What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.



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04/28/02 12:30pm link

Hoist In It's Own Peter. I have long had the same level of esteem for the Catholic Church as I have for any corporation in the business of marketing lies to the gullible, not to mention one that uses its considerable power to subvert women's rights in particular and human rights in general. Which is to say, not much. To my mind, the Church is simply one of the world's oldest, largest and most successful criminal organizations.

Cardinal Francis George
So while I was pleased to see the Church caught up in a rather delicious sex scandal, I hadn't really paid much attention to the details. Priests molesting children, priests seducing teenagers, it all seems grist for the mill - although the cover-up is more revealing than the crime. Move along, I thought, nothing much to see here.

But this morning on Meet The Press, Tim Russert played a clip in which Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago said:

There is a difference between a moral monster like Geoghan who preys upon little children and does so in a serial fashion, and someone who, perhaps under the influence of alcohol, engages in an action with a seventeen or sixteen year old young woman, who returns his affection.
Exactly right, I thought. Child abuse, sexual or otherwise, is indefensible, but the notion that a sixteen or seventeen year old is inherently unable to legitimately consent to sex with an older person is ridiculous. So will the Cardinal next recommend the reduction of the insanely high "age of consent" numbers enshrined in the laws of many states?

Tim Russert
Not so fast. Here is what Mr. Russert said to Cardinal George after playing the clip:

Is not a priest who preys upon a sixteen year old girl a moral monster?
Pity the poor Cardinal. What could he say but "yes"? Of course, he was right the first time and wrong in his response to Mr. Russert, who used the word "prey" to mean "has sex with". One could have wished that Cardinal George had the courage of his convictions, as expressed in the earlier quote (and expanded upon here), and that he would stand up and say that there is nothing particularly monstrous about an older adult having consensual sex with a sixteen year old man or woman. After all, even the cardinals' communiqué from the recent Vatican meeting makes the point that such a relationship is not equivalent to pedophilia:
Pope John Paul II
3) Even if the cases of true pedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few, all the participants recognized the gravity of the problem. In the meeting, the quantitative terms of the problem were discussed, since the statistics are not very clear in this regard. Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia.
Amusing, isn't it? When it suits its purposes, the Catholic Church is clearly able to discern the not-so-subtle distinction between "true pedophilia" and "cases involving adolescents", but Tim Russert still cannot tell the difference.

If Mr. Russert wants to be as Catholic as the Pope he may benefit from reading Judith Levine's new book, "Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex". It may help him develop a somewhat more subtle and nuanced notion of sexuality, and perhaps even assist him in understanding just where the cardinals are coming from.

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What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



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