Over the past few years, we’ve all seen articles advising people what to do in an active shooter situation. The advice usually goes, “run, hide, fight.” But many articles point out that the biggest challenge for responding to a crisis isn’t necessarily knowing what to do, but overcoming “normalcy bias.” What is normalcy bias? It is the mental state people tend to enter when faced with a rare and disastrous situation. It is the tendency to deny the possibility that something disastrous is occurring. Even though the evidence points to something very, very bad happening, because we’ve never experienced it before, we assume it can’t really be happening. Thus, many people upon hearing a gunshot will first want to believe it is just a car backfiring. They can’t accept that they are in the midst of a crisis and need to react accordingly.
Normalcy bias is prevalent in any crisis. During the rise of Nazi Germany, the idea that Hitler was historically evil was simply too horrible to consider. So many Germans didn’t strongly oppose his rise to power. Normalcy bias has also been a primary factor in many Catholics’ reaction to the crisis in the Church today. We want to believe all is well, even if the evidence strongly suggests it is not. Nowhere is this bias more prevalent than with the pontificate of Francis.