Relativizing Child Abuse

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”.

Quite apart from the actual article itself, it is interesting to see what is going on here. The writer uses contrasting studies by “experts” to confuse his readership about a moral choice which should be transparently easy. Pedophilia in all its forms is wrong. End of story.

The modern relativist, however, is more unhappy with a moral black and white than he is with pedophilia itself. Like a tongue with a broken tooth–he can’t leave it alone. He has to unpack every moral decision and show how “It’s not that easy” and “Its actually very complicated”. This obsession is so complete in our society that the relativist will now even begin to attempt to show us that pedophilia is “a disease” and “a condition”. If it is such, then there is no moral blame and we tolerant people must “try to understand”.

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”. Indeed, the article quotes a pedophile activist,

 “If there’s no bullying, no coercion, no abuse of power, if the child enters into the relationship voluntarily … the evidence shows there need be no harm.”

Beneath all the psycho babble, the fake compassion and pseudo rationalistic, intellectual ‘concern’ notice how it all works: the first premise is that there are no moral absolutes. From that follows the only criteria for judgement is “what society thinks” or individual opinions mixed with sentimentality and a utilitarian approach.  With such subjective criteria for judgement virtually anything is permitted for with a few clever arguments virtually anything can be permitted because virtually anything can be argued for.

What is the final result of such relativism? Tyranny. That’s why Benedict XVI calls names “the dictatorship of relativism”. Not only does one become a slave to the different forms of relativistic thinking, but eventually one will be come a slave to a real life dictator.

Why is this? Because the world of relativism is amoral. The relativist argues away every absolute moral standard. The result is that there are no morals except what is decided by “society” and when “society” is so complacent and self indulgent that it cannot conceive of any morality and does not want to enforce any morality, then there is only one power great enough to enforce good behavior: armed force–a police force. That police force in a totalitarian state will be ruthless and uncompromising–putting in place arbitrary rules that are decided by a greater power for the greater good.

There will be no argument against them–no argument that their force is irrational or unfair–no appeal to a higher authority because any idea of a greater good or a transcendent authority for what has good has already been disposed of long ago. Consequently the only rule of law will be that arbitrary rule of law deemed to be for the best of all by a supreme authority–the dictator of the age.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


  • Christian

    The normalization of contraception has made sex into what anyone wants it to be instead of what it is. It’s become as mutable as the dollar, and devaluing at about the same rate.

  • Sus

    “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.”

    All the laws in the USA regarding the sexual offenders will need to be repealed first. As it stands now, if a person is caught abusing a child or viewing child porn are punished via prison and are on a public sexual offender list. They are subject to all kinds of laws that say where and where they are not allowed to live and what places they can go and where they can work.

    I do not see this changing anytime soon.

    • Augustine

      It’s rather naïve to state that for something to be accepted laws need to change. Pornography is illegal and the explicit depiction of sexual intercourse is illegal, yet such offenses are not prosecuted and many not only fully embrace them but encourage them.

  • Dymphna

    Sue, I think it will be slowly questioned and then normalized through the media first. Then the laws will change in the name of “compassion.”

    • Sus

      Luckily, victims of sexual abuse are welcome to shout to the world now when it happens because they know it won’t be swept under the rug the way abuse was for decades. They know that if they tell someone, in most cases it will be taken care of and the perpetrator will be punished.

      I have zero fear that sexual abuse of children will ever be defended in the name of “compassion”.

      • Dymphna

        I sincerely hope you are right about that.

      • Mattheusmei

        I agree completely. As to the journalists argument that since we’ve legalized homosexuality pedophilia will be next — it breaks down way to quickly, rightly, for the reason you state: victims. Its own morality aside, two consenting same sex attracted adults committing homosexual acts is not, nor ever will be the same as a powerful fully developed person taking advantage of a weaker underdeveloped person, no matter what chicanery and psycho-sexual abuse could be used to manipulate the younger underdeveloped person into thinking it is “ok.” Key terms to keep in mind when reading this. Two consenting, fully developed adults vs. One adult exhorting control over someone who is not fully developed, nor legally capable of consenting in some relational act.

  • Will

    How about the bishop who sat on information about a priest and child porn for several months? The bishop was convicted and has not been fired. What message is that sending?

    • Joanne

      Hi, Will: Agreed. The Robert Finn case disgusts me.

