Sunday, August 07, 2011

Why the "pedophile priests" scandal won't go away -- yet

During that time when I was too busy to post, I read a post over at InternetMonk (Michael Spencer's old blog) by a Roman Catholic apologist who goes by the name Martha of Ireland. Starting with the recent pedophile priest scandal in Ireland, she posted about what she called The Scandal of Forgiveness. There she argues at length that the secrecy of the confessional, as the church's law (and, she contends, the law of God) ought to trump the law of man. She seeks to answer criticism against what many people see as the church's fairly obvious wrongdoing; she does this by focusing clearly and exclusively on the redemption of the sinner.

I have never heard any Christian dispute the fact that it is the church's job to work for the redemption of the evildoer. The objection comes when protecting the evildoer from the law is given priority over protecting his victims from criminal abuse. The scandal in all this is not the church's forgiveness, it's the church's complicity. The abused are accorded barely a recognition, and their safety is not spared a single thought.

Is the law of God higher than the law of man? Of course; and protecting the innocent is most definitely the law of God. So it is not entirely honest to frame the church's silence as a case of the law of God against the law of man. One of the things that has lost the most credibility for the church is that, this time, it is the secular government upholding the law of God in the case of the abused children, while the church turns a blind eye to that particular law of God, and to the children being abused. How can anyone accept that, much less justify it?

Is keeping the silence of the confessional a law of God, or a law of man? I'll answer for either view a reader might hold. If this secrecy is a man-made law -- then the church is upholding the law of man, while the secular government upholds the law of God. Lots of people hold this view, and are disgusted with the church. But if this secrecy is a law of God, it does not follow that it is the highest law. Protecting the innocent is also the law of God. As Jesus taught, there are times when a lesser law (like resting on the Sabbath) must be broken for a greater law (like rescuing a creature in danger). At times like that, keeping the greater law makes a person innocent, even if he breaks the lesser law. But breaking the greater law for the sake of keeping the lesser law is wrong in the eyes of God.

In Ireland, there is at least talk of an Irish law to insist that priests who hear confessions should report actual crimes to the government authorities. I think Ireland is justified to make such a law; still it is questionable whether the Catholic Church would submit itself to an ordinance of man even for the Lord's sake, to those who are appointed for the punishment of evildoers. That is why I would hope to see a similar law come from the church hierarchy. What other law would the priests respect? In some cases, the church is accustomed to — and theologically prepared to – defy the law of the land. But every once in awhile the law of the land may hold true to the law of God, and they do wrong to go against it at a time like that. The priest could easily insist that, if the person’s repentance is genuine, then their act of penance — or restitution — will be to turn himself over to the authorities and confess also to them. If the priest were quite serious about protecting the people being wronged, or even respecting the laws of the land (especially ones that coincide with the laws of God), I’d think that would be a given.

Martha's article also frames the problem as if the real difficulty people have with the priests is that they might hear a man from their parish who confesses to abusing a child. We spend the length of her article looking at the priest through Martha's eyes as a noble man in a difficult situation because of the privacy of the confessional. But back in the real-world scandal, the problem with the priests has not been so much that they might have heard a terrible confession -- it has been that the priests themselves were the criminals. So, in one sense, the whole article is a diversion from the real issue of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal among the priests. Their superiors could have insisted the criminal priests should turn themselves in. I expect that the priests are under vows of obedience to the church. If the church commanded them to turn themselves in and they did not, I suspect that they could be legitimately defrocked for disobedience. Is this a desirable outcome? Yes. Let's not outsmart ourselves.

The article I'm responding to is written in defense of a policy of silence that was questionable even with an offender from the members of the parish; but silence becomes even more questionable when we remember that the offenders in the original scandal are, themselves, priests. When it comes to the question of priests who themselves are pedophiles, the situation is worse: then we have an institution with an official policy of silence to protect known criminals within its own membership and leadership. That is generally regarded as corrupt, and no number of fine words will change peoples' recognition of something wrong with that picture.

