Is Normalizing Pedophilia the Next Amoral Social Movement?

Father Dwight Longenecker, who blogs at Standing on My Head, wrote a duzzy of a post yesterday.

It seems Fr Longenecker read an article in The Guardian that is one of several that have been appearing lately in an attempt to gain acceptance for pedophilia. These articles follow the social-movement-tested tactic of introducing the process of building acceptance for a practice which is universally regarded as anathema by “discussing” it as something the practitioner “can’t help.”

I would like to go off on a riff of my own about this, but nothing I could say would improve on what Fr Longenecker has already written. His post, Relativizing Child Abuse reads in part:

Relativizing Child Abuse

January 11, 2013 By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Did you think that the one moral certainty in our society that everyone agrees on is the evil of the sexual abuse of children? Think again. This taboo is the next one to fall.

If you would like a lesson in how old Screwtape works take time to read through this article from the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The piece discusses various studies on pedophilia, and attempts to relativize this horrible issue. Here’s a quote:

 ”There are a lot of people who say: “we outlawed homosexuality, and we were wrong. Perhaps we’re wrong about paedophilia.”

The journalist doesn’t go so far as to endorse pedophilia. He doesn’t even write sympathetically about pedophiles. Oh no, it’s much more subtle than that. Instead he states that “society’s attitudes change” and “experts don’t agree” and “it’s all very complicated” and “it could be that pedophilia is simply a natural condition that cannot be changed. He opines that it may be one of many sexual orientations, and that we should seek to understand the condition rather than condemn. He goes on to say that certain studies have shown that sexual relationships between adults and underage partners are not necessarily “harmful”.

(Read the rest here.)

  • Sus

    I understand what Fr. L is saying: You go down one road, it’s easy to go down another.

    His post really bothers me because I think people who sexually abuse children are evil. I don’t think homosexuals are evil people, and I don’t think the Church believes they are either.

    After reading Fr. L’s post, I found this article with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 : “I do not wish to talk about homosexuality, but about pedophilia, which is a different thing.”

    There are some in the Church that seem to be claiming that the church abuse scandal happened because the priests were homosexual. In 1983 girls were permitted to be alter servers. If girls had been permitted to be alter servers all along, the evil priests would have been abusing both girls and boys. In fact, there are cases where the evil priests had access to girls and they abused them.

    The reason the Church had the scandal is because the men in power did nothing about it for years and years. If the Church had taken care of like they should have, there are many children who would not have been abused. That has nothing to do with homosexuality. It has to do with men in power not understanding what pedophilia is and how damaging it is. It has to do with the men in power letting children be abused in the name of not coming out about something bad in the Church.

    It’s one thing to fight gay marriage which can be reasonable according to the teachings of the Church, but it’s a whole other thing to try and equate it with sexually abusing children. I don’t believe the Church has room to discuss pedophilia with credibility. If they really understood it, they would have pulled the evil priests when the first whisper was sounded. We all know that isn’t what happened. Therefore, I don’t trust what the Church thinks about pedophilia, and their credibility about gay marriage goes down in my eyes since they want to link it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Fr Longenecker did not mention homosexuals or gay marriage in his post. I read the article he is talking about and I think he is correct in what it is trying to do, ie, normalize and legitimize sex between adults and children. Frankly, I find the article so appalling that I don’t want to reproduce it here. I also think he is correct that this tactic has been used to create acceptance for all sorts of behaviors.
      I don’t think all homosexuals are evil people, either, fwiw. Some of them are, just as every group has members who are evil. However, I don’t believe that this is the question Fr Longenecker is raising in his post.

      • Sus

        I know you don’t think homosexuals are evil people. That’s why I was surprised by your post.

        While Fr Longenecker did not mention gays in the post, it is very clear what he was inferring. From his post:
        “Before too long pedophiles will be coming out of the closet. If they have not already done so, they will write “moving memoirs” of how they were persecuted for “love that dare not speak its name.” The liberal press will daintily begin to tell the stories of pedophiles who were in “loving relationships” with young people who “may have been legally underage, but emotionally were very mature”. They will tell heart breaking stories of men pedophiles who “were born that way” and “have been living a lie” because of “society’s bigotry and cruelty.” They will manufacture or dig up stories of young men and women who were in a relationship when they were underage who will testify that there was not only nothing wrong with it, but that was the place they at last found “true love”.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Sus, I think Fr Longenecker was talking about a whole way of couching arguments in order to distort thinking and a way of trying to make judgements and pointing out the poor conclusions it can lead us to. The parallels between the process of argumentation and this article he’s referencing are striking.

  • Mary Lewis

    Thanks for bringing this to a wider audience Rebecca. I hope that Fr Longenecker will be proved wrong but I fear he may be right. The confusion brought about by moral relativism is indeed disastrous for today’s society. The only saving grace in the UK at the moment is the national outrage brought about by the revelations regarding the late Jimmy Savile who was described by an investigating police office as having “groomed the nation.” Interesting his nefarious activities were at their height in the 70′s and 80′s when the notorious PIE views were prevailing amongst groups such as the NCCL (now known as Liberty).