      • Sparki

        He didn’t “sit on” the information. He assigned somebody to look into it and trusted that person to do a good job. And in the long run, Bishop Finn is the one who contacted the police, turned the priest in and has provided all the evidence that the state needed to prosecute. He has since apologized for not moving on the situation faster. Is that really worthy of “disgust”?

        • Will


  • Paul Rodden

    I totally agree, Fr.. Two outstanding pieces in a row.
    One of the oft-quoted sayings of Fr William Smith, the moral theologian, is, “All social engineering begins with verbal engineering”. How true.

    Being here, in England, watching the whole celebrity paedophile thing unravel, makes me realise how those at the BBC etc., who had absolutely no mercy for Catholic priests, suddenly want compassion and understanding when it’s them or their mates, now the boot’s on the other foot. Jimmy Saville’s behaviour is beginning to make the worst priest paed0phile look quite tame…

    Celebrities and the Media have been at the centre of the breakdown of all the other sexual mores, so I don’t think it will be any different in this case. Celebrities like Stephen Fry – the thick person’s Oscar Wilde – and Ian McKellern being a big influence on the acceptance of ‘gay’ as normative and even ‘de rigueur’, for example.

    • Sus

      I think it’s unfair to say the acceptance of gays will lead to accepting pedophilia. Being gay and being a pedophile have nothing to do with one another and is insulting to insinuate that.

      Fight gay marriage to the end, but do it without judgments that have no basis.

      • Joseph

        I don’t think Father’s intention is to insinuate some causal link between homosexuality and pedophilia (please correct me if I am wrong, Father). Rather, he basically said that the same social (unnatural) evolutionary process that blunted western society’s moral view of homosexuality (which was also at one time criminalized in many western jurisditions) will likely also work its astral magick on the public perception of pedophilia. I don’t doubt it at all. I don’t think it’s exactly imminent, but it’s probably inevitable. Humans are often stupid, but not stupid enough to perpetuate the logical inconsistency that now exists between the public morality on these two issues for more than a generation or two.

      • Paul Rodden

        Hi Sus.
        I’m not implying some sort of ‘slippery slope’. What I’m arguing is the relativist mindset common to both. In other words, a parallel, not a linear, relationship. To talk about ‘slippery slopes’ is merely the inverse of the Enlightenment ‘progressive’ mentality.

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    I take my hat off to you father for pointing out so clearly what is being said here privately. Who would believe that practises which were disgusting and prohibited by law would become acceptable and that homosexual bonding would be put on the same level as marriage by the politicians.
    The new Henry VIII is Mr Cameron and what you say in your column is a warning to us all

  • FW Ken

    The case of Bp. Finn and his conviction is complicated. A police officer was contacted and told the diocese what they had was not pornographic though more was found later. I have worked with sex offenders, including child molesters, for over a decade and have had the experience of taking information to the police and being told it’s not a crime. I’ve wanted to lock up certain people very badly, but what I know and what I can prove are two different matters. All that said, many pedophiles, like many persons afflicted with same-sex attraction struggle valiantly against their desires. But then, of which of us can that not be said? This is the opposite of amorality: behaviors are moral or immoral. Character is virtuous or corrupt.

    All of that said, I agree with the political analysis offered by Fr. L. It’s a proven method for gaining acceptance and power over those who disapprove of your obsession. Father accurately takes it to the endgame, which is that point at which those formerly marginalized turn and marginalize those who don’t accept the new orthodoxy. We see the gay issue playing itself out in the presidential inauguration and demands that it demonstrate inclusiveness by excluding those who don’t accept the current gay orthodoxy.

  • Sus

    “We see the gay issue playing itself out in the presidential inauguration and demands that it demonstrate inclusiveness by excluding those who don’t accept the current gay orthodoxy.”

    I agree with this. That’s why I don’t think we should put pedophilia in the same category as homosexuality. Do we really want victims of sexual abuse to think that the people who are against gay marriage are also against them?

    I do see what Fr. L is saying. An issue can become the normalized if the foundation is chipped away little by little. I don’t see the relation between child sexual abuse and being gay.

    • AnneG

      Pederasty is very common among homosexuals. There are even organizations encouraging it.

    • 441019

      I had a distant relative who volunteered as a “Big Brother.” He was a pedophile, and he molested young boys, not young girls–so obviously he was attracted to boys. Eventually he was caught and sent to prison. Before that, most of the family who knew him did not know he was a pedophile; they just thought he was a nice person who liked to spend time with children. I blame the “Big Brother” organization for not doing better screening of their volunteers.