As a side note, I admit to being puzzled by one of Martha's arguments: that once a sin is forgiven in the eyes of God, that's the end of the story on whether the sin can be mentioned again. A group like Rome teaches, on the one hand, that the confessional and forgiveness are not the end of the story on a sin -- that purgatory still follows. It seems that if forgiveness was not a full answer in God's eyes, and God gives the sinner a second round of medicine -- purification -- then the church has already recognized in principle that forgiveness is one thing and the stain of sin is another, that the sin may need some follow-up work even if it is forgiven. By the same token it is perfectly legitimate for the government and its laws to do their job even on a forgiven sin -- for the safety of the people.

Why won't the pedophile priests scandal go away -- yet? It will not go away until Rome recognizes that protecting victims from harm is also the law of God -- and a higher law than protecting the offender. Rome must also recognize that it is one question whether a sinner is forgiven in God's eyes, and a different question whether he is safe to his neighbors. When the day comes that we hear the Roman Catholic apologists arguing at length about defending the weak and upholding their cause before God, then the day may be closer when we can leave the scandal behind. But so long as the apologists make arguments about how the status quo is fine and the policy of silence is good, why should anything change?


Aron said...

While there is much the Catholic Church can do to change the rules to prevent future cover-ups, I think removing the seal of the confession is a terrible idea.

First of all, it is not clear that such a policy would necessarily reduce the number of molesters brought to justice. Suppose we make a policy that priests have to turn in molesters to the police. Now among molesters not already willing to face justice, there are 3 classes:
1) those who would not turn themselves in under any circumstances, and know about the new policy,
2) those who would not turn themselves in under any circumstances, but do not know about the new policy, and
3) those who would turn themselves in, but only if encouraged by their confessor to do so.

When the new rule comes into effect, molesters in class #1 will simply skip confession, and molesters in class #3 will either be turned in involuntarily instead of volunarily (which is probably less desirable), or will not confess at all.

The only case in which the new rule would have its intended effect is #2. And in this case, it only works through deception. Now I don't think that deception to catch criminals is always wrong (e.g. in a police sting) but can you see why a Catholic might object to using a SACRAMENT as a sting operation? Furthermore, when the abusers are themselves priests they are not very likely to be ignorant about the rule (a rule that can't even work if priests don't know about it!)

I know you would prefer if this rule came from the Church. But you also say the State would be justified in making it a law on its own initiative. You believe that the benefits of reporting outweigh the benefits of the seal and obedience to canon law. But some disagree, and not because they want children to be abused. I'm neither a Catholic nor clergy, but if I were both, I would not feel at liberty to break the seal against the rules of my church. Would you want me to go to jail for this?

Society needs some confidentiality rules that protect the guilty, so that they can be adequately advised both legally and spiritually. Just as abrograting lawyer/client privilege isn't a good way to prevent crime, abrogating priest/penitent privilege isn't a good way to prevent sin.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Aron

I don't think we'd have to outright remove the seal of the confessional. All we really want is for the priests to make more ethically acceptable decisions if they heard a confession that, morally, demanded their action to protect an innocent.

Take your analogy of attorney-client privilege. There are exceptions to attorney-client privilege: the attorney may disclose confidential information to prevent substantial physical harm to another person. It's very much like in the confessional: granted that silence may be the law but it is *not* the greatest law.

I would hold out for the real possibility that someone who had committed a violent crime and had come to the point of regret and confession might actually be willing to take a real turn and come honest with society and not just in secret. We have to hold out for real repentance. Otherwise, what's the point of the confessional at all? I have to admit that, with such options as you've outlined -- if that's all the person was willing to do I'm not sure that they should bother confessing. What would they receive from such a half-hearted confession? Would they really receive absolution when they still intend to use the cloak of secrecy and abuse the confessional like that and go out and do it again? Would the priest really feel right in telling them they were innocent in God's eyes if that's how they were seeing things? I think it's the priest's job at this point to explain to the person that a genuine sorrow at that point would involve going to the police for the safety of all.

