at that time of life when “cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town,” traipsing the halls of the haute couture of private prep school. What could there possibly be for conscience to examine? Me too – too small, too naïve, too innocent to be taken as a self-directed person of moral integrity. How often we cloak ourselves in a self-congratulatory narrative of the purest motives, missing the chance for grace to penetrate, “between the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow.” Nothing to confess here; I was just going along like everybody else; and everybody can’t be sinful.
Stage right, The Indignant. The coiffed fifty-something with the bellicose bark. So disciplined, so careful, so indignant. Who can imagine anything other than one of the Hardy Boys on a mission? His life was so full of promise and he was determined to make sure that life kept it. What could there possibly be for conscience to examine? Me too—too important, too deserving, too much to lose over such petty foibles about respect and self-mastery. How often we insist that we have observed all the rules from our youth and from this posture of pride demand our due reward? Nothing to confess here; I was just going along like everybody else; and everybody can’t be sinful.
It would be enough for a lifetime of study in fallen human nature to reflect on these two paths chosen, but God in his patience has given us a third:
Center stage, The Cleric. A silver-haired, manicured man with the mellifluous voice. Draped in the finery of ecclesial power and prestige. What could there possibly be for conscience to examine? He speaks in honeyed tones and hovers above the fray, a prince among men, rich with prestige and importance. Me too—too special, too blessed, too privileged, too much to protect. How often do we allow our status to mask our failure? Nothing to confess here; I was just going along like everybody else; and everybody, especially when everybody includes the Church, can’t be sinful.
It would be wrong to assume a moral equivalency in each of these instances and rash to draw too many hasty conclusions. But, perhaps there is a lesson this triptych can teach us: everybody is sinful. And the propensity to cloak our failures by feigning innocence, claiming privilege or protecting prominence is to mask the deeper truths of our culpability and culture.
The sexual revolutionaries have sold us a false narrative, one that we were, no doubt, eager to buy: that disordered sexual behavior is not something we cultured elites can admit. It is the one thing that refuses a “me too” moniker. And so it gets a pass when it comes to those who choose to dwell in feigned innocence; it is tolerated among those who claim privilege; and it is simply too sordid to be admitted among those who are prestigious.
The ideology of the so-called liberation was supposed to make chastity appear primitive, something only the naïve and repressed cared about. To admit that the darkest desires lie at the heart of our own consciences would be to admit to being all too ordinary, all too common, maybe even one of them. Not so innocent; not so privileged; not so prominent after all.
Sin and its devastation, in other words, does not attract a “me too,” hashtag; however, its provenance is every human heart. Should it need a hashtag to garner popularity, perhaps “#meaculpa” might do.