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  • Lynda

    Like how pornography has been forced on us as morally acceptable, and laws prohibiting same repealed or not enforced by fiat. The exposure to pornography is behind much of the sexual abuse of self and others. Lord have mercy.

  • Melia

    Call me an extremist, but I’ve always thought that you could have compassion on someone without condoning the disorderliness of their desires. The problem with our society today is that we assume compassion = approval.

  • JamesR

    Sus says: “That’s why I don’t think we should put pedophilia in the same category as homosexuality. Do we really want victims of sexual abuse to think that the people who are against gay marriage are also against them? ”

    People who oppose gay marriage are not against the VICTIMS of sexual abuse. It is the abusers who are condemned.

    In terms of the “I don’t see it happening soon,” prediction…..depends on what you mean by “soon.” The end game and incremental approach is what the secular hard left is all about. What Father described could happen with the eventual societal acceptance of 35 year -old men having 13 year old (but post pubescent) “consensual” boyfriends or girlfriends, or one of each – or both at the same time – while he gets paid by the State for it, as a Foster “parent,” is pretty much how the evolution of homosexuality acceptance occurred.
    30 short years ago, the thought of gays not only being out of the closet and openly cohabiting, but actually legally being able to marry and have children (by adoption or artificial means if Lesbian) would have been completely and totally unacceptable. It would have resulted in loud guffaws if suggested. Fast forward three short decades. You better just shut your mouth and keep it shut about expressing disagreement with legalizing gay marriage; or you’re a vile homophobe and bigot. Probably a racist too. And a gun nut to boot.

    Don’t get too cocky in predicting that children will remain safe from predators as we continue our march, “Forward!!”

    • Sus

      JamesR – I agree with you that if you express opposition to gay marriage, you are judged as a homophobe, bigot and a racist. I haven’t heard “gun nut” in this context but I believe you.

      Pope Benedict XVI was quoted on a visit to the US in 2008 “I do not wish to talk at this moment about homosexuality, but about pedophilia, which is another thing,” he said “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry. It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound.”

      Pairing homosexuality and pedophilia doesn’t really do anything to heal the wound in my opinion.

  • reverend robbie

    This bizarre article from the Guardian aside, I favor moral relativism but would certainly prefer there to be moral absolutes. I simply don’t see enough evidence for any source of moral absolutes. Do you feel that the Bible is a comprehensive source for moral absolutes? If so, how do you avoid subjective interpretation of it? In other words, how would you know that you’re not a moral relativist who only claims that his subjective morals are absolute and objective?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      How do you avoid subjective interpretation of the Bible? Become a Catholic.

      • Reverend Robbie

        Ha ha, fair enough, Father. I appreciate your frankness, and since your response opens up a whole other line of discussion, we’ll leave it at that. :)

  • reverend robbie

    To clarify though, I’m a meta ethical relativist, not a normative relativist. I very much think that if pedophilia harms children, which it quite clearly does, then we should not tolerate it. The extent to which I am a relativist is that I see it as my subjective position that it is wrong to harm people. I chose to enforce that subjective position on others even though I cannot demonstrate that it is objectively wrong to harm people.

    • yan

      According to the Guardian article, it is precisely the clarity of evidence of harm that is at issue.

      I think the Catholic understanding of how we know what is right and wrong is much more sensible than yours. First, God gives us the knowledge of the moral law in our hearts. This proposition is supported by the experience of most people, excepting the occasional psychotic [and it is usually temporary in their case] or extreme sociopath. They have a sense of right and wrong.

      Second, because of sin, and because of human finitude, our ability to know, and desire to know, right from wrong, is impeded. [Where the finitude and sin are great, we have the conditions for the aforementioned psychs and socios.] Subsequently, we misapprehend morality very often. The plurality of opinions as to what is right and wrong also supports this reasonable understanding which comports with our experience.

      Third, this condition of human existence imposes upon God a sort of moral necessity to reveal to us more clearly and incontrovertibly what is right, and what is wrong. This is what God has done, primarily through Moses first, and ultimately, through Jesus the Lord, and His Church.