But again I get sidetracked; the most infamous offenders have themselves been priests. It should be a clear rule that such a confession *from* a priest would involve both priest and confessor -- or just confessor if need be -- going straight to the authorities. There is a certain element of corruption otherwise, and abuse of power.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

P.S. An afterthought: Have you ever heard lawyer jokes? I'm sure you must have. Lawyers are endlessly disrespected. There are some who deserve it.

But if the lawyers can break attorney-client privilege to prevent substantial physical harm to the innocent, and if the priests cannot, that would mean the lawyers were the more ethical of the two, in that respect.

Not really a path we want to go down.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

s-p said...

Excellent post. The "sacrament" is really "absolution", not "confession". Just because a sin is confessed does not mean the priest HAS to absolve. Those who are seeking to avoid temporal "justice" are not repentant anyway so Aron's three classes don't really apply.

Weekend Fisher said...

Really well-put there. I'd been struggling to find just the words to voice that thought clearly, and there they are. Thank you!

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron said...

I don't think my comment has been understood. I never said that the priest should absolve an unrepentant person, or that the first 2 classes of people I mentioned were repentant and should be absolved. I agree with you that molesters should be encouraged to self-report as an essential part of repentance.

My argument was instead that the policy of making an exception to the secrecy of confession fails at its own goal, since confession is voluntary, and thus it WON'T ACTUALLY RESULT IN ANY CHILDREN BEING SAVED unless the molesters can be *tricked* into believing they won't be reported even though they will be. (Nor will any children be saved if priests who disagree with the law go to jail instead of reporting. Nor will any priest-molesters be caught since priests must all be made aware of the policy in order for it to work.)

Thus while the advantages of the law are unclear, the law would have 3 serious disadvantages: a) religious persecution of priests, b) using a sacrament as a trap, and c) discouraging (nonmolester) Catholics from going to confession by introducing doubt about its secrecy.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hm, I'm not sure I've made my thoughts clear, either.

Would you want the silence of the confessional kept at the price of serious bodily harm to an innocent third party? That's really the only question I'm asking, & the only one the proposed rule-change would affect.

The lawyers already have a "duty to report" when their failure to act would cause serious bodily harm to another. It hasn't driven business away from lawyers, and it hasn't made going to the lawyer a "trap" or a "trick" either. If the church adopted parallel rules, the average parishioner who wasn't a violent criminal would have no fear of the confessional.

At any rate, the majority of the problem seems to have been the criminal priests, and they would hardly be caught off guard by a change of the rules of which they, of all people, would be well aware.

Would it drive people out of the priesthood? Well, if they're driven out by rules forbidding child abuse, good riddance, y'know.

I think the thing I have the most trouble understanding about your responses it that 100% of the concern is for the molesters. I don't get it. So back to the only real question on the table from my end: Would you want the silence of the confessional kept at the price of serious bodily harm to an innocent third party?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron said...

Anne, thanks for your reply.

First of all, I'm a little hurt that you say that 100% of my concern is for the molesters. If you go back and reread my comments, you'll see that I identified 3 groups of people other than the molesters who might be harmed by the proposed Irish law: a) priests who may be arrested for failure to disclose, b) ordinary lay Catholics who may be confused by the precendent, and c) the victimized children themselves, if fewer molesters turn themsleves in as a result of being unable to safely seek encouragement to do so.

Saving the victims of child molesters is an extremely important goal, but some things are even more important. You ask, would I want "the silence of the confessional kept at the price of serious bodily harm to an innocent third party?" The answer is YES. Because you have to think not just about this time, you have to think about how the rule change affects people in the future for all time.

