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Are they culpable - guilty by association?

This is a 2-minute scene from the critically acclaimed movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017).

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VictoriaNotes 9 Mar 13

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I'd like to say "no" because I know a lot of priests personally and I like them just fine, and their reasons for joining the gang priesthood were generally to do some good — but I'm unable to wash that slate entirely clean because this is a problem that has been around for a very long time and has been known by church officials for just as long. When I was an altar server, my parents didn't tell me of the issue of sexual molestation — but in retrospect I saw their concern if I was ever too close to a priest or was alone with a priest for any significant amount of time; I just didn't know why. So, while I wouldn't claim the culpability is equal to that of the Crips and Bloods, I'd say it's there and it's significant. I never recall hearing of any priest blowing the whistle on another priest who was abusing a child. Protection of the Church was paramount, and clergy weren't stepping up and righting the wrongs, protecting the helpless, upholding the moral virtues they espouse.


After seeing the clip it reminded me of something I saw on YouTube some time ago....It's only about 6:30 long and has some strong language but I think it applies to this post.

Wow! His last comment pretty much said it all. Good find, Paul, thanks for sharing.

@VictoriaNotes I can't believe I remembered it with my Swiss Cheese brain. lol

I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. In my childhood, I was taught that the RCC is THE ONE TRUE RELIGION! If it is, then that fact alone proves Christianity is BS! I agree with the statement from the reporter, "it's a MAFIA!" The RCC priesthood is not any better than organized crime!

@Dispirited, i'd just put you on my fave list 🙂

emotionally i am soooo on the commentator's page, with the conclusion: fuck all authority!


If I know somebody who killed somebody and didn't report guilty by association. Hands down. That's exactly what's going on in the Catholic church


I'm going to have to put that movie on my to watch list.


I'd include in that all Roman Catholic Church members. You give your money to an organization that has done what Catholic priests have done, "You're culpable!" Thanks for sharing this Victoria.

Thanks for watching. I doubt most priests believe in hell -- eternal punishment, but they teach it to their flock and that impacts the fear centers of the brain. I remember having the sh*t scared out of me when I was a kid, and it had a lasting impression well into adulthood. Until Vatican II, we were taught that if you belonged to any other denomination you are bound for hell. I think it's a bit of a gray area when it comes to members being culpable -- depending on how indoctrinated they are with regard to the RCC's teachings.


Maybe... I think complicit is a more accurate term.

I voted yes but agree with you that complicit might apply here.


I don't think anyone want to take responsibility for anything anymore. Other wise the NRA would have to shoulder the blame for putting out horrible weapons with their only purpose to inflict maximum destruction, and no ability to define another purpose. However what she was talking about in the gang culpability was just another extension of the Jim Crow attack on black people. Funny/not funny how churches, the NRA, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, water poisoners, food poisoners, or basically any other industry has ever been held to such a concept of their complicite responsability.


Love this film. the actress is in a good film called fargo based on a real story too


I'm voting maybe because, as I've seen a lot in Utah,a lot of people aren't really given a choice in their lives about religion. Part of that, sadly, is that they've never reached a point of understanding that what the church does could be wrong. They're taught/brainwashed to the point where they aren't in a position to understand. Now, that's your bottom level believer, who is completely indocrinated and is not in a position to be exposed to the truth and understand it.
The higher you go the more complicit or culpable you are.

In Utah the average child doesnt understand that they can question things. The elders (returned missionaries) are in a place where they've been exposed to the world in such a way that many christians are, which is "There are people who say the church is wrong, and they're satan tempting you" etc. At this point they SHOULD be willing to hear the truth and respond to it.

Further up you have your bishops (priests). Unfortunately, these ****ers are often the ones people report sexual assault and abuse to, and they're the ones telling women that they shouldn't be complaining, that their rapists are "good people" and "shouldn't be judged". They're bastards and at this level they absolutely know what they're doing is wrong.

Now, what about the bishops who aren't straight up evil? eople that want to do the right thing but are still indocrinated? Like Resserts answered already (I love his answer, people should read it if they haven't!) people who are on the same level, and know of the abuse and awfulness have a moral responsibility to say something. At this point they have a responsibility to protect their people and act in accordance with the morality they espouse. I don't believe they're bad people, but they're afraid. Afraid of standing out or getting excommunicated, and it sucks to be in that position. I get the fear, and I'm sympathetic to it. But people are hurting and they need someone to be on their side. That's the whole good point to religion is to help people. Its the only good point. If people are failing to do that, then there is no point at all to it.

Then you've got the higher level people (Quorum and presidents and executives in the LDS church, cause you've gotta have a freakin "Quorum of the Twelve" yes im serious) who are fully aware of what's going on, and have the power to stop it but they don't want to lose any influence by actually admitting any wrongdoing. They're the people hell would be for if it existed.

Well said, but one additional point. If someone doesn't report immoral or criminal behaviour and / or chooses to stay in an organization that hides immoral or criminal behaviour they are culpable for those immoral or criminal acts, regardless of the reason they choose to stay.

This is true!