      That some body, which Catholics believe to be the Church, ought to exist for the purpose of authoritatively determining matters of faith and morals, is evident from the fact that without some such power, moral opinion becomes agnostic, individualized, and problematic in the creating and enforcing of just laws. We see that in our present discussions about right and wrong, and also in pre-Christian societies where the concept of justice even when highly developed often seems to lack humanity.

      It seems that your ethic, just like the ethic of the writer of the Guardian article, presupposes the correctness of Mill’s calculus of pleasures as being the only legitimate basis for determining right and wrong. If Mill’s calculus is indeed the correct basis, then surely the Guardian article’s opinion that pedophilia is sometimes a good thing is more persuasive than yours [that it is 'clearly harmful], since the Guardian article is well-researched and contains much evidence to support its opinion.

      Thus I think it should be clear, there must, and does, exist some transcendent basis for informing us what is right and wrong, and this basis must be able to communicate that to us.

  • Augustine

    While it’s true that moral relativists are uncomfortable with moral absolutes, that’s not the case here. What we have here are militant secularists who, until not too long ago, rightly pointed out the horror of the cover up of the same crime by the Church, but want now to save face for one of their own, Jimmy Saville, a BBC show host, preyed on hundreds of children with the blind eye of a bastion of secularism like BBC.
    Indeed, relativism leaves the door open to truth and goodness to be decided by power. And then, any qualms about moral absolutes are discarded, for power is addictive once tasted.

  • Gail Finke

    I read the article when it came out and I did not get the impression that you did. It seemed to me that the reporter was simply talking about something that is actually true — there is more difference of opinion on pedophilia than most people think, and there really ARE people, and not just the sort of wackos who are easily dismissed as lunatics, who advocate it. It is true, for instance, that in the 50s-70s sex crimes against children were not considered serious and men who committed them were considered easily treated (read Philip Jenkins’s excellent book on the subject, “A Moral Panic,” for the strange cyclic public opinion on this). Of course I think pedophilia is terrible. But you can’t fight these people if you don’t know who they are and if you don’t understand the history, and I thought the piece laid all that out thoroughly.

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  • William

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

    Note that this is a false quotation. It is false because it gives the impression of being a direct quotation from the author of the Guardian article, Jon Henley, which it is not. It is Henley’s quotation from a researcher, Sarah Goode:

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

    We thus see, especially if we take the trouble to read the whole of the article, that “Perhaps we’re wrong about paedophilia” does not represent the opinion either of Jon Henley or of Sarah Goode. It is simply what Goode says that a lot of people are saying.

    Gail Finke is absolutely right when she says, “But you can’t fight these people if you don’t know who they are and if you don’t understand the history”. Whether or not we accept either the opinions or the alleged facts in Henley’s article, pointing out that paedophilia is a more complicated matter than most of us think it is, or would like it conveniently to be, is not a paving of the way for its acceptance.

    Up until 1967 in the UK all homosexual behaviour between males, in all circumstances, was a criminal offence. In 1967 this absurdity was partially removed. I say “partially” because there remained an unreasonable gap of 5 years between the heterosexual and homosexual ages of consent, as well as various other restrictions. Nowadays the only restrictions on homosexual behaviour are the very reasonable ones which apply equally to heterosexual behaviour.

    In the UK (as in the rest of the civilized world) the sexual abuse of children has long been regarded with abhorrence. As the social acceptance of homosexuality has increased – which is an extremely positive development – have public attitudes to paedophilia become more tolerant? No, they have not. On the contrary, they have hardened. The sexual abuse of children has been punished more severely, and the vetting of people of people whose work brings them into contact with children has become more rigorous than ever. This is largely due to what Fr Longenecker would perhaps call a utilitarian approach: we are no longer just morally shocked by abuse of this kind; we are more aware of the appalling and often long-lasting psychological damage that it is liable to do to its victims. Even if a lot of people are saying “Perhaps we’re wrong about paedophilia” – how many is “a lot”? – there is no sign whatever that this is becoming the general sentiment. Indeed, the reaction of most of the general public to the recent revelations about Jimmy Savile shows quite otherwise.

    “The next taboo to fall”? I think not.

    • Reverend Robbie

      It’s interesting that we only credit moral relativism with degradation, when I see much more evidence that relativism is what has been responsible for the advancement of morals, whether people acknowledge it or not. Was it the static belief in the Bible’s endorsement of slavery that bread abolitionism, or was it a willingness to question that clear mandate that started that discussion?

