In reading the cases of sexual abuse, I pity the victims, but I often pity the abusers, who are often psychopaths on a straight path to hell. They must be punished, both to affirm justice and to waken them to the enormity of their acts. Punishment is necessary for justice, and justice is necessary if the universe is to be rational and life is to be worth living (see this blog). But only a psychopath can inflict pain, even necessary pain, without feeling anything.
When I awake at three in the morning from troubled dreams after working on cases of sexual abuse, I turn to the sermons of John Chrysostom. In his Sermon 43 on Acts, he has these thoughts:
Let us have a soul apt to sympathize, let us have a heart that knows how to feel with others in their sorrows; no unmerciful temper, no inhumanity.
God punishes, and shall I grieve for those that He is punishing? Year, verily: for God Himself that punishes wishes this: since neither does He Himself wish to punish, nay, even Himself grieves when punishing.
We see men–slayers, wicked men, suffering punishment, and we are distressed, and grieve for them. Let us not be philosophical beyond measure: let us show ourselves pitiful, that we may be pitied; there nothing equal to this beautiful trait: nothing so much marks us the stamp of human nature as the showing pity, as the being kind to our fellow-man.
It is this sympathy, this empathy, this feeling for the sufferings of others that abusers (and bishops) almost universally lacked. Research is being done on whether brain structure affects the ability to feel empathy, and there is more and more evidence that it does. I wonder whether they psychology tests that are being given to prospective seminarians are misdirected: they should not be looking so much for sexual disorders as for signs of psychopathy. I wish prospective bishops also had to undergo such tests.