No definately not for the crime that was committed. I can't hold anyone culpable for a crime, they themselves didn't commit. However, there is another entirely seperate question. Are they accessories to the crime? The answer to that is, YES! "IF" they continue to support the organization that facilitated the crime.


For me, it is here we go, can of worms time. Yes, I agreed they are culpable. These priests, Bishope, Cardinals and the Pope know what is going on and they look the other way (what else can they do except leave). I had a good friend who was raised in a Catholic Seminary in England. After HS he was told that to go on to college level he would have to sign a paper saying he would agree to being ordained. He said he had too many questions. He looked around and saw that those agreeing were usually the simple types that didn't questiion much. He did leave but as he got older (and heavier and balder) he has reembraced his faith. This addresses the culpable part. I thought I would link to the site because it is an interesting place. I have been there. []

My question is what about things outside of religion in which we are all involved that can also make us culpable. Our lifestyles will and do create harm somewhere and even thought we may try and learn and attempt to modify our behavior we cannot escape our own person responsibilities. Life in the 21st century has made it almost impossible for a person to live a life and not do serious damage somewhere. It is a real conundrum and, for me, it hurts.


Of course they are culpable especially the bishops and those higher up in their gang of thieves and perv's. Most priest receive extensive training in pschology and reading people by their responses, posture, verbal inflection and body language so, I am highly doubtful that most are not aware of the character of their fellow priests.


By the same logic then, all Christians are guilty of the wholesale slaughter of Jews by Pope Urban II before the Crusades, and the slaughter of pagans by Charlemagne, and the genocide of Indians in the new world, and Hitler's final solution, etc… But justice is the intrest of the stronger.

jeffy Level 7 Mar 13, 2018

Well, we can open up a whole new can of worms with this comment. I denounced Christianity several years before I became a nonbeliever because I did not want to be associated with the immoral and unethical teachings.

Also, many people throughout history became Christians because they were forced to, or indoctrinated as children. As @resserts pointed out, he's never recalled hearing of any priest blowing the whistle on another priest who was abusing a child. Have you?

As Roy Speckhard with the American Humanist Association stated: "Sexual abuse occurs not only because of the specifics of a sexually repressive religious doctrine, but because the leaders of the religious community are given extraordinary power over their followers and are nearly immune to prosecution for their crimes because of the emphasis by those religious communities on handling criminal matters in religious courts.

As human beings, we must feel for the plight of the victims and work to ensure that religious courts have no legal authority to protect criminal behavior."

@VictoriaNotes No, never heard about any ratting on another. It is a very odd assumption that asexuality would somehow make a priest or a nun more wise and better than others. I suppose it is supposed to speak to their ability to avoid the temptations of the flesh. What strange ideas people get.


No, these laws are likely a hard line approach to ward their community against the spreading of conduct.

The reason I say no is:
I am atheist, some atheists murder and rape, I'm not responsible for what some atheists do.

Any man of the religious cloth is a deceiver and guilty of something, as long as he is not guilty of the crime it would be unethicle to punish him for it.

I have to disagree. I have not seen the movie, so I don't know who that priest is or what happened in the priests' church.

But if that priest was the head of a church, and that church was known, or found to be, harbouring other priests who abused children, the head priest could be culpable if he had been found to have knowledge of the abuse.

A group such as atheists is too large that, of course, one atheist can't be guilty by association of another atheists' crimes.

A small group such as a parish will not have more than half a dozen members. A head priest, one or two priests, a brother, and then a helper person, maybe. The size of a small street gang.

EDIT: of course, the head priest can't be guilty of the same crimes as the abusers. But it's likely that there are other crimes that he could be charged with - obstruction of justice is one, in the head priest was known to have protected or hidden abusers.

Being a nonbeliever is not the same as being a priest who is aware of sexual child abuse, doesn't report it to authorities outside the church, and continues to draw a paycheck.

If your child was raped by a priest, and other priests knew about it and didn't do a damn thing about it, would you still think they were undeserving of accountability?

The point being that if they are innocent, don't spread guilt.

If you cover up a crime that's a crime, but not the same crime.

My point here is just that we can't hold all of x responsible for what some of x does.
If some of x helps other x's commit crimes then all involved x's are guilty, but not all x's in general.

Your edit is correct, but that is tailgating. Guilt must be evidenced before pronounced.

@x0lineage0x Do you think they were totally ignorant of the fact that child rape was systemic in the RCC and also unaware that the church was covering up and protecting these felons?

The point being made is that someone who actively supports and pushes the agenda of an organization that is known to be involved in criminal acts is responsible for those criminal acts.

You as an individual are not responsible for the criminal acts of another individual even if you are both atheist. There is no criminal organization involved there.

@icolan Thumbs up

@VictoriaNotes Do you think anyone involved with an organization is criminally responsible for anything that might be done in or by that organization, even though they may not have specific information or no knowledge of any confirmed wrong doing?

@x0lineage0x You didn't answer my question.

@x0lineage0x Child molestation, rape, and abuse have been a systemic part of the Catholic Priesthood for decades that we know of, quite possible a lot longer. With the church's exercised ability to hide perpetrators by moving them to other churches, it is very unlikely that most priests were not aware of something, even if it was only accusations that seemed to follow other priests. Anyone who is actively involved in an organization is ethically bound to investigate such behaviour.