      • Reverend Robbie


    • yan

      “Whether or not we accept either the opinions or the alleged facts in Henley’s article, pointing out that paedophilia is a more complicated matter than most of us think it is, or would like it conveniently to be, is not a paving of the way for its acceptance.”

      But of course it is. You call the past criminalization of sodomy an ‘abusrdity.’ Your ancient ancestors would have called such a law ‘required by nature and God.’ Your more recent ancestors would have called it, ‘unfortunate, but necessary in order to preserve the social order.’ In other words, it is ‘a more complicated matter.’ Your present opinion of the law is an evolution of past ones, based on an increasing attitude of acceptability towards the underlying behavior, which you call ‘a positive development.’

      ‘“The next taboo to fall”? I think not.’

      Give it time. One day, the criminalization of pedophilia will also be viewed by the smart tolerant people that live after you as ‘an absurdity.’ It is a logical consequence of the rejection of transcendent values and our reluctance to have them legally enforced.

  • FW Ken

    Gail Finke -

    I think you perhaps mean Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis , although maybe Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain. I haven’t read the latter book.

  • Survivor

    As a clerical sex abuse survivor, I can scarcely believe this is being debated in pubic – but it is.

    Does this mean survivors should give their damage awards back? (I’m not serious, it’s just that that is the logical conclusion of the Guardian’s argument).

    • yan

      Part of the cleverness of the argument being made in regard to pedophilia is that it is not the act itself, but the quality of the act under certain circumstances that determines whether or not the act is right or wrong.

      What parts of the quality of the act are relevant for making the right/wrong determination? Well, for one, free choice of course. Another is the perceived benefits of the experience according to the opinions of those involved in it. These reasons play into our worship of individual autonomy both regarding our ability to act, and our ability to determine for ourselves what is good for ourselves.

      We just don’t want God or anyone telling us what to do. We can figure it out for ourselves, thanks.

      Thus if a child seems interested in doing it, freely chooses it, and enjoys it, and the Wizards of Human Knowledge [psychologists] are not able to see any harm resulting from it, why should the law prevent it?

      In some cases then, where those criteria were satisfied, survivors might indeed have to give their damage awards back. In fact, they might be viewed as the real predators. ‘Look, it was their choice, and they liked it and suffered no harm, and still, they sue the guy or gal they did it with?? That’s wrong!!’

      Throwing away moral absolutes about sex outside of marriage, and laws prohibiting such sex, means we will have to endure things like this, and God knows what else.

  • Paul Rodden

    Is Paedophilia just a lightning conductor because it’s about the last vestige of sexual morality we have left? Should we assume that the ‘disgust’ felt about it is unchangeable and therefore it too, won’t be eventually be accepted into the general wantonness of society? Surely, the modern criterion of morality is reason alone, and reason can justify anything?

    Isn’t modern man is simply overconfident in his own powers of autonomy and self-determination? But when has it been otherwise? :)

    Maybe it’s got nothing to do with slippery slopes but a faulty frame of reference?
    I thought Moral Relativism wasn’t just another moral position, like Utilitarianism, Deontology, or even Psychological Egoism, but but the very denial of the whole enterprise? Isn’t it simply anarchy?

    • Sean

      ‘Moral Relativism’ is not a philosophical position, with big capital letters, it’s a pejorative applied to ethical positions like utilitarianism and deontology by moral absolutists such as yourself.

      The choice is simple. Moral facts come from an objective source, ie ‘God’, or they must be formulated through application of experience and logic, thus the rules of thumb that define great moral systems: ‘treat others as yourself’, ‘the greater good’, ‘live and let live’, ‘everything in moderation’ etc. Collectively these can be held up in direct contrast to the Ten Commandments, which ultimately rely on an author.

      The problem with objective moral systems is two fold. First, they break down in the absence of authority, so authority must be maintained by whatever means (including immoral ones). Second, they relieve individuals from the burden of making their own ethical decisions, and in fact prevent them from ever learning to do so.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Moral absolutes are validated not by an arbitrary authority, but by individuals who choose to abide by them.

        • Sean

          ==[Moral absolutes are validated not by an arbitrary authority, but by individuals who choose to abide by them.]==

          Oh, you mean they ARE subjective after all. Therefore relative.

