"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
- 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
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.