Here's some other things I wouldn't normally do, in peacetime, if I were in the government, to prevent serious bodily harm to an innocent party by someone that I personally KNEW was guilty: Assassinate the criminal, detain him indefinitely without trial, commit perjury, conduct an illegal search (something that leads to a lot of guilty people getting off in the United States), pass an ex post facto law, rig a jury, bribe a judge, or tape-record his conversations with his lawyer. Not because the bastard wouldn't deserve it (he would!) but because it would be a bad precedent for the NEXT time.

If you think that the legal norms I listed above are different because they're more important values than confessional secrecy--well, you're not a Catholic. Neither am I, but remember that Catholics believe that confession can make the difference between the sinner going to Hell or not. (And in certain cases, they may even be right.)

Aron said...

And yes, I take your point that the legal norms have certain exceptions. But it's a non sequitur to argue that lawyers are more ethical than priests because lawyers have more exceptions to their confidentiality rule than priests do. Different contexts justify different rules; it's not a question of which profession is more ethical.

When it comes to the importance of following certain rules even if sometimes the guilty go free--I think sometimes the lawyers are right and the people who make fun of them don't understand the reason for the rules.

Weekend Fisher said...

You know, I think you have a point -- not about the pedophiles, but about maybe I could stand to cool off a little bit.

Saying your concern was 100% for the pedophiles was unfair of me; I shouldn't assume that your support for silence is actually intended as concern for pedophiles over their victims, even if the practical consequences happen to be no different.

I'll post a real reply tomorrow on the substantive stuff.

For tonight, my apologies at having gotten hot-headed. You didn't deserve that, & I'm sorry.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

So back to the Code of Silence.

Is that rule is absolute? Is protecting the innocent absolute? (You've said yes to the first and no to the second.)

Any rule that is absolute is claiming pride of place as the highest rule -- otherwise whatever is higher would take precedence. That's why there were arguments about which was the greatest of the commandments; it matters, for times when two rules come into conflict, to know which is the greater and which is the lesser.

You say silence is the absolute unbreakable rule here. Does the Bible teach that? I ask, Does silence take precedence even over preventing serious bodily harm to someone, and you say: YES (with the caps being yours). You say that that silence is the greater good, and keeping silence justifies allowing "serious bodily harm" (whether that means molesting a child, murder, etc). In this, I think you're not simply wrong, but badly wrong, very far across the line between right and wrong, and (quite literally, not exaggerating) wrong in a way that is dangerous to others -- you specifically said you were willing for it to be dangerous to others.

In the Bible, Jesus says that those who harm children would be better off to have millstones tied around their necks and be tossed into the sea; he doesn't say anything like that about those who break silence to protect them. So I don't think you have any Biblical ground to stand on, saying silence is greater. If you have Biblical ground to where you think "breaking silence" is more serious than something that Jesus says rates a millstone, then bring the reference and show me a better understanding. But unless you can, the "millstone" crowd is committing the greater evil, and we have an obligation to side with the greater good. As for the children, their angels always are before the Father in heaven. And those who stand up for the children are on the side of the angels.

You seem to be gravely worried that if any exceptions at all were allowed to the Code of Silence, that it would directly compare to (your list, your comparisons) assassination, perjury, rigging a jury, bribing a judge, illegal searches. I think those analogies are way over the top.

You say breaking silence is comparable to illegal searches. Is there no such thing as a legal search? Every search invades someone's privacy; it's why we don't do it lightly. You need a search warrant. You need due process of law. You need a judge. And -- more than anything else or even the judge will turn you down -- you need probable cause.

Why bother with the analogy about legal searches? Because the law recognizes the right of privacy. It recognizes it strongly. It has penalties for when it is broken. But there is such a thing as due process of law. There is an acknowledgment that privacy is not the highest good, and that in good judgment it is necessary to at times break that privacy.

You said that there is much the Catholic Church can do to change the rules to prevent future cover-ups. I'd really be glad to see you spend comparable time and effort developing those ideas.

Meantime, unless you can show the Bible with a "millstone" moment against the silence-breakers, then the child-harmers are the greater evil, and I would strongly encourage you to search out which position has Biblical support with a fair eye to both sides, not just the one you're accustomed to defending.