  • Sean

    You’ve quoted the article out of context. Here it is in full:

    ==The reclassification of paedophilia as a sexual orientation would, however, play into what Goode calls “the sexual liberation discourse”, which has existed since the 1970s. “There are a lot of people,” she says, “who say: we outlawed homosexuality, and we were wrong. Perhaps we’re wrong about paedophilia.”==

    You say “Pedophilia in all its forms is wrong. End of story.” The standard definitions of paedophilia (eg DSM-IV-TR) describe an innate psychological condition not a behaviour, so perhaps that is the source of your confusion.

    Likewise, you lament that “Before too long pedophiles will be coming out of the closet.”, showing that you haven’t the slightest understanding of the courage it takes to do this. Paedophiles who speak openly about their sexual feelings to friends, family or counselors are invariably entering into an implicit or explicit commitment to refrain from any sexual conduct with children, yet you are advocating that we condemn them anyway.

    Understanding adult sexual attraction to children will do more to protect children that your hysterical demonization and theatrics. Your comments are childish and unchristian.

  • Sean

    Everything is relative. Everything. That is the essence of the Copernican revolution, which the Papal Inquisitions attempted to forestall.

    In a relativistic (and morally oblivious) universe, moral absolutism disables our capacity to think rationally about ethical choices, which are always particular and contingent. Ideology persuades people to abandon innate empathy, their surest guide to ethical conduct, and to act like robots under instruction from an unimpeachible authority.

    The dangers are obvious.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      If everything is relative, then your statement is relative and I have no reason to believe it is true for if everything is relative there is no such thing as a true statement. Your statement that everything is relative is an example of absolutism which disables our capacity to think rationally about ethical choices for how can we think rationally about ethical choices is everything is relative? This ideology that everything is relative persuades people to abandon innate empathy and act like nothing more than instinctive animals–biological robots. The statement that all things are relative comes from an unimpeachable authority. (you) The dangers are obvious.

      • Sean

        Nothing is ever ‘true’ except when it is defined as such. Satements about things in the world can only ever be more or less likely. My statement that everything is relative expresses this.

        The ‘unimpeachible authority’ is not me but the evidence of my senses and explained by what I know of science, which is relatively unreliable, but more reliable than divine revelation.

        As for biological robots, well no two organisms are the same, so if we are robots, we are all different robots on our own unique missions, which somewhat begs the question of what makes us like robots. Also, human beings are reflective and social animals with a highly complex culture. Human behaviour is sensitive to ideas and beliefs and the ‘determism’ you believe inherent in materialism is illusory. Read Daniel Dennett’s book “Freedom Evolves” for a better explanation.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          What you have written is relative to your circumstances and your situation. Therefore it has no meaning for anyone other than you.

          You may exist in an absurd and relativistic universe of your own devising if you wish. If that is the construction you put on reality you are welcome to it, but because it is simply your construction why would you assume that it is in any way ‘true’ and even more disturbing–why would you wish to impose your meaningless and relativistic existence on others?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          You wrote: “Nothing is ever ‘true’ except when it is defined as such.”

          But you have just made a statement that you believe to be ‘true’. If what you have written is ‘true’ then the statement itself is not necessarily true.

          Relativism is nonsense.

          • Sean

            ==[You wrote: “Nothing is ever ‘true’ except when it is defined as such.” But you have just made a statement that you believe to be ‘true’. If what you have written is ‘true’ then the statement itself is not necessarily true.]==

            That’s the liar’s paradox. It’s impossible to formulate any logical system without it.

            ==[What you have written is relative to your circumstances and your situation. Therefore it has no meaning for anyone other than you.]==

            Bingo. It’s called existence. Get used to it.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            “It’s impossible to formulate any logical system without it.” Agreed. That’s why relativism is illogical and will always rest on the foundation of an unsubstantiated opinion expressed as dogmatic statement by an arbitrary absolute authority that may not be challenged: So you say, “It’s called existence. Get used to it.”

            You have therefore made an unsubstantiated, dogmatic truth claim that I am supposed to accept simply because you’ve stated that it is so?

            You’ll forgive me for rejecting something which, by your own definition, can be nothing more than a personal opinion.