  • FW Ken

    In the first place, Sus, the Catholic Church is not “they”. If you are Catholic, then it’s “we”. If you are not, then it’s some plural form of “you” (I’m a Texan, so “ya’ll” works for me), since the author and at least one reader is Catholic.

    Furthermore, labeling any person – most specifically, any group of persons – as “evil”, lies far beyond your competency or mine. I’m would be interested in seeing any instance where any Catholic authority labelled a person evil. What is evil is behaviors – sins. We believe that any sexual act outside of the bonds of marriage is a sin. Clearly, forced sexual acts add an extra sin to to the mix and children, we believe, are not able to give consent.

    I’m thinking I know more sex offenders than you, including many child molesters, since I’ve worked with that population for most of 14 years. I would be lying to say I’ve never thought someone was just plain evil, but I don’t have any right to that opinion and it’s sinful on my part. But I can say that I’ve known many sex offenders who reject what they have done and work harder against their sins than I do against mine. Moreover, “pedophile” and “pedophilia” are clinical terms that refer to a specific system of sexual attraction. A person can be a pedophile and never molest a child. To call him evil is wrong, when he may be possessed of heroic virtue. Finally, I’ve known a few of the worst who hate what they do and struggle against it. But they are just such broken people that prison or intense supervision are the only options for them.

    As to the homosexual connection with the Catholic sexual scandals: 85% of victims were male, mostly not pre-pubescent. Sex with a teenage boy is not pedophilia. It’s predatory homosexual behavior. In some cases, it’s not even accurate to speak of offenders as “homosexual”, any more than a single child molestation doesn’t make a man a “pedophile”. In any case, given the low percentage (about 5%) of priests who offended, I would bet that the number of “homosexual” priests who offended is about that of heterosexual priests who committed a homosexual act.

    • Sus

      I can’t get into my knowledge and experience with sexual abuse as it’s too personal for a combox. I don’t doubt your 14 years of experience in working in that area.

      I had no exposure to the Catholic Church until I married a Catholic. We raise our children in the Church and try to live via the teachings. I have not been confirmed and that’s why I refer to the Church as I do.

      I’ll be quiet now as any response I have is too emotional to be useful to the conversation.

      • SteveP

        Sus – the Church teaches that an act is evil rather than the person who acts; that a person always has a choice between doing the good (God’s will) and doing evil. Genesis 4:7 is the best summary in my opinion (

  • FW Ken

    Sus -

    I respect your situation – my knowledge of sexual abuse is not entirely professional. But you got something very important very right and it should noted: the problem in the Church was about the failure of too many of our bishops to be shepherds and guard us from the wolves among us. Some listened to psychologists who counseled therapy. Some listened to lawyers andacted like CEOs protecting the corporation. Ironically, they simply failed as fathers to their priests and people. God grant that they learned the lesson. There are signs they may have, but it’s never a sure bet.

  • Sus

    Thank you Steve, I bookmarked for bedtime reading tonight

    Ken, I absolutely believe the Church apologized and created many measures so that it would be very hard to abuse a child even once. That is what I see in the parishes here.

  • Manny

    I heard about the UK article and had similar thoughts that Fr. Longenecker articulates. It’s not a question of whether homosexuality is evil and this isn’t. It’s a question of homosexuality as being normalized now and the same justification may be used to justify peophilia, that is an uncontrollable orientation that hurts no one. I don’t think they intend the children who be acceptable for sexual trists to be pre-puberty. They will be teenagers who like teenagers today engage in sex by choice. They will argue no one is being harmed, and everyone is going into it freely and with time “normalize” it in the culture. It’s dispicable and I think Fr. Longenecker is right.

  • Peg


    I understand how you feel and how personal and painful the issue is for those who are close to it by knowing victims, etc…

    Right now evil behaviors are all around and it takes a lot of discernment to see where we need to speak up more and where we need to be more honest. We’ve had whole seminary systems corrupted by homosexual cliques and that has driven away many vocations by healthy heterosexual men. We had some creepy things go on at our catholic campus.

    We need to speak against all sexual deviancy and not worry about what protected groups might do. I would offer a word of caution on Fr. Martin’s writings as references in your first comment. He can veer from authentic teaching and has defended a leadership of nuns that refuse to address the sexual abuse scandal and victims in their orders. A scandal as big if not bigger than the priest scandal according to canon law expert Fr. Thomas Doyle.

  • Patty

    Speechless….I have no idea how to respond to this.

  • Pingback: Pedophilia, Comments from the Pit, Cardinal Mahony and Following Jesus

  • Pingback: Day 148: Developing Our Own Unique Social Witness | Finding God in 365 Days