For my own part, if you can bring a "millstone moment" Bible passage to support the silence of the confessional being more important than protecting the innocent. I'll be glad to learn better.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron said...

Dear Anne,

I don't think my position is what you think it is.

There is only one absolute rule--the rule of love. For this reason, my general stance on moral issues is typically a consequentialist one (I would break any of the legal rules I mentioned above to prevent a nuke from going off in New York City). In other words, I am willing to do things which hurt others, if in the long run the act saves more people than it harms.

There was no need for you to mention the millstone: it was already on my mind earlier in this conversation, when you said I was more concerned with the molesters than the victims. But if Jesus' words are true, this is a false dichotomy, since the person harmed most by molesting children is the paedophile himself. In other words, what's best for the molester and what's best for the children are one and the same: that the molester should stop molesting children! (Ideally, through repentance, but if necessary, through force.)

You characterize my position as saying that silence is even more important than protecting children. But that is not my position. Not only do I not believe that silence is more valuable than protecting children, I don't believe that silence has any intrinsic value at all! Its value is purely a means to an end, and the end is the one we can both agree on: sinners repenting and their victims being rescued.

As you probably know, the Catholic church didn't always have secret confession; the early church experimented with lots of other formats including public confession in worship. Maybe public confession deserves another look, but the Catholics settled on private confession for a very simple reason: most people are too embarassed or afraid to confess their sins at all without the explicit reassurance that it won't leave the room.

Now, suppose someone came to me and said "I want to talk to you about a spiritual problem, but first I need you to promise me not to tell any one else," and suppose it turned out they were feeling guilty because they were planning to commit murder, or were molesting children, or something like that. In this case, I would say to myself, on the one hand, the person would never have told me this in the first place unless I had given them this promise. I can do more good by privately counseling them to repent than I could have if I'd never learned their secret in the first place. On the other hand, I have the opportunity to report them before they can harm anyone else. Unless I was very sure that I could prevent the crime through private counseling, this is the greater good. Thus as a private individual I would report the person.

Someone might say, but if I do report the person, no hard-core criminals will ever trust me with their secrets again! And I would say, "Big whoop! What are the odds that this situation will come up twice in one lifetime?" But the Catholic church has a long lifetime; it knows that the situation will arise again. And that is why it makes sense for the Catholic church (but not me personally) to have absolute secrecy of the confessional; not because secrecy has any intrinsic value but because secrecy is a necessary means to an end: where in this case the end is encouraging serious sinners to repent.

In your most recent post, you all but call me evil. You say that I am "dangerous to others" and exhort me to "stand up for the children". But our disagreement is not that you want to protect the children and I don't. Rather, our disagreement is about which policy will result in more children being protected in the long run.

I think that keeping all confessions secret will actually result in fewer children being molested. But I don't for that reason accuse you of not standing with the children. That's because you sincerely (though in my view mistakenly) believe that your policy would result in saving more children. I would appreciate it if you would extend that same courtesy to me.

Aron said...

P.S. Without eliminating the secrecy of confession, the church could do the following:

1. Make child abuse by priests or other ministers a `latae sententiae' offense (meaning that they are considered automatically excommunicated and forbidden from performing any ministry the instant they perform the act). This would make the gravity of the offense clear to all parties (alas that this should be needed!), discourage reassignment, and make clear that an essential part of the sin is pretending to be a priest while abusing the trust to perform abominable acts.

2. Reserve absolution for the Pope (or some other specified authority). This would prevent the molesters from choosing confessors strategically for the purpose of leniency, anonymity, or to thwart an on-going investigation.

Both of these steps have precedent in canon law for other offences. Additionally, I would require that:

3. The confessor should impose as penance, at a bare minimum, that the culprit resign & take steps to avoid repeating the offense.

4. Anyone found (outside of confession) to have abused or reassigned abusers is to be reported to the police and defrocked.

