Friday, September 14, 2012

The New Racism and the Old Catholics

Today, I spent lunch with my friend and Theater of the Word actor Dave Treadway of Steward Media and I was on a tear, complaining about many things, especially this.  "Dave," I said, "I used to think the liberals in the Church caused all the trouble, until I met the conservatives in the Church.  Now I'm getting used to rampant hypocrisy on both sides of the spectrum, from left to right - Catholics who are as bad as I am and worse, regardless of the number of devotions or novenas they pray.  I am hurt by, but used to, leftist Catholics who ignore Church teaching and right-wing Catholics who despise the Catechism.  I am used to, but hurt by, bad liberal bishops and bad conservative bishops.  I am used to, but hurt by, my own infernal sinfulness, which keeps rearing its ugly head again and again.

"But what really bothers me at a fundamental level is how many conservative Catholics there are who are making excuses for rape and child abuse."


To wit (from comboxes, blogs or other published material of the past two weeks) ...

  • In cases where priests molest children, Fr. Benedict Groeschel stated in an interview published in the National Catholic Register, "A lot of the cases, the youngster – 14, 16, 18 – is the seducer."

  • As a response to this comment, I posted what I thought was a simple explanation of What Rape Is , pointing out that a 14-year-old, for example, while he or she can act seductively toward an adult, can in no way seduce an adult; pointing out that statutory rape is indeed "rape", since a minor does not have the capacity to consent to a sex act; and after I did so, the dam burst in little trickles, including a Facebook friend who asserted, "Statutory rape is a legal fiction."  How little I suspected then that this is the attitude of many, if not most, Catholics.

  • For this was followed by Catholic writer Dena Hunt insisting publicly that the Church Sex Scandal, "was not 'child abuse.' Most victims were post-pubescent teenage boys."  Since most boys are sexually mature by age 12 or 13, apparently when Father molests the 12-year-old altar boy in the sacristy, this is not child abuse because he's post-pubescent.

  • Dena Hunt took offense that I said, in effect "child abuse is child abuse" and "rape is rape, including statutory rape."  On the contrary, she found my statement appallingly naive.  She said that 1. homosexual contact between an adult male and a post-pubescent boy is not an example of pedophilia; 2. statutory rape is not really rape; 3. post-pubescent children seduce grown men all the time I replied to all that nonsense here. 

  • Since then, comboxers here and at the Ink Desk have said the following ... It is a legal fiction that minors cannot consent to legally significant conduct.  [i.e., sexual activity with an adult, but apparently also entering into contracts (see below), which is an example of "legally significant conduct"]

  • Coming-of-age ceremonies historically took place at about 13, not at 21. [i.e., you're an adult at age 13, once you're Confirmed or Bar-mitzvahed, and therefore statutory rape laws are absurd and you're old enough to have sex with a middle aged man who finds your picture on Facebook.]

  • I am incapable of believing that statutory rape is distinct from fornication. That is nothing but modernist absurdity invented by busybodies.  If this man has a daughter who gets seduced by her Lesbian gym coach in a hotel room during a Middle-School varsity volley-ball field trip, I'll remind him that statutory rape is a modernist absurdity invented by busybodies.

  • Commenters have also argued that since people got married very young in the past, sex between an adult male and a post-pubescent child in 2012 is fine and dandy.

Now I grant, and have granted from the beginning, that the age at which a minor is deemed competent to consent to sex varies from state to state and that there is a somewhat arbitrary nature to the age that is chosen.  But these folks are not arguing that 16 or 17 are "border ages"; they are arguing that consent is co-terminous with sexual maturity and that the law should reflect this.

But if this is the case, if the capacity to consent depends upon testicles and ovaries and not on the rational mind and will, then we must accept the inevitable conclusion.  Since menstruation can begin in a girl as young as age 9 or so, and since the production of sperm can begin in boys as young as 12 or so, then these post-pubescent children should be understood to possess the capacity to consent to the following:

9-year-old girls and 12-year-old boys should be allowed to

  1. Vote
  2. Drive cars
  3. Enter into contracts
  4. Be drafted
  5. Drink
  6. Attain independence from their parents
  7. Get married without parental consent
  8. Get abortions without parental consent
  9. Smoke
  10. Be elected to public office

For society to insist otherwise, for the State to claim that maturity and consent is achieved only gradually, and at various stages of growth is merely a legal fiction, having no connection to Natural Law whatsoever.

And if this is absurd, commenters, then at what should the age of consent be set?  16, 17, 18?  Or are 15-year-olds capable of consent?  Are 14-year-olds?  When is a child a child and an adult an adult?  When can I , a 51-year-old man, have the luxury being seduced by a 15-year-old high school cheerleader and tell my wife it's the girl's fault?

Again, of the commenters who have argued in this manner, I know none that are parents.  Some of the commenters are anonymous, but of those I know, none are parents.


But getting back to my lunch with Dave.

He looked at me and asked simply, "Kevin, why do you think this is?  Why do so many Catholics believe this?"

And the only answer I could come up with was this ...

