In a moral panic?

April 28, 2010

No, one cannot miss the headlines. Although the Finnish media does tone it down a bit when pedophilia and the Catholic Church is the subject. Finns are very sanguine about most things. Anyone who discusses this issue sees it from cold and sane perspective: it has always been here, Catholics are no more prone to it than anyone else and the media is in a feeding frenzy. Can one sigh with relief: Thank God! Or is that blasphemy? A week back I wrote about a notorious NY Times hack – Lauri Goldstein  who has attacked the Church in as many positions as a fandango dancer can manage. Fair enough! If there is a wrong and injustice perpetrated against the weak, meek and defenseless, then expose it and loudly. 

 However the matter of pedophilia is not as clear cut as the liberal media makes out. First, we should ask ourselves why is now that this issue is so important? It surfaced some years ago and it fizzled out. Now new life has been breathed into the embers. But why now? Who will gain by this? Will the victims of the crimes? Will we have to raise the bodies of dead priests Why is that the mountains of injustice and worries in the world are less important? What of Mugabe and his volte-face?  Russian hegemony? The world economy? Is the Darfur issue resolved? Poverty? The Palestine Question? Beheadings of non-believers? Pollution and global warming? In an article by a young journalist (Diário dos Açores, Miguel Maurício, in Portuguese) addresses this very tricky moral issue. He throws us a few crumbs which I investigated. He points Massimo Introvigne and Philip Jenkins, an American professor and moral entrepreneurs.  

Philip Jenkins wrote “The new anti-Catholicism: the last acceptable prejudice”. In this book he makes the claim that Church bashing is acceptable to Americans, indeed a badge of honour is bestowed on those who feign bravery and attack an institution which they know full well cannot (and probably will not) defend itself. He also throws a few facts on the table: (my translation from Portuguese)

  • In 2004, an Episcopal  Conference requested  a study be carried out by John Jay College for the years 1950 to 2002, of 4392 clergy (in a total of 109,000) who were accused of improper sexual conduct with minors. Of these, a bit more than 100 were adjudged guilty in a court of law. In the other cases the issues were unclear, not legally contestable, or the clergy had since died. In some cases, the incident had occured when the child was past the age of sixteen, therefore not legally contestable in many US states. On the other hand, there were also cases in which clergymen were accused but were indeed innocent. These cases were often spearheaded by attorneys whose payout was bullion they hoped to extract from the Catholic Church if they won. (Was it not Shakespeare Henry V that Dick uttered ruefully” The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”)

Miguel Maurico takes a position on clergy pedophilia. A sane and completely normal one: out the buggers and get rid of them. Prosecute them with all legal means. The yardstick is simple: a man in authority (like Bill Clinton as President of the USA) shall not abuse his authority to procure favours, especially sexual favours, from those under his stewardship. The most vulnerable in our society, children, women, the elderly, the weak and meek shall be protected. Full stop. Period. No discussions.

Moral entrepreneurs would surely agree with this. However, these upright citizens are especially shrill when clergy and pedophilia are mentioned in the same phrase. But this shrillness is akin to moral panic.
The moral panic which is – if not now, soon – afflicting the moral entrepreneurs trying to push the Church into accepting same-sex marriage and gay rights is that gay acts between consenting adults and between adults and children is indeed muddy waters. Not for me, and not for the vast majority of people in this tiny planet of ours.

The problem with the self-righteous moral entrepreneurs is that they know better than you and me. So they will fight like pit bull terriers for their cause even if it is nothing more than a way to justify their own decadent and immoral lifestyle. The principal is simple: if everyone is injecting themselves with heroin then it must be OK.

Let us just face it: our modern society is suffering from moral turpitude.   *     No more is this apparent than in the definition of what is an homosexual act.  Sorry to tell you this but it is a relative matter.
A child under 16 (or is that 14 now?) may consent to a sexual act, in Canada and many parts of the USA. Yet, if the same act took place in Costa Rica,   **     the legal repercussions would be grave for the adult.  So, which is it? Is a sexual act with a child who is 16/14 years old minus one day a pedophilic act or an homosexual act?

One Brazilian bishop was glibly disingenious in excusing his bestiality by saying that since his sexual plaything was not a boy any longer, their sexual encounters are nothing more than a homosexual acts. So, according to this morally depraved man, it is OK to be gay but being a pedophilia is er … not OK … Sort of …  but, we should keep in ming that it is alleged that this (former, I hope) bishop had sexual encounters with the boyfriend when the lad was a minor. I may or may not like the idea that the Church accepts gays into the priesthood – it has done for 2000 years – but it is no different from the Church accepting heterosexual men into the priesthood. The rule is the same for all: keep your dicks in your cassocks.

There is a moral dilemma in view but it is the moral entrepreneurs who must do a little reflecting now.

* Would you allow your underage child to have her body tattooed? I only mention this because Saturday’s local paper -Salo Seudun Sanomat –  showed a girl of 15 proudly showing off her new dress with a large tattoo on her foot. Since she is not yet of the age of majority does the tattoo represent assault? Poor parenting skills or worse? In Common Law, the argument does not hold that you are allowed to consent to having your body mutilated – Queen vs Brown, 1992)

** A few years ago, while going walkabout in Costa Rica I could not help noticing signs posted on store fronts, at bus stops and public places announcing that it is a crime for a male adult to have sexual relations with a child under the age of majority – that is 18 years of age.

Once warned it became evident that there were many such pairs than I had at first noticed – young boys and older – often gray-haired-  men being “inappropriately” affectionate in public. I had just been in Canada in which country a law change had just made it legal for sex acts with boys as young as 16 to be expunged from the Common Law criminal law texts.

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