The passive voice

The passive voice

Here’s more from Cardinal Law’s deposition:

    MACLEISH: Okay. Then this document goes on to say:

    “Priest went to St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland in February of 1995 for an evaluation. His bishop attended the feedback session, along with Father Flatley. The diagnosis included ephebophilia, alcoholism and sustained full remission. The Institute felt the priest was not able to be totally open about his sexual history. It is highly likely there were more victims than the priest remembers.”

    Based on the protocols that existed and practices that existed back in 1986, would it have been part of the practice in the Boston Archdiocese to have a priest coming into the Archdiocese who had allegations against him assessed to determine whether or not he would be a risk to children here if he was put into service?

    LAW: Well, as you know, the policy evolved, and the policy of not receiving people with problems is—I mean, the challenge of that review of a person coming from outside is initially handled, and has been for some years—I can’t—by the form that we asked to be filled out.

What? I can’t even understand that answer. A friend comments on the final sentence:

    In the grand scheme of things it’s a minor point, but when you’re using the passive voice compulsively—in an effort to avoid any discussion of responsibility—you come up with some funny formulations.

    Like: “the form that we asked to be filled out.”

    Who’s doing the asking? “we”—the archdiocese.
    Who are they asking? “the form.”
    What are they asking “the form” to do? “be filled out.”

    I have a vivid mental image of the cardinal and a few chancery aides standing around his office, preparing to open a file folder. Their eyes are tightly closed; their fingers are crossed. And they’re whispering: “Please… Please… Be filled out; be filled out.”