Thursday, April 29, 2010

Plugging in "facts" to fit the narrative . . .

One can hardly be more disgusted than I am by the crimes of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests, but it is passing strange when the politically correct press overlooks the most salient feature of that abuse, ignoring both its predominantly homosexual nature and the high percentage of the abuse being that of teenage boys. But these realities complicate the narrative, as does the fact that the present pope has done more to rectify the situation that gave rise to the abuse than any other person alive.

But that's just the beginning of the irony. William Kilpatrick has an article on the curious (or is it predictable) asymmetry of the pompom media's boiler-plate clergy sexual abuse narrative.
In the war against jihad it might seem that President Obama’s plan to remove all discussion of Islam and jihad from our national security document would rank higher as a threat to Western security than recent attempts to link the pope to 40 year-old sex crimes in Milwaukee. But the perfect storm that has hit the Catholic Church may turn out to be of greater consequence for the West’s survival. For that reason it’s important to sort out how much of the current indignation toward Rome represents justified anger, and how much of it represents a larger anti-Christian agenda. . . .

There is much to suggest that media criticism of the Church is fueled less by outrage over pedophilia, and more by another agenda.  There wasn’t much outrage over Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13 year-old girl a number of years ago.  When attempts were made last year to bring Polanski back to the U.S. to serve his sentence, many of the same cultural elites who are now condemning the Church, leapt to his defense.  Likewise, there has never been much media outrage over the apparent crimes of celebrated sex researcher Alfred Kinsey.  The media continued to lionize Kinsey long after it was revealed that he had collaborated with pedophiles in order to gather data.  “What did Kinsey know and when did he know it?” has never been a pressing question for CNN or The New York Times. ...

Though sexual abuse remains a problem in the Catholic Church, enormous strides have been made in rooting it out, due in large part to a crackdown that originated with Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001.  So, the venomous attacks on him and the church he represents, suggest that something else is afoot.  When a major Canadian newspaper features a piece claiming that the pope’s “whole career has the stench of evil,” it’s time to reach for the decoding machine.  That particular quote comes from Christopher Hitchens, who has made a career in recent years of questioning the legitimacy, not just of Catholicism, but of Christianity, itself.  Hitchens aside, there is plenty of other evidence that Catholics are not the only ones being targeted for de-legitimization.  In Canada and in Europe, Christian pastors have been fined or jailed for expressing their beliefs from the pulpit.  In Birmingham, England, Christian evangelists were warned by police that distributing gospel leaflets in a Muslim section would be considered a hate crime.  A survey of history textbooks for American schoolchildren reveals that they present Christianity as a purveyor of bigotry and violence.  On college campuses, Christian clubs are routinely banned.  Meanwhile, Christianity is often the butt of vulgar comedy routines, and of crude cartoons that make the infamous Muhammad cartoon look benign by comparison.

There is, of course, a major exemption from media condemnation of child abuse.  It appears that the abuse of children is much more acceptable to the opinion-makers when it is protected by the shield of multiculturalism.  The media has been much less willing to criticize the widespread child abuse that occurs in Islamic cultures, or to note that, in the case of Islam, the abuse is religiously sanctioned.  For example, although one can find plenty of criticism of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s political views, rarely does one see a condemnation of his views on sex.  The one-time spiritual leader of Iran not only endorsed sex with children in his writings, but he also took to himself a 13 year-old bride.

Here we come to the world-historical turning point of which the frenzied assaults on the Catholic Church are only a part.  The drive to undermine the Church’s moral authority, and the threat posed by Islam are linked in an ironic way.  For many centuries the Catholic faith was the main bulwark against the Islamization of Europe.  Now that Christianity is in decline in Europe, Islam is on the move again.  And with the growing presence of Islam has come an increase in child abuse—or what the West considers as child abuse.  The sexual exploitation of children is considered a far less serious offense in Islamic societies, and is often protected by the force of sharia law.  Muhammad, who consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was nine years-old, is considered by all Muslim authorities to have provided a “beautiful pattern of conduct.”  That’s why, whenever a Muslim country tries to ban child marriages (as recently happened in Yemen), you can be sure that the imams will rise up to insist on their right to marry minors.
Kilpatrick's whole article is here.