Note that most of the bishops in question knew about the abuse in other ways besides confession. That's why I don't think the seal of the confessional is the main issue here when it comes to abuse of power.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Aron

This looks like the core of your response:

Aron: In your most recent post, you all but call me evil. You say that I am "dangerous to others" and exhort me to "stand up for the children". But our disagreement is not that you want to protect the children and I don't. Rather, our disagreement is about which policy will result in more children being protected in the long run.


You already know I did no such thing as call you evil, so I'll let that pass.

For "dangerous", see your remark:

(Aron, previous: You ask, would I want "the silence of the confessional kept at the price of serious bodily harm to an innocent third party?" The answer is YES.)

It is accurate to call that "dangerous"; it is dangerous to the people you have said you are willing to sacrifice.

You say in your latest responses that your ultimate goal is to have fewer children abused. That is a welcome change from before:

(Aron, previous: "Saving the victims of child molesters is an extremely important goal, but some things are even more important.")

Recently, when you have now said that the ultimate goal is to protect the victims, there is reason to wonder who you see as the real victims:

(Aron, recent: "The person harmed most by molesting children is the paedophile himself")

Your words raise questions about your priorities.


On the "consequentialist" argument: your implied argument is that we should tolerate when Criminal #1 attacks Adam, Bill, and Charlie in the hopes that he can be brought to repentance before he attacks David, Eric, and Fred. And if David, Eric, and Fred are harmed, maybe that was ok too if we suppose that now Greg, Harvey, and Ian are safe. Once one argues that "the future children saved outweigh the present children lost", there's no end to how many real children might be sacrificed now, since there's no end to how many theoretical future children are claimed to be saved; there's no way to count them.

It is never our prerogative to sacrifice an unwilling innocent to save the guilty. Not even one.

You may argue: sacrificing Adam, Bill, and Charlie *might* save others. But sacrificing the Offender would have saved all of them - even Adam, Bill, and Charlie, and removed the doubt over whether sacrificing these 3 would really have done any good to later victims, rather than just training the offender's appetite for violence. A purely consequentialist argument would not really demand the sacrifice of the first N number of children; instead, "sacrifice the freedom of the criminal" would the simplest argument there.

You have argued that the pedophile is more harmed than the victim. By that argument we should put the pedophile in protective custody to keep him from something worse even than being raped or murdered.


I have a friend whose father was a pedophile. (Didn't harm her; he was after boys.) He was abused in the same way as a child. The daughter learned from social workers that many abusers were themselves once victims. (I saw the same once when called to jury duty. It was a child molester; he had been molested as a child.)

Even if you really persuade Offender #1 to repent, and have "successfully" sacrificed Adam, Bill, and Charlie to save the rest -- you don't know that Adam and Bill and Charlie won't turn around and take up where he left off and hurt the others themselves. It goes that way often enough.

But in my mind that's really beside the point; even if the victims would never do the same to others, it wouldn't justify having sacrificed them against their wills in the first place. And who knows whether their sacrifice will save anyone at all.

It is never our prerogative to sacrifice an unwilling innocent to save the guilty. Not even one. I also don't see how it's possible to deny that; I really don't.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Aron said...

Dear Anne,

Although you highlight some seeming inconsistencies in my positions, these do not indicate changes in my position, but changes in my attempts to express it. All along, I have beleived that the "more important goals" besides catching the *immediate* victim of the confessing abuser, is to preserve something that I believe saves more children in the long run.

Do you disagree that "The person harmed most by molesting children is the paedophile himself"? That would suggest that you don't believe the passage you quoted from Jesus about the millstone--a passage in which quite a bit of concern seems to be shown for the molester. What do you think happens to unrepentant molesters?

But this is irrelevant. You can "raise questions about [my] priorities" all you like; my actual ARGUMENT is that more *victims* will be saved so it doesn't matter.

I agree it's generally better to catch molesters than to let them off in the hopes that they'll repent. Confession is a special case because if you report in that circumstance, they just won't show up and you save no one. That's an important part of my argument you aren't really addressing.

