The result is precisely the kind of moral confusion conservatives claim to oppose. To project coherence, they attribute abuse by priests to "sexual anarchy" and "moral chaos." At the same time, to make the blame-gays theory look scientific, they draw convenient distinctions. According to Traditional Values Coalition Chairman Lou Sheldon, "To describe these priests as 'pedophiles' is clearly inaccurate—unless their victims are under the age of 13. The truth is that these are homosexuals who are engaging in pederasty or so-called consensual 'boy-love.' " Similarly, Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit said this week that "the behavioral scientists are telling us, the sociologists, it's not truly a pedophilia-type problem but a homosexual problem."
Maida, Sheldon, and other clerics and activists think they're safeguarding morality. But by describing a sexual relationship with a child between the ages of 13 and 17, unlike sex with a younger child, as a matter of hetero- or homosexual orientation, they are, in a strange way, normalizing such relationships. They're framing sex with teen-agers more like sex with adults and less like sex with children. They still believe it's wrong, but they're undermining the basis of that belief. And by insisting that the church has a gay problem, not a pedophile problem, they're letting pedophiles off the hook.
They're also letting men who have sex with teen-age girls off the hook. Last Sunday, National Review editor Rich Lowry said of priestly abuse, "A lot of these cases don't involve the molestation of little boys, pedophilia. [They] involve having sex with teen-age boys, which is more sort of homosexual behavior. … I'm not justifying it. It's just not something heterosexual men do." Yesterday, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago added that the church should allow "wiggle room" in punishing abusive priests. "There is a difference between a moral monster like [homosexual molester Father John] 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 17- or 16-year-old young woman who returns his affection," said George.
"Not something heterosexual men do"? "Wiggle room" for sex with a 16-year-old "young woman"? Look who's liberal now.
TODAY IN SLATE
Forget Oculus Rift
This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again
I’m 25. I Have $250.03.
My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Smash and Grab
Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?