7 comments:

Dean said...

Gil,
You want to plug facts into the narrative of abuse? I don't think you do. The greatest form of sexual abuse is the attempt by the church to seduce its parishioners into a false dichotomy that pits the carnal against the spiritual, when in reality they are indivisible. When you teach or believe that you can overcome or control sex through denial, will or prayer, and at the same time reveal what a miserable and continuous failure such attempts have been from the beginning by those who teach such things, it's time for a reckoning. That means no more institutional secrets or self inurement based on the structural and theological world view that is responsible for the abuse.

For decades now, religious moralizers have cast marital heterosexual intercourse as the zenith of virtuous self-sacrifice because it sometimes results in the creation of another human life. But sexual intercourse is also the epitome of carnal pleasure, the embrace of one of the most intense experiences in life of which humans are capable. This pleasure, and the fraught relation we have to it in the Western world, is of course the very reason we've created a purifying religious narrative of redemption -- to tell ourselves that the act that many find dirty, messy, and guilt-inducing is really the highest, noblest, most selfless act there is -- so long as something greater than the sum of its parts comes out of it, something to balance out its highly selfish component.

So social conservatives hang the privileging of heterosexuality on the assertion that an act which might produce a life can't be all that bad, no matter how fun it might be; and a really fun act which can't produce a life must be either outright bad (gay sex) or merely tolerated (infertile heterosexual sex). Bracing for the retort that any reasoning that allows marriage for infertile straights must also allow marriage for gay couples, signers of such documents as the Manhattan Declaration are ready with prose that is more horrendous and meaningless than the worst translation of Hegelian philosophy.

The purveyors of the device of moral equivalency usually start by believing their side is by definition morally superior by virtue of who they are, not by what they do. They then use selective history to cast the situation as a big-picture struggle against an evil power. (In this case the secular world, or post-modernity, or Caesar, or Satan, or the media, take your pick).

The critical issue is not Alfred Kinsey, or Roman Polanski, or Hugh Hefner, or Christopher Hitchens, or Nietzsche, or Rousseau, or the 60's, or the liberal media's anti-Christian agenda, or any of that misdirected nonsense. It's about abuse, not orientation or cultural history. It's about the fact that most if not all human beings, if they are reasonably healthy and normal, and haven't had the life drained out of them by war and oppression or exsanguinated from them by lugubrious theology, have strong, relentless and unstoppable sexual appetites, and will continue to do so, as I remember some Catholic priest once saying, "until at least 15 minutes after they're dead".

The abuse of a young or teenage boy is no different in its nature than the abuse of a young or teenage girl. The sin is the abuse of power, and the use of religious authority to subject the defenseless to an adult's sexual gratification. It's about the power differential, and the still fragile nature of a developing psyche and sexuality. The sexual orientation of the perpetrator is, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the matter at hand: an institution that sought to cover up, and protect rapists and molesters of minors, while encouraging them to live counter to their own instincts: to live celibate lives of self denial in a cloistered and protected environment among like-minded men. If we were talking about adult sexual relationships here, we could have a discussion about sexual orientation. But we're not. We're talking about abuse.
(continued)

Dean said...

(part 2)
Secondly, and obviously, homosexuality is not abuse. It is an orientation that for the overwhelming majority involves consensual sex with adults. Some obvious attraction for teenage boys is as prevalent among gays as the obvious attraction for teenage girls for straight men. But there is no reason to correlate homosexuality with abuse, pederasty or pedophilia.