It isn't consequentialism that's dangerous, it's life that is dangerous. If we are in a situation where it looks like we have to give up on one child to save two (and with finite resources, this sort of thing is always going to happen sometimes), one has to be dangerous either to one child or to two. (If you had a $1 million grant to save abused children, would it be wiser to spend it all on the first case, or save some to have a permanent institution that rescued children?)

You argue that maybe the consequentialist won't really save any future children due to postponing the actual benefits too far, but this just means that we need to be careful when we make trade-offs, that the thing we're getting is likely to be real. Surely you don't think there's NEVER reason to believe that you can save future children. And remember, if everyone knows about your reporting policy in advance, your policy saves not one but ZERO children.

I doubt that we will come to agreement on this matter; this is probably the last comment I will make on this post. I'm sorry if I over-reacted; please forgive me. And I forgive you too.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Aron

Thank you for the peaceful tone; I know it's a challenge discussing something of this nature.
"Blessed are the peacemakers."

I did want to respond, especially as you said you hadn't seen some points addressed.

Aron: "If everyone knows about your reporting policy in advance, your policy saves not one but ZERO children."

That's false. It saves those who repent genuinely; your own scenario wouldn't have saved anyone else besides those anyway. In the end, we "save" the same number of pedophiles, but without sacrificing the innocents against their wills.

Aron: Do you disagree that "The person harmed most by molesting children is the pedophile himself?"

Absolutely I disagree; that argument confuses some very different "harms" and some very different causes of harm, to claim the pedophile as a victim at a time and place where he is undoubtedly the evildoer and criminal.

It's just rhetoric to say "you don't believe the passage you quoted from Jesus about the millstone" -- of course I do; I think it misrepresents Jesus badly to talk about the millstone as "a passage in which quite a bit of concern seems to be shown for the molester". He's talking about God coming after a child-harmer with full-on unapologetic condemnation and vengeance, not with "concern for the molester". What he gives us for this world with the millstone talk is full-strength warning of judgment and condemnation; the "concern for the molester" here expresses itself as a warning that they will be utterly destroyed unless they reject that evil.

In Jesus' speech there's no ambiguous message about whether harming someone today might be acceptable if it saves someone tomorrow, no confusion about who the real victim is in the act of molesting children. The molester is *not* the victim of his own act of molesting someone else. The molester has definitely become a wreck of a human being that is largely owned by evil and enslaved to evil; it is wrong to frame that in a way to claim the molester is "harmed most" when he's enjoying sex at a child's unwilling expense. Frame him as a victim of the devil if you will, but not a victim of the act of molesting someone else.

Recall what Jesus said about committing adultery in the heart. The damage to the pedophile's soul was already deadly when he first entertained the fantasy of using a child as a sex toy, when he committed pedophilia in his heart.

If a pedophile is considering stopping his life of evil, what is more likely to help him to stop: a plain and uncompromised message that child molesting is wrong and will land him in millstone territory in the world to come, or a message that he's really the main victim here and it's ok to sacrifice some now if more can be saved later?

Aron: "It isn't consequentialism that's dangerous, it's life that's dangerous."

That's not an either-or, where if one is dangerous then the other isn't. Sure life is dangerous; consequentialism here makes life *more* dangerous. Here it is a justification for accepting real injuries now for theoretical improvements later. It doesn't take $1 million grant to save abused children; it doesn't take $1 to save abused children. It takes a firm commitment to decency -- across the board -- to save children, and that is where we have the greatest shortage of resources unfortunately. Without that, no amount of money will do the job, and with that no money is necessary. It starts with an unconfused and unapologetic stand against wrong.

Aron: "Surely you don't think there's NEVER reason to believe you can save future children."

There's good reason to believe you can save future children: by sending a clear message that's unacceptable. We're far more likely to help by taking a firm line against pedophiles than by sending mixed messages.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF