The Corner

Double Standard On Clergy Sex Offenders?

There’s a story on AP’s national-news roundup

about a Philadelphia pastor who has been convicted of soliciting sex from a teenage boy. I am quite surprised that this story hasn’t received much attention, because the pastor was apparently famous locally for his antigay activism. The AP report says the minister “has preached on campuses against homosexuality and atheists, using a bullhorn to rile up students about ‘fornicators,’ ‘whores’ and ’sodomites.’” I’m also pretty sure this story would be getting much more attention if the pastor were Catholic: Every mere allegation against Catholic priests tends to get trumpeted very loudly in the media echo chamber. Some Catholics think this is because of an ideological anti-Catholic bias on the part of the media; I don’t think that’s true, in general. I think much of the difference in reporting on these stories is attributable to the corporatist nature of Catholicism, as opposed to the individualist bent of say, Protestantism and contemporary Judaism. A Catholic priest who does something wrong is seen as a company man, and people want to blame his boss, and his boss’s boss, and so on all the way up to the Pope. If a minister at the Presbyterian church I attend—or a rabbi at the local synagogue—were found to be a child molester, he would be fired, and that would be the end of it. He would, one hopes, be prosecuted by civil authorities, but the most judgmental and fault-finding it would get within the church/synagogue would probably be a pointed memo to the head of the pastoral-hiring committee saying “Uh, we know it’s not your fault, Jerry, but, er, maybe a little more thorough background check next time . . .”. And I think there’s wisdom in this latter approach; in the current Catholic-pedophilia scandal there’s a little too much readiness to impute collective guilt to a whole denomination for the crimes of a handful of dangerous men.

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