Dave, it's like racism.  When I was growing up, people used the "N word" all the time.  It was simply assumed (in white living rooms and dining rooms in Missouri, at least) that black people were inferior to whites.  They might be allowed a certain political equality, but it was, for example, very wrong of a white woman to date a black man. 
Likewise, when my mother was in the work force, it was understood that if you were a secretary in a corporate environment, the middle-aged bosses would hit on you and say suggestive things to you.  Sometimes it was all in fun, but it was always a bit more than that.  And the casting couch - gay and straight - has been a mainstay of show business, and still is.
Now we've come a long way regarding race relations in this country, but it was only twenty years ago, with the Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill hearings that any serious attention was focused on sexual harassment in the workplace, which until then was considered a "legal fiction".  (And before I'm called a liberal commie, I was utterly on Clarence Thomas' side in that debacle, as it appeared he was not guilty of the charges Hill brought against him at the hearings).  We used to think "sexual harassment" was no big deal; now we tend to realize that an employer has an unfair advantage over any employee, so that an employer's sexual advances are indeed a form of harassment - whether welcome or not - given the inequity of the relationship.
But these things take a long time to change.  I suspect that the sex abuse scandal in the Church took hold not so much because priests were perverts and bishops were enablers (which they both were), but because the laity in the pews said, "Oh, kids bounce back from this sort of thing.  And Father gives great homilies.  This is blown all out of proportion.  And anyway, that boy or girl wanted it and probably seduced him.  He's under such stress, after all."  Add to that, hysteria ginned up over the Church-hating media and put in a pinch of folks like Fr. Z, who defends enabling bishops and refuses to allow comments that tell the truth, and you get what we've got - Catholics defending Child Abuse and Statutory Rape.

Good Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us all.


Anonymous said...

" 9-year-old girls and 12-year-old boys should be allowed to

Drive cars
Enter into contracts
Be drafted
Attain independence from their parents
Get married without parental consent
Get abortions without parental consent
Be elected to public office"
I say yes to all of the above, although I would go to the traditional ages of 12 or puberty for girls and 14 for men. There is one legitimate way we can get around allowing some this:
restore laws against sodomy and fornication, and criminalize divorce and abortion. Also, many of those areas are limited in a traditional society such as public office, which often has many restrictions beyond mere adulthood.

Anonymous said...

"If this man has a daughter who gets seduced by her Lesbian gym coach in a hotel room during a Middle-School varsity volley-ball field trip, I'll remind him that statutory rape is a modernist absurdity invented by busybodies."
I would question her if she participated willingly. I would hold her to the standards of a sexually mature woman.

Tell me, do you really want to live in a morally good society, or do you want to continue creating the rule sets that lead to things like this:
"Note: Uncensored version contains full frontal nudity. In the censored version any genitals are blacked out."
If the adolescent is defined as subject to the control of the supposedly responsible adults in this society (people who I do not really trust) then he is legally subject to them to an extraordinary and dangerous degree.

Scott W. said...

Except people didn't get married at a younger age long ago. This is one of those myths that won't die. People got it from Shakespeare and royal marriages, but somebody finally did the smart thing and started doing historical research on parish records comparing baptismal dates to marriage dates. Lo and behold typical marriage was in the twenties, not the teens.

Anymouse said...

I am the same as the previous poster.
" Children under the age of 17 or so - whether in puberty or not - simply are not fully formed rational creatures and are therefore not capable of informed consent. That is a basic tenet of Natural Law,"
From where do you derive this? Before the 19th century there were no laws against statutory rape.

Anymouse said...

"Lo and behold typical marriage was in the twenties, not the teens."
Very true. But that was by custom, not by statute. Marriage was still allowed at lower ages if that was more prudent.

Anymouse said...

I have read your site, and agree with just about everything else you write. But I do think you are clearly wrong and clearly a modernist on this issue, and I find that a bit of a surprise.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Readers, animationanalysis's profile links to an anime site. That's a genre that research shows contains many pedophile friendly elements.

This commenter also links to a page of search engine results on spanking or what he calls "bottom line discipline". With full frontal nudity but genitals blacked out?

You know, animationanalysis, I think it may be time for me to put comment moderation back on for a while.

Oh, and before the 19th Century, if an adult man entered a village and seduced a 14-year-old girl, what do you think would happen to him?

Spanking plus anime plus seriously arguing for 12-year-old girls to be allowed to drink, have sex, drive cars, enter into contracts and vote. This is disturbing, animationanalysis. Disturbing enough that I'm going to ban you, at least to save you further embarrassment.

But I'm leaving the posted comments up. Readers need to know the sort of people who are making the case for statutory rape.

This is all deeply disturbing.

Tim in Cleveland said...

As an attorney who does some criminal work, I'm not sure what people mean by a crime being a legal fiction. Statutory rape is a "strict liability" crime which means a mens rea need not be proven for a certain element or elements of a crime. All that needs to be proven is that some sort of sexual contact occurred and the victim was underage (no mistaken of age defense is available, e.g. "I thought she was 18).

However, looking through my Criminal Law book, I see that some states are changing that in some situations. The Model Penal Code, whose provisions many states adopt, has strict liability if the victim is below the age of ten. For ages above that, it permits a defense of "mistake" which the defendant must prove was reasonable. Many states still do not allow a defense though if a minor is involved.

All this seems to be beside your point though, which I agree with. It's a great shame that children are being sexualized in our culture and it's a greater shame that there are Catholics who are willing to aid that movement just to protect a favorite personality.

The pedophilia scandals are disgusting and we Catholics need to repent, not look away or rationalize it.

Benjamin. said...

For goodness sakes,
some of you seem to be purposefully perverting things.

Do you not know that an adult is usually recognized by being fully grown? Do you not know that a man grows an extreme amount from the ages of 12 until his early twenties?
Do you not know that man's reasoning and judgement center does not slow down in development until around age 20?