Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Priestly Sex Abuse and the Concept of Innocence

I haven't weighed in on the matter of sex abuse in the Catholic Church because it seemed I'd wind up with a lot of pointless me-tooism (just for the record, this forum opposes priestly pederasty). I do have a tentative thought now, though--tentative in the respect that it's not yet fully formedt, and also in the sense that I wouldn't be surprised has already done it better, and I've just missed it.

That is: can it be that one source of the priestly fascination with children is the Church's own (to me, very odd) obsession with innocence, and in particular, the innocent babe?

I don't know of any other society or culture that so prizes the virtue of creatures who are, when you get right down to it, too young to embody either virtue or vice. Aristotle would have explained that virtue is an achievement; it needs to be cultivated and it doesn't come easy. In the Aristotelian vein, I've never understood how "being too young to be bad" translates into "being good."

Of course countless Madonna-and-childs(many quite breathtaking) plus a whole library of exegesis tells me that I'm wrong. So be it; but the suggestion here is that maybe in a culture that so prizes the innocence of youth, the sexual attractiveness of the child is a plausible (if not a necessary) next step--?

Fn., out of the great welter of commentary on this topic, let me showcase two. One, Andrew Sullivan explaining why the problem is emphatically not one of "homosexuals in the clergy" (shorter Andrew: one, this is not about sex, it's about abuse of power; and two, the Church is structured in such a way as to attract the most unsuitable gays). And two, E. D. Kahn, (channeling Brendan O'Neill) on "the cult of the victim." An unsympathetic reader will infer that Kahn (and O'Neill) are saying they like the "old athiests" better than they new because they were more tolerant of predation. They aren't saying that although I do think they are adverting indirectly to one unspeakable implicit point: the fact is, some among those who are predated upon are simply not all that damaged by the experience: they shrug it off and get on with their lives.

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