          • Sean

            The point is, you have misrepresented an article to encourage a belief that is harmful. Your blog is doing direct harm and you seem too self absorbed to realise it.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Surely as a relativist you would say the article was only what one makes of it, so how could there be such a thing as misrepresenting the article, and if I did do that, why should it matter?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            My blog to be doing “direct harm.” How can you be so absolutist and judgmental? Surely as a relativist, what you mean is that you “perceive my blog to be doing direct harm”, but that is just your opinion–it’s not objectively true in any real sense of the word…

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You say my blog is doing “direct harm.” How can you be so absolutist and judgmental? Surely as a relativist, what you mean is that you “perceive my blog to be doing direct harm”, but that is just your opinion–it’s not objectively true in any real sense of the word…

          • Sean

            I guess the fact you can’t discuss the issue at hand proves you have no defense. Your comments on the Guardian article have nothing to do with moral or any other kind of relativism. Nothing in the article promotes acceptance of sex with children.

            What the article is saying is that self righteous indignation comes a poor second to understanding and support in managing the problem of adult sexual attraction to children and that paedophilia is an innate psychological condition not a behaviour, therefore blameless and only indirectly related to child sexual abuse. The majority of paedophiles never act on their feelings and deserve credit not condemnation.

            So you’ve misrepresented this article to to frame your own contribution to the torrent of hate speech against paedophiles, even while society’s scapegoating grows into an ever more sickening and dehumanizing spectacle. Your vocation should be enough to give you some pause to think about that.

            As I said, childish and unchristian.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I can’t make sense of your comment.

            Just to take the last line, for instance, by “Childish” do you mean “child-like”, “immature”, “innocent”, “free of guilt”, “stunted”, “babyish”, “foolish”, “charming”, “beautiful”, “carefree” or what?

            By “Unchristian” do you mean “doctrinally unorthodox” “hypocritical” “not nice” “not respectable” “Follower of some religion other than Christianity” “disagreeable” “badly mannered” “harsh and judgmental” “soft and easily manipulated”?

            It’s impossible to know what you mean since all language is completely relative.

          • Sean

            I didn’t say childlike, I said childish. By childish I mean immature, ie, not displaying qualities expected of an adult. Piaget coined the term ‘moral relativism’ to describe the final stage in the development of a child’s moral thinking. He called the earliest stage, up to age 7, ‘moral absolutism’.

            By ‘unchristian’ I mean not demonstrating qualities Christians profess to value, charity in particular. Specifically, your comments ridiculing and caricaturing paedophiles “coming out of the closet” further excludes and condemns an already marginalized and vulnerable minority. It also encourages your ‘flock’ to see this initiative as unambigiously negative and wrong, where in fact it invariably reflects a desire to be honest with friends and family and to live in accord with community values and the law. Your words are therefore harmful (and also ignorant and careless).

            Hope that clears things up.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You are using terms like ‘moral absolutism’ and ‘moral relativity’ in a way that suggests that they are dogma for you–as if you consider them to be absolutely true and binding. According to your philosophy it is impossible that such terms should be true in any real way. They simply describe the perceived behaviors of certain individuals at certain times in certain places. One cannot generalize from particular to the general. When we consider the reality we realize that such terms are completely relative. They don’t really mean anything except to the people who made them up and others who choose to believe in them as their crutch to help them make sense of a life which is essentially meaningless because all things are relative.

            Furthermore, you go on to make moral judgements about me saying I am doing things that are ‘harmful’ ‘ignorant’ and ‘careless’. But all these terms assume some standard of absolute values by which your judgements can be made, and we know that there is no such standard of values. They are simply negative terms which you assign based on your own opinions and arbitrary judgement. If everything is relative then your definitions and judgements are meaningless.

            If you are a relativist, then you are also a hypocrite because you don’t apply the rules of relativism to your own philosophy.

          • Sean

            I’m not a ‘relativist’ in the sense that relativity is my only guide. I use local factors to fix my perspective. I’ts amusing that FW Ken considers charges me with “an irrational tirade about relativism”. I have already explained that relativism is not the basis of my criticism. I mentioned it again to clarify my charge of childishness.

            It seems you are unwilling to engage with the issues I’ve raised, preferring word games. Your charge is that paedophilia reveals an immoral state of being outside of the charge of sexual offending. My response is that it is an innate sexual orientation and that, as with any other sexual attraction, it is right or wrong in the manner in which it is expressed. You would condemn a person on the basis of their identity without regard to their conduct, I would not. You would deny people the right to seek help with their problems, I would not.

            That’s all I have to say.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I’m glad to hear that you are not a relativist after all.

