Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Deliver Us: Concerning Victimhood

Deliver Us...A Religious Cult Versus Richmond, NH, by A.I. Metayer. This is an obscure book, of mostly local interest, that a commenter alerted me to when I posted about Saint Benedict Center  and the Richmond 12. It is not the sort of book one reviews, in the traditional sense, as it was not written to win a Pulitzer or further an authorial career, but to tell a series of episodes in which the writer believes injustice was done.  It is hard to give a fair, quick, summary of the situation and it’s not my main point, but a little is necessary to make myself clear. SBC is an unauthorised* Catholic splinter group, which bought property in tiny Richmond, NH and proceeded to build a compound, repeatedly exceeding the building permissions the town had granted. The group would sign conditional agreements, not live up to its conditions, then request more variances and conditional permissions. The town handled it badly, perhaps merely wishing for a lack of controversy in the hope that everything would settle down eventually.  Richmond did not hold SBC accountable, and in signing new agreements with new conditions, ratified the previous failures of the group to install safety features or improve roads and removing the town’s legal basis for objections to the earlier infractions. This went on for years, with townspeople and abutters growing increasingly irate and moved to prevent further expansion.

The book is therefore only partly focused on the legal issues, and a good deal of space is spent explaining

  1. The SBC believes some bad things, such as Holocaust** minimising.  This is true, and examples are provided, but some of the objections show that the writer (and likely some townspeople) does not fully understand religious groups in general.  That SBC does not agree with some other things which general secular culture accepts is not sufficient proof of badness for me.  All advocacy groups disapprove of something that someone-or-other is doing.
  2. The SBC didn’t keep their word, doesn’t seem to be charitable outside its circle, made insulting and intemperate accusations, and answers evasively when cornered, both collectively and individually.  These seem to be largely true, but not illegal.  If the point is to convince me that SBC doesn’t act as it should, then the author succeeds.
  3. Saint Benedict Center isn’t authorised to call itself Roman Catholic, according to the Bishop of NH and historically, papal authority. True, and good to know, but not illegal.

The fascinating part to me is the tone and language of SBC in their quoted statements. (For any SBC readers: Hey, I didn't make you take this tone.  You chose it.  Own it.) Regardless of whether the events in Richmond or the events in the world are being discussed, they clearly see themselves as the victims. These modernist Catholics are against them, the townspeople of Richmond are against them, just about everyone, it seems, is against them “because they are traditional Catholics.” Rubbish.  They are only traditional Catholics in a twisted sense.  Not everyone is going to like you or agree with you, and not all disagreements are 100% everyone else’s fault.

Longtime readers might recognise that this last point is of particular importance to me.  The more deeply pathological people are, the more they are certain that absolutely none of the fault is against their score. Ultimately, it is the perpetual victimhood of criminals and narcissists, that cannot allow there is even a 1% chance they are 1% wrong.  Stalin, as an example, believed he was the victim of the starving Ukrainian peasants, who wanted so desperately to discredit him that they would even starve themselves to death rather than admit his enforcement of collectivisation was a better idea.  Hitler did not see himself as a an aggressor, but as a lone defender against the worldwide Jewish conspiracy.  SBC is orders of magnitude less pathological, certainly, but the tone is the same.  That they did not live up to their permit agreements, that they repeatedly moved beyond what was allowed even as they promised not to, that they made insulting comments about their neighbors, these things are never mentioned. It’s all those others against them.

It is related to paranoia, and the genesis is similar.  The feeling of victimhood, like the paranoid interpretation, comes first, and then goes looking for an explanation that validates it. They are first driven by the whine, not the divine.  Victimhood is a pose of weakness that is actually a cover for inordinate retribution.  Being thin-skinned and attuned to small sleights and being “disrespected” is a prelude for revenge. We have all heard guys who say, “I’m not looking for a fight, but if anyone messes with me…” Yeah, dude, you’re looking for a fight.

That the Southern Poverty Law Center calls them a hate group moves me not at all.  I might even wonder if it’s a point in their favor, actually.  But merely accusing SPLC of being a hate group itself isn’t much of a counterargument.  Telling yourselves  “they all just hate traditional Catholics” is lame. And revealing.

Here is a final irony: Feeneyites take an essentially Protestant, rather than Roman Catholic approach to doctrine and history.  They read the documents and say to each other “Well, we know what the obvious meaning of that is. We can tell what’s up here.”  How is that different from Luther’s approach?  Feeney was invited to discuss things with the Vatican.  He (and similarly, Coughlin) took the very American approach that they were able to not only opine for himself what true Catholic dogma is, but decide what it is. I would recommend to them a more traditionally Catholic approach at 2 Peter 1:20-21
 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

*These Feeneyites maintain that they are the real Catholics, and they have taken the URL catholicism.org - which seems more than a little presumptuous. People looking for info on Catholics in general might be surprised.  Not my problem to solve, I guess.

** This gets predictable.  The fascists and communists of the mid-century continually portrayed themselves as the only viable anticommunist or antifascist camps.  You showed your bonafides by gravitating to an extreme. But by WWII both had a hatred of Jews and killed lots of them.  Later, both tried to say it was some other guys, and not so many Jews died anyway. They bequeathed Holocaust minimising, or even denial, to their descendant groups. Feeney was deeply antisemitic “Those two powers, the chief two in the world today, are Communism and Zionism. That both movements are avowedly anti-Christian, and that both are in origin and direction Jewish, is a matter of record." (September 1958)
"As surely and securely as the Jews have been behind Freemasonry, or Secularism, or Communism, they are behind the “anti-hate” drive. The Jews are advocating tolerance only for its destructive value — destructive, that is, of the Catholic Church. On their part, they still keep alive their racial rancors and antipathies." (January 1959)


james said...

Feenyism = modern Montanists? I guess that poor thief on the cross was disappointed--no baptism available, so no paradise.

I read about this sort of chip-on-the-shoulder victimhood recently in Chicagoboyz's Sgt. Mom history Fridays.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

An excellent example. The second part is tedious to get to, but is here http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/37527.html

The comments, now closed are an excellent illustration. Mr. Rees had some good points. He obscured, and then thoroughly undermined them with his uh, take-no-prisoners comments.

The watcher said...

Well thought out post. Would you, as an outsider, be willing to submit this to The Richmond Rooster, our monthly town newsletter? It is online at therichmondrooster@yahoo.com.