- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Bill Bennett has said that the current priest sex scandal provides an opportunity for a breakout of virulent anti-Catholicism. Columnist Richard Cohen provides the virulence. Mr. Cohen rightly deplores the situation in Boston in the Catholic Church when a priest can get away with advocating, and practicing, man-boy sex. A priest? Mr. Cohen shares our shock and outrage. How can this be? But then Mr. Cohen goes further too far, I think. He engages in a drive-by shooting at my church, attacking it for its role in World War II Europe during the Holocaust. He, or his headline writer, labels the entire Catholic Church from Boston to Rome "a corrupt institution."

Clearly, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston has failed in his role as shepherd. He cannot command confidence that he will take the necessary actions to fully investigate past abuses and provide strong safeguards against future abuses. Cardinal Law should step down. In exchange for his red hat, however, there should be a stop sign a halt on these unprincipled attacks on the church.

There are many reasons for this disproportionate outrage directed at the Catholic Church at this time. Pope John Paul II stands as the leading pro-life voice in the world. His eloquent defense of "a culture of life" has struck a chord throughout a world community increasingly endangered not only by terror, but also by what Churchill called "the lights of perverted science." To attack the Catholic Church, therefore, advances the case of the culture of death. No one even dreams of attacking Queen Elizabeth II or Tony Blair when a Scottish lab announces it will proceed with cloning a human child. Is there not at least as great a chance of profound physical or psychological harm to the child who would be so crafted? Are we sure these harms some easy to anticipate, others unimagined will be less than the sufferings of victims of sexual predators? How can this happen in Britain, the nation that stood strong a generation ago against the darkest impulses of Nazi science?

When homosexual activists marched outside of the Houses of Parliament several years ago, they carried signs saying "Stroppy queens (obstreperous homosexuals) demand sixteen." They were demanding, not asking, that the age of consent for homosexual relations be lowered to sixteen. Tony Blair's government gave in without hesitation. Are we really certain that all those 16-year-old boys thus liberated will make mature decisions to engage in homosexual relations when invited or pressured by older, more powerful, probably richer males? When a priest entices a 16-year-old boy, it is truly a scandal. But what will be the press response if a British banker, an Oxford don, or a member of the House of Lords seduces a teen? I suspect it will be a bemused world-weariness unless the seducer is a prominent Catholic.

Many of those who are now in high dudgeon about the terrible scandal of priests molesting boys were either silent or in vocal opposition to the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts sought to keep avowed homosexuals from positions of leadership. The chattering classes found and still finds the Boy Scouts' policy morally outrageous. They are offended that any organization would assume that homosexual adults might find the temptations of leading impressionable boys and youth too powerful to resist. When the Boy Scouts narrowly won their case before the Supreme Court, editorial opinion in this country was almost uniformly condemnatory. And the guerrilla warfare that has been waged against the Boy Scouts since by some local school boards and community-chest charities has gone without censure in the mainstream press.

The Catholic Church, my church, is catching hell because some within her had the hypocrisy to stand strongly against the homosexual lifestyle while sheltering those who have been drawn to it. She stands in the dock today because she failed to cast the sinners out and slam the door behind them. I truly wish that the bishops had all firmly resolved not to tolerate any sexual misconduct by any priest, deacon, nun or anyone in a position of authority over youth, male or female. I pray this nightmare experience will provide the necessary resolve.

Slow too slow to condemn bad conduct, the Catholic Church allowed herself to be lulled by the assurances of none-too-sure psychiatrists and psychologists. We have long known that sexual attraction toward the young is very strong, very dangerous, and very resistant to treatment. We may have in the late Cardinal O'Connor a model of how to react. He never condemned anyone. He personally served dying AIDS patients, showing them a love and acceptance many could not comprehend. But he never yielded on the unacceptability of the homosexual lifestyle and the criminality of child molestation.

"Get real," the media constantly tells the church. For many years, the press has applauded every change in the church that has made those who follow the religious vocation more like you and me. But in a time of sexual revolution, getting real can be really dangerous. Let us make this painful time a time to stop and reassess how we can condemn clergymen who take sexual advantage of impressionable youth and not be willing to apply those same standards to Hollywood producers, fashion magnates, and Alfred Kinsey, the "godfather" of modern sex mores, who did more than anyone to inaugurate the present slide to decadence.


Charles A. Donovan is the executive director of the Family Action Alliance in Washington.


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