The real questions are: what kind of gay man molests children and young teens? and what kind of straight man molests children and young teens? What leads to this kind of behavior which is far from the norm among homosexuals and heterosexuals? And why does the Catholic priesthood seem such a magnet for child rapists and molesters? Why has it seemed to attract so many gay men who are psychologically disturbed or sick when it comes to their sexual orientation?

You've answered that question time and time again with your own stubborn and intractable insistence on calling gay men, "objectively disordered" The inescapable inference being that they are deeply sick in their deepest soul and longing for love and intimacy.  A young Catholic who finds out he's gay therefore simultaneously finds out that his church regards him as sick and inherently evil, for something he doesn't experience as a choice. That's a distorting and deeply, deeply damaging psychic wound. Young Catholic gay boys, tormented by this seemingly ineradicable sinfulness, often seek religious authority as a way to cope with the despair and loneliness their sexual orientation can create. So this self-loathing kid both abstracts himself from sexual relationships with peers, idolizes those "normal" peers he sees as he reaches post-pubescence, and is simultaneously terrified by these desires and so seeks both solace and cover for not getting married by entering the priesthood. None of this is conceivable without the shame and distortion of the closet. And look at the age at which you are most likely to enter total sexual panic and arrest: exactly the age of the young teens these priests remain attracted to and abuse.

If non-procreative sex can consummate a heterosexual marriage, then why not a homosexual one? Because the Church asserts that heterosexuality be privileged in civil law because it is the norm. Buried behind this is an unscientific notion - derived from Aquinas - that the universe is somehow perfectly gendered into two opposite and complementary halves. No one with any knowledge of contemporary biology or evolution could agree with this. And if Aquinas were alive today, he wouldn't either. He was interested in truth as the source of doctrine; not doctrine as the source of truth.

There is a reason the Church hierarchy fears honest discussion: It fears it will expose a crisis of belief. There is a pervasive sense within the Church that no one really believes its teachings on sexuality anymore--not the laity, not even the clergy. In a strict hierarchy, no one wants to say the emperor has no clothes. When discussion is not permitted, and honest questions avoided, the Church must assert its teachings on the basis of "authority" alone; and if those teachings do not cohere with the people's lived experience, a regime of hypocrisy and indifference arises that does more to undermine "authority" than any honest discussion possibly could.
(continued)

Dean said...

(part 3)
Both Islam and the Catholic church frowns on adult homosexuality. What's the real difference between the dancing boys of Afghanistan, and the fleeing choirboys of St. John's parish? Both groups are driven by circumstance into other modes of sexual expression, and in societies where pedophilia doesn't have the same moral repugnance as it does in America (unless it can be hidden in the church), they resort mostly to adolescent boys. Repressive Islamic societies promise virgins in heaven to make up for severe sexual repression on earth. The Catholic church would most likely do the same, if it hadn't gambled away it's moral advocacy by condemning in others what it allows in itself. The Church has lost its moral high ground to comment on the sexual practices of other cultures because of the compromises behind its own walls, in the same way we've lost the moral high ground in the war on terror by allowing torture to take place in Guantanamo bay. The Boys of Afghanistan along with child sexual slaves in every culture are ultimately the P.O.W.'s of the Church's sexual crisis. We can't complain about how badly they're being treated until and unless we correct the abuses of our own.

Gordon said...

Dean,

“The greatest form of sexual abuse is the attempt by the church to seduce its parishioners into a false dichotomy that pits the carnal against the spiritual, when in reality they are indivisible.”

What exactly are you talking about? You can’t possibly be referring to a “dichotomy” between flesh and spirit, or the physical and the spiritual. From the Gnostics and Manicheans on, the Catholic Church has considered anything that makes the material world lower or intrinsically evil a serious heresy (which is just to declare it incompatible with Christian faith -- just like slavery and abortion). In the Christian thought world “carnality” refers to giving your self and immediate pleasure absolute priority over the needs of others. It has nothing to do with embodiment per se. Paul refers to a “carnal mind,” not a carnal body. So what do you mean?

