Early in my career as a psychotherapist, a Baptist minister came for counseling. He brought with him his Bible, in which he had taped tufts of pubic hair from all the women in his congregation with whom he’d had sex. He showed me the evidence with a mixture of guilt and pride, a sort of little-boy showing off of some mischief for which he might be punished. He justified his sexual exploits in several ways. The women had “wanted it,” the sex had “done them good,” sex was “God’s gift to humanity” and should be enjoyed, and, above all else, he was a man, a minister, and therefore had the authority and the right to do whatever he felt was right.
At the same time, I had another male client who headed the local child welfare agency. He had come because one of his own children had accused him of molesting her and her three siblings for several years. He did not deny the accusation. He even detailed where and when the abuse had occurred — in the attic, while his wife was at work — and he showed no remorse whatsoever. Instead, he was filled with righteous anger that his daughter had violated the sanctity of their family by going public with what he felt should be kept private.
I think about those two men every time I read the response of Pope Benedict and his spokesmen to the latest allegations of pedophilia by priests under Benedict’s authority when he was an archbishop. They claim variously that Benedict was just too intellectually aloof to have taken note of such distasteful things, that he was never told about it anyway so he couldn’t be expected to do anything about it, that he was so swamped with similar complaints that he’d overlooked that one, etc, etc, etc. They all boil down to the same defenses I heard from the predatory minister and the sexually abusive father: he’s a man, he has authority, he’s more important than anybody else in the world, so shut up.
Some things are just plain wrong. Pedophilia is one of them. Pedophilia doesn’t have anything to do with religion. It doesn’t have anything to do with papal authority or theological doctrine. It doesn’t have anything to do with sexual orientation. It doesn’t have anything to do with masculine claims of superiority. It’s just plain wrong. It’s also just plain wrong for a pedophile’s superior to condone it or cover it up or deny that it happened, thereby exposing more vulnerable children to a predatory pedophiliac. I don’t understand why it’s up to women — nuns, teachers, mothers, grandmothers — to point that out.