How long do you think a priest would last if he had started asking questions of his superiors about why a known molester was allowed to stay in the priesthood?

These are the things that make it a criminal organization, no different than the mafia. These are also the things that should be sufficient to force a moral, ethical person to abandon the organization entirely, if not denounce it publicly.


Wow. A part of me want sto say yes, but I also see it as what happens if the shoe is ever on the other foot? Meaning, if the goernment ever turns theocratic, and it becomes illegal to ba and theist (as i sht ecase in some countries), woudl I want to be held cuplable for wha tother atheists do?

The fairness of holdign one cuupable depends on where the lines are drawn to determihne what society says is right or wrong.

If a person is a part of a church that hides pedophiles, and they know the church is doign that, even if they dont' agree with it, then it seems they have some responsibility. Howeer our morality is not defined well enough to determine jus thow much responsibility, and we live in a society where a person is innocent until proven guilty, which is the best systen (so far) that best insures that the innocent are not falsely imprisoned.

I checked off "Maybe", because i think there is soem respo9nsbility if a person is a part of a group where they know wrong doign is going on, but I simply do nto feel wise enough to know where to draw the lines to dtermine who is cuplable and for how much.


i have to say "yes" - it's like feeding the bird something that makes her sick, not knowing that, but instead with the intent of doing good. i am still guilty of the bird's unwellness.

ignorance doesn't prevent guilt.


Wow! Very powerful.
I, personally, could not align myself with an organization known to commit such atrocities. However, as long as the clergy member is innocent of such behavior and makes efforts against it, I would not hold them personally responsible. Even though I do not believe in their dogma, I do respect their right to believe it.


I think they are culpable -- to an extent -- ONCE they are aware of it and then don't agitate credibly for change, and beyond some point I think they'd have to bail altogether if the organization remains corrupt. I know I would.

But I answered No because I don't literally believe that, say, a priest who has never laid a hand on anyone is equally as guilty as a priest that has. Or that the nice couple next door to me are guilty of or even complicit in "boy fucking" because they donate to and support their local parish. Particularly since they actively feed the homeless, etc., through extensive involvement in Catholic Charities. That is a needle for them to thread. I know they are extremely disturbed by the scandals and have given serious consideration to exiting. They haven't as yet, because in part I think they believe they can still change it for the better from the inside. I don't agree with them on that, it is far too corrupt for there to be real hope of that. But I'm not Catholic and I leave that to the conscience of individual Catholics.

I don't find the laws the character in this clip is citing about the L.A. gangs to be fair to non-participants and it seems to me that such laws would result in a lot of people being falsely accused / imprisoned. I understand the impulse behind such notions of course, but feel it's an exagerated notion of complicity that does more harm than good to society.


There's not quite enough context, here. Belonging to an organization does not immediately grant you culpability for all acts of that organization. Defense and support of that organization with knowledge of those acts does. The gangs...well, I suppose that knowing who in the gang did something, and shielding them, imparts some culpability. But not as much as actually committing the crime. It's a lesser culpability.


They would be culpable if they knew of the actions and knowingly did nothing to change it for the better.

Just because a person is religious does not mean they are a bad person. Just misguided.


I think the culpability example she used regarding California street gang law is a false equivalence to any random priest. The gang law states "with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, as defined in subdivision E of Section 186.22 , and who willfully promotes, furthers, assists, or benefits from any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang is guilty of conspiracy to commit that felony and may be punished as specified in subdivision A of Section 182 .


Do you think that they furthered the church by keeping quiet, supported the bishops in moving the criminals to other parishes, who continued to rape children, and benefited from not reporting the felonious criminal conduct (job security)?

@VictoriaNotes I don't care about the church so they couldn't go any lower in my opinion. But here is evidence that the leader of this corrupt institution thinks it hurt his church. I was merely pointing out another example of Hollywood's lack of precision. 🙂

@kensmile4u "Recently, however, Australia's royal commission has called for clergy to face criminal charges if they learn of abuse in confession and fail to report it."

Thanks for sharing the article. This is encouraging. Way to go, Australia. Meanwhile:

"Priests don’t have to report sexual abuse, Louisiana Supreme Court rules"


I agree, it is a false equivalence for the average priest, but not for any one at the level of bishop or above and not for any priest who was aware of even one instance of abuse.

She is my favorite actress by the way.

@VictoriaNotes That Louisiana ruling will probably hold in the US Supreme Court due to the "free exercise clause" in the first amendment. And kudos to Australia!

@kensmile4u Yeah, you're probably right. "Religous freedom" trumps child abuse.

@VictoriaNotes I like the double entendre with Trump in your sentence. Very apropos! 🖐

@kensmile4u 😉


Love it just think all clergy will be in jail with Bubba/Bubbett as their cell mates.


I loved that movie so much!

Deb57 Level 8 Mar 18, 2018

those gang laws sound so american. only a cock eyed politician could come up with something so mean [ and probably rascist]. there are plenty of good clergy, as there are gangsters

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