MEA CULPA and #METOO
Although some six and a half centuries have separated the Latin phrase “Mea Culpa” and the nascent #MeToo movement, the two share more in common than one might realize. With Pope Francis pontificating contrition for the irreparable damage priests have inflicted on minors, and innumerable females revealing the unconscionable shameful acts that they claim have been perpetrated against them by disgusting and reprehensible males, perhaps it’s time to look at meaningful remorse and genuine contrition.
At the risk of being struck by a bolt of lightning, I have come to the conclusion that our sages were dead wrong as far as what they had to say about atonement and Yom Kippur. How dare they differentiate between sins against HaShem and sins against another human! Either way, HaShem was wronged!
Immediately prior to the litany of “Baruch Atah’s” that introduce the Shacharit morning service, there is a 5 ½ line prayer beginning with the words: “My G-d! The soul You have given me is pure.” As one who takes this prayer so very seriously, I maintain that prior to any apology to victims, the “despicables” – those who have violated minors in the case of clergy and those who have violated women in the case of any number of males – ought to be asking “mechilah and selichah (forgiveness and purgation) from HaShem for having sullied the pure neshomeh (soul) that HaShem entrusted to them. Clergy who cause irreparable damage on minors and males who behave in unacceptable ways with females are an affront to their creator!
A pox on Freud with his farshtinkeneh “pleasure principle.” How very pathetic is the idea that pain and pleasure are the sum total of our existence! All too often throughout the ages, pain and pleasure have played themselves out in pathetic individuals who lamely resort to the excuse, “I can’t help myself.” A beheimah (animal) can’t help itself. Humans are expected to help themselves. Violators of minors and women have sunk to levels lower than any beheimah, in that a beheimeh acts out of instinct. Violators of minors and women act out machinations. Rather than being guided by any pleasure principle, a human being, or rather a humane being, ought to be guided by the “right and wrong” principle. There are certain things that are plain wrong, shameful and detestable. And no, when it comes to male-female relationships, men do not have a monopoly on that which is wrong, shameful and detestable. Such behavior pervades females as well.
Last, but not least, despite all the marvelous inventions that continue to flood the market, no one has yet to come up with a device that measures sincerity. Religion has taught us to show remorse and contrition; society has conditioned us to apologize to those whom we have wronged. Yet, apologies are often vacuous and meaningless, especially when the apology comes from the Pope and not the priest who committed the dastardly act. Apologies are often hollow and worthless, especially when they come from the violator’s lawyer, or from a family spokesman, instead of from the violator. Sad to say, there have been more than a few occasions when apologies have benefited the perpetrator more than the victim, for it is perpetrator who has gained expiation while the victim continues to live with the scars.
Only when the violator shows contrition and remorse before G-d for sullying the pure soul given to him… Only when the violator dedicates time and resources to either help victims or to work with other violators to get them to understand how low they have fallen… Only then will any strides be made toward hopefully seeing much less need for Mea Culpa and #MeToo.