And who will mind the minders?

The world is (have you heard?) full of injustice and corruption. It extends even to me. But I’d rather focus on other people.

Greed and self-interest are often given as explanations. Violence is explained by passion and a cause. Crimes that appear to be pointless, actions that seem remorselessly perverse, invite the question, “Why? Why?” We will do anything except confront the question of evil directly, and would rather consider sin as exceptional. We are told, in the face of bitter evidence, that people are naturally good.

And there is good in them, even virtues often corresponding to their vices (and vice versa). A delicate point, in the old Catholic teaching about human weakness, is to acknowledge sin to oneself and to a priest in persona Christi — the same who sings the Mass. The concept is plain enough, and for the sceptical and distrusting, the psychology makes sense, too.

Confessing to yourself is only a preparation. No Absolution can come of it.

But from those who do not recognize sin as a category, much oppression can be expected. For those who disbelieve in divine justice — who think that if they escape discovery they are home free — there can be no restraints. There is the voice of one’s God-installed conscience, but this can be tampered with, twisted and inverted. We are, for the most part, governed today not by those haunted with faith, but by self-proclaimed “idealists” — those whose ends are essentially totalitarian, and for whom ends justify means. They are invariably haunted by the lust for power.

My view on this topic is unmodern. It includes the phenomenon of demonic inhabitation. I do not think Christ was kidding, throughout the Gospels, when he mentioned this phenomenon, too. We make our little deals with the Devil, and some make big deals. We may even thank God for the Devil’s help, in our moral confusion. Our criterion for virtue becomes worldly success.

To make a stand against the Devil, first in oneself through self-examining humility, then by extension through love of one’s neighbour, is a challenge before each. Evil must be confronted and the occasions of evil avoided when they can be avoided. With Christ’s help, the Devil can be defeated. This has been the teaching for a long, long time.

“Censorship” of many kinds is necessary to this end, both of oneself and at large. Practically, there is much that cannot be stopped, but can at least be discouraged, and ought to be condemned. There is no society in which censorship is not practised, as evidence our present in which, more often than not, the good is censored (not only by governments), and where miscarriages of justice have become commonplace (not only in courts). Often it seems the Devil is in charge, and his servants have captured all of the administrative positions.

Hence the old (and reasonable) liberal saw, “Who will mind the minders?”

This will always be “a problem,” so long as we live in this sinful world. We will always find corruption in high places, even as we now find it spreading like a fire, at the top of our Church. The thoroughly corrupt make poor censors, and worse law-givers.

Everything in this human world is a mess, and so far as I have read, always has been. Still, we cannot give up the struggle to be good ourselves, and put men both good and competent in charge of what needs doing. That task begins with knowing what the good is, and loving instead of fearing it.

There is no way around this: repairing what is broken and maintaining what is not. And so we must get on with it. Pray for angelic guidance.


(See my Thing column today, here, also promoting censorship.)