            Allow me to instruct you in Catholic moral theology. Catholics believe that an action is, in itself, objectively moral or immoral. It is such according to either natural law or divine law or both. Therefore, a black and white moral judgement is able to be made: an action is either right or wrong.

            However, the objective right or wrong of the action is balanced by the culpability of a person. The person’s guilt in taking a wrong action can be mitigated by the circumstances and intention. Likewise, a person’s right action can be darkened by the circumstances and intention. These two criteria–the objective morality of an action and the culpability of the person allow for a wide range of subtle distinctions in the assessment of moral situation.

            Let us therefore apply this to an instance of pedophilia. The Catholic Church teaches that all sexual intercourse outside of the bond of marriage is objectively wrong. It also teaches that rape compounds the crime of sexual intercourse outside marriage because force is being used. It also teaches that to deprive a child of his or her innocence is objectively wrong. We therefore conclude that for a man to have sexual intercourse with a child, to rape a child or to abuse a child sexually in any way is objectively wrong.

            However, the circumstances and intention are also weighed in the judgement. The criminal may be emotionally and mentally ill. The circumstances may have altered his culpability (e.g. if he was under the influence of drink or drugs) There are a whole range of circumstances and intentions which may mitigate or lessen the person’s guilt (or increase it) and these are also taken into consideration.

            In the case of pedophilia, therefore, we have the capability to minister compassionately to those who suffer from these inclinations without ever acting on them, while still condemning the actions themselves. We would also be able to distinguish between a person who fell into one crime, but was full or remorse and another who was a serial, sane and unrepentant child abuser and rapist.

            The end result is that we hold to objective moral judgements on actions while balancing them with individual circumstances and intentions.

            I hope that explains our position to you clearly.

          • 441019

            Fr. Longenecker: This was a very clear explanation of Catholic moral theology.

  • FW Ken

    My experience is that those most people who say “everything is relative” actually mean “my opinions are the only absolutes”. Funny thing is they come up bogus applications of Copernicus’ findings. Of course it wasn’t the big bad Catholic Church challenged by Copernicus (like many scientists, a faithful priest), but Aristotelian cosmology. I could probably agree that the Church of the time was overly attached to Aristotle, but ignorance and malice have led to amazing revision of the Galileo affair.

  • sally

    Lord, please protect the children. This is so scary!

  • FW Ken

    “hate speech against pedophiles”

    Well there you have it. Things are further along than we thought.

    Sean, you do realize you are illustrating Father’s point, don’t you? Distracting with an irrational tirade about relativism was a nice touch, but, really, the point is to defend pedophiles, I think. You probably didn’t notice, but I’ve already done that above, without seeing the stage for child abuse with unnecessary defensiveness.

  • Sean

    For Goode, though, broader, societal change is needed. “Adult sexual attraction to children is part of the continuum of human sexuality; it’s not something we can eliminate,” she says. “If we can talk about this rationally – acknowledge that yes, men do get sexually attracted to children, but no, they don’t have to act on it – we can maybe avoid the hysteria. We won’t label paedophiles monsters; it won’t be taboo to see and name what is happening in front of us.”

    We can help keep children safe, Goode argues, “by allowing paedophiles to be ordinary members of society, with moral standards like everyone else”, and by “respecting and valuing those paedophiles who choose self-restraint”. Only then will men tempted to abuse children “be able to be honest about their feelings, and perhaps find people around them who could support them and challenge their behaviour before children get harmed”.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      That’s all well and good and very nice and understanding, but proponents of this trend of thought will have to answer the pedophiles who argue that sex with children is not harmful. The Guardian article we are discussing actually quotes those who say children are able to consent to sex and aren’t harmed by it. If relativists wish to condemn pedophile behavior they will have to come up with some sort of argument why it is wrong. However, without moral absolutes they cannot. They can only either state an arbitrary rule or say “At this time society does not consider sex with children to be acceptable.”

  • 441019

    I think this is very true. “Freedom” means the freedom to live according to one’s conscience, but it doesn’t mean lawlessness. When people begin to think that freedom and equality and “rights” means doing whatever you feel like doing, without consequences, it eventually leads to tyranny–because there has to be an outside force to enforce law and order.
    Another way to look at it, is when the Jewish people, in the Old Testament, turned away from God and became immoral and corrupt, eventually they were overcome, captured and enslaved by their enemies.