“And why does the Catholic priesthood seem such a magnet for child rapists and molesters?”

For exactly the same reason they flock in even greater numbers to become Scout Leaders, Public School Teachers, Baptist Youth Ministers, and Episcopal Priests: that’s where the children are. The difference is that today children in and around the Catholic Church are safer there than at home, at school, or anywhere else they might possibly be in a 24 hour cycle. It’s a scandal that it wasn’t always this way. Nor will it stay that way without vigilance, because the human condition remains.

“Buried behind this is an unscientific notion - derived from Aquinas - that the universe is somehow perfectly gendered into two opposite and complementary halves.”

Enlighten me. Where exactly in Thomas’ works would I find that? Is that in the Summa or the Commentaries? Sounds less like Thomas than that guy with the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” book.

Gordon said...

“What's the real difference between the dancing boys of Afghanistan, and the fleeing choirboys of St. John's parish?” Two ways to answer this:

Me: The choirboys in the West are considered innocent victims and their predators condemned as debased, while in Afghanistan the “dancing boys” are the ones who are debased and their rapists considered normal men. If you studied the Greek and Roman classics all this would be very familiar. Islam always gets too much credit for retrieving Aristotle and not enough blame for reaching back to the pre-Christian world’s love of slavery and sexual exploitation built on the assumption that some are less human than others.

You: “Both groups are driven by circumstance into other modes of sexual expression, and in societies where pedophilia doesn't have the same moral repugnance as it does in America (unless it can be hidden in the church), they resort mostly to adolescent boys.”

Now you’re talking the old moth-eaten template from the 70’s. Before middle-school parents started springing for motel rooms for their kids’ sexual explorations, this was the kind of talk that went on the backseat of cars: “if we don’t, y’know, do it, I’ll explode (ie, be ‘driven by circumstance into other modes of sexual expression’).” I thought that went out with bell bottoms. You’re honestly convinced that it’s the absence of adequate masturbation that drives people to rape and pederasty, especially in places where it’s culturally accepted?

Look at places and times where pederasty was openly practiced, you’ll find greater access to sexual “expression,” not less. In fifth century Athens or first century Rome, a free landholder would have any number of slaves, women or boys, not to mention inexpensive prostitutes, even his wife. Pederasty wasn’t for someone with no other outlet; it was a show of virility. Women, by their logic, were designed to be inferior “receptacles.” It was considered an accomplishment to turn someone designed to be the aggressor into the passive partner. Of course, if it happened to a young boy of standing he would be stripped of any rights as a citizen, and disinherited. Loving parents might send him away to quiet exile; most parents would simply consider him ruined and toss him on the street to fend for himself as a prostitute. Among the ancient Greeks, a pedagogue (literally, a leader of the child) was primarily a body guard to protect a young boy from the attention of pedophiles, who were well-known figures (The comedies of Aristophanes use the real names of such men. They would attend the plays like the rest of Athens, laughing at their exploits).

Looking at the modern version of a pederasty friendly zone, you say this: “Repressive Islamic societies promise virgins in heaven to make up for severe sexual repression on earth.”

Well, not really. Repressive Islamic societies provide the option of several wives, lots of concubines, and two-for-one dancing boys during non-alcoholic happy hour! But that’s just for the rich and well positioned. Those 72 virgins are for martyrs to jihad. If you’re unlucky enough to be a woman, or, worse, a slave, or, much worse, a female slave, or, God forbid, a male encouraged to dance and speak in a high voice, watch your back — any of those spots in society and you’ll find just how sexually unrepressed Repressive Islamic societies are.

Dean, you seem to take offense at the term “disordered.” Are you going to have a problem if I refer to having a sex slave as disordered? Would different cultural norms make it okay somewhere else? How about the betrayal of a spouse? I will gladly volunteer that my former practice of finding anonymous sexual partners in bars and nightclubs was thoroughly disordered. In fact, far more so than similar hookups in Gay clubs, since they involve an implicit agreement that any resulting pregnancy will be eliminated. The saw “it’s just about sex” doesn’t cut it anymore; it’s also about life and intimacy and respect for others and love.

