14 June 2002

Of Pedophiles and Suicide Bombers

Catholicism and Islam in Crisis

As I write this an ad hoc council of American Catholic Bishops has just met in Dallas, TX, and passed a so-called zero-tolerance resolution concerning priests that have sexually abused their parishoners. By zero-tolerance the Bishops mean that sexual abusers may under some circumstances remain priests, but may no longer have contact with parishoners.

Excuse me, but that kind of bullshit is a lot more American than it is Catholic, or even Christian. It smacks of the recent Clintonian "continental drift" in American morality that seems almost automatically to excuse a man for not keeping his word. The vow of celibacy is a vow made to God as part of assuming a holy office, which is to be discharged in God's Name. The breaking of the vow is the breaking of the office. In particular, he who breaks his vow of celibacy in order to have sex with a minor rapes the child physically (a crime against the child's body which the State must prosecute), emotionally (a crime against the child's relationship with him/her self and with others), and spiritually (a crime against the child's relationship with God - which is ultimately a crime against God).

If I were hearing a priest's confession, and he were to admit that he had sexually abused a child during his priesthood, I would assign him this penance: He must go to the civil authorities and confess his crimes. Under appropriate supervision he must confess each crime before each victim together with the victim's parents. At his trial, he must confess his crimes before the court and demand the maximum penalty the law permits. In prison, he must continue as a priest to serve the spiritual needs of his fellow inmates. But when he leaves prison, he must leave the priesthood.

Now this is not to say that I agree with the Catholic position on priestly celibacy, or the non-ordination of women. But the rules are the rules. You either play by them or change them, but you don't subvert them and cover it up. It is the "community of subversion" that has formed within the American Catholic church that has brought on the current crisis. And it is deserved. You can save souls in a lot of ways, but as far as I know, you can't do it with your penis.

The crisis in Islam is no less shameful. There are Palestinian publications (on-line and off) that announce the death of a young man in a suicidal attack against random civilians (who almost always include children) as if it were a marriage — he has been "wedded to the dark-eyed" they say, referring to dark-eyed houris (ever young, ever virginal beings who will attend to the every need of one who arrives in heaven). More than one commentator has described the sales pitch used to recruit suicide bombers with the words " Heaven as whorehouse," which miss the mark, but not so widely that they should be ignored. The real whoredom here is that some people who call themselves Islamic clerics countenance the slaying of children, which from my reading of the Qur'an, is expressly forbidden.

And yet these clerical abusers of children are open about it, and have followings, and recruit more people to do more of the same. I make the comparison with sexually abusing priests, because if having sex with a child is abusing that child, so is killing the child, even if it is done through an intermediary. The glorification of suicide bombers is a kind of bullshit that is more tribal than Islamic. In particular, it is a self-justification by focusing on one's enemies' atrocities (both real and imagined) without adhering to the Moral Law as a whole. As far as I know, you can't save souls with your bomb, either.

I invite comments from anyone, especially Catholics and Muslims.

No comments: