What Zero Tolerance should mean, and what it actually means

Zero Tolerance should mean no tolerance of real abuse. One strike, yer out. All that. However, in real life “zero tolerance” has tended to metastasize into no tolerance of imaginary abuse, including “point a chicken McNugget at a school mate in a threatening manner” and other looniness. If we think, in the present mood of hysteria, that this cannot happen to thousands of priests or ecclesial types (church workers, youth ministers, whatever), we’re dreaming. For example, Fr. Dale Fushek of Life Teen recently revealed he had to settle an “abuse” charge when I will bet money the guy was simply being his typically outgoing self (we’ve met and he’s a good guy) and had a hug or whatever misinterpreted by some hypersensitive person who chose to sue. Why’d he settle? Because you’re guilty unless you prove your innocent. And when you are running a ministry called “Life Teen” you just need one smear as a pervert and your life’s work is ruined. So you settle. “Zero tolerance” means “open season” for anybody who wants to construe a slap on the butt during a basketball game as “harrassment” if it follows the same pattern as the Chicken McNugget-heads out there have taken it.

Zero tolerance for proven cases of real abuse. Fine with me. Zero tolerance as a slogan for hysterical people. Baaaaad idea.