Dean said...

Gordon,

There's that term "intrinsically evil" again! You folks just can't leave it alone can you? Whether you're talking about homosexuality, animal husbandry, tight jeans or Chicken fried steak, everything is intrinsically evil.

Some definitions: I meant carnal as a state of embodiment. Flesh. You know…like Chili con carne. The stuff that you, I and most of us hunger(ed)for predatorily (in bipedal form) in those anonymous long ago in a galaxy far away bar encounters. Personally, I think the world is yummy, just like the above mentioned chili. The Platonic idea as you know is that man's soul has fallen into the visible world, where the divinity of the soul is somehow compromised by the carnal (fleshly) vessel; where the body is seen as a hindrance, a burden, that has to be overcome. Greek philosophical dualism taught that the body was "The tomb of the Soul", a vile instrument which held the higher self captive. Salvation, then, was seen as freeing the soul from the entanglements of the body (the carnal). Christianity, on the other hand, is about God's descent to man; not man's ascent to God. The creature and creation are one. Christ took on a body of his own to show that the body is not vile. The body and the soul are not bipartite; salvation is eschatological. It's through God's activity that we are redeemed. God cares about our total being, and invades history to redeem both body and soul, not to separate them. When I spoke of the dichotomy of pitting the carnal against the spiritual, I meant the battle we engage in with ourselves, as though we're pitting two sides against an imaginary middle ground. Christianity is about regeneration not jihad. You will never become a Christian in behavior by trying to behave like a Christian. It's about allowing God to work in us and through us and without us. (Save God builds a house, we labor in vain, etc.)

I don't really care how the church defines sexuality, and neither, apparently, do most of its followers, who have gracefully fled those definitions in obedience more to their conscience then to the dictates of an octogenarian oligarchy of celibate white men in dresses.

What you're overlooking is not the fact that pedophiles and child abusers can be found everywhere, it's that scout leaders, public school teachers and even Baptist and Episcopal youth ministers don't suffer from institutional and structural paralysis dictated and enshrined in tradition. They are willing to act both quickly and effectively at dealing with their problems. By in large they have to: The public wouldn't stand for the continued abuse of their children unless of course, that abuse is performed in secret by a separate city state, who's leaders do not fall under the jurisdiction (as of yet) of secular courts for the prosecution for their crimes. Therefore, we have to trust them when they say they wont do it anymore.
(continued)

Dean said...

The Afghan victims are as innocent of blame as their American counterparts. They are just viewed differently by the culture that exploits them. Would a thorough study of Greek and Roman classics acquit the predatory actions of Afghan warlords who act as though they are still contemporaries of Leonidas, Demosthenes, Hesiod or Pericles? There is always greater access to sex among the powerful ruling classes, which includes wives and concubines in Arab culture. Sexual abuse of young boys is institutionalized among the Taliban. When you have a culture that demonizes and mutilates women, engages in gender apartheid by keeping them in their home unless accompanied by a guardian, and forces them to wear clothing that obscures their entire body, we are talking complete gender suppression in a culture of shame. And since nature abhors a vacuum, these same men, who fly into a blind rage at the mere exposure of a woman's uncovered ankle, think nothing, under the pathology of such repulsion/obsession, to establish and assert their masculinity through sexual expression elsewhere. This is hardly suggestive either of virility or of unconstrained sexual freedom. Repression doesn't mean a lack of access to sex; it means a deeply ingrained sense of guilt and shame at transgressing the shared values of the culture. Compared to middle eastern values, what you call the "moth eaten template from the 70's" seems refreshingly wholesome in comparison. That template must be fairly close to the light, because moth's are always attracted to it. As for masturbation…I have no idea what you're talking about, since you're apparently hearing an argument I'm not even making.