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Friday, March 22 2002

Interference

"Have sex with a minor, go to jail," signs on the backs of Valley Transit buses warn. When I first saw them, they struck me as gratuitous...who needs to be told something so universally known? What is the District Attorney's Office (for that's who's paying for the signs) trying to do...give people ideas? But in reflection, it seems more apparent day by day that lots of people do need to get that message that bluntly. Every week, as Jay Leno points out, it seems another school teacher is arrested somewhere in the country for being caught involved sexually with a student or students. It's teachers of both sexes, and the most recent such report I read involved an elementary boy of 11 and a woman teacher.

It's even more despicable when it's members of the clergy. For the married preacher to have an affair with the church choir director or organist seems a cliche, and is still despicable, but lately it's also been priests with altar boys or parish youths coming for activities or confession. I'm sure, having been a boy myself, and a Boy Scout, that there are more than a few altar boys willing to try to seduce their priests. Some are, like Bart Simpson, for example, out to do whatever mischief they can just to prove it can be done.

Other boys are more cunning, hoping to cause the downfall of the man of great power, charisma, and reputed "holiness." I read an interview with a retired priest in the midwest this week who said that, while assigned to a parish where he had no challenge and couldn't thrive, he turned to seducing boys in the parish. Though he knows it's something many consider wrong, he's not, himself, convinced it was...he probably did some of them a favor, teaching them about sex. And it never amounted to more than mutual fondling. And as evidence of his point he further attests that no exposure of his practices was ever done by the boys involved, and no charges filed with law agencies or his superiors.

My strong hunch is that at least one of those "boys," under therapy in middle age, will be enlightened on the causes of his maladjustments by his therapist and be encouraged to sue for a small recompense for the sins committed against him. For the bus signs are spot on: sex with any minor by any older person is a crime. More importantly, it's a grievous breach of basic human morality.

I don't blame any church, denomination, or hierarchy for what's been revealed in the past few weeks, and know similar situations are found in the human race everywhere. Priests who prey on their parishioners of either sex are probably a smaller segment of the clergy population than a comparable cross-section of parents who abuse their children. But is that not as it should be?

When I joined the staff of a fundamentalist Protestant ministry in my mid-20's, the first scandal I heard about there was that a former youth minister had been fired for fooling around with the boys whose interest who could arouse. Truly, it's everywhere. But that excuses nothing and no one perpetrating untoward advances.

One of my favorite books, or set of books, of the past decade is Angela's Ashes and its sequel, 'Tis, by Frank McCourt. It's the autobiographical account of his family's life, surviving against great opposition from poverty and deprivation in and after the Great Depression in Ireland. Most of the family's consolation was in the church. But in the end of the first volume Frank recounts how a priest tried to "interfere" with him. By then, he was a grown but still young man, and far from innocent or naive. But still the implications were life shaping...even though nothing came to fruition, it stamped him for the rest of his life. "Interference" is one of those Frank McCourt-isms that capture the idea in euphemistic terms but convey the point precisely. I can't think of a better word for it.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Doh!

A photographer was assigned to take pictures of a forest fire and his employer rented a small plane that would be waiting to fly him over the fire.

The photographer arrived at the airstrip and, sure enough, a small airplane was waiting. He jumped in and shouted, "Let's go!" The pilot swung the plane into the wind and soon they were in the air, flying erratically.

"Now fly over the fire," said the photographer, "and make several low-level passes." "Why?" asked the pilot. "What do you mean?" yelled the photographer. "I'm a photographer, and photographers take pictures."

The pilot turned around and replied: "You mean, you're not my instructor?

 

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Lenten thought for the day

Come down, O Lord, in great mercy into my soul, and take possession and dwell there.

It is a little mansion, I confess, for so glorious a majesty; but you
are preparing it to receive you, by holy and fervent desires which
you have breathed into me.

Enter my soul, then, and make it beautiful: make it the kind of place
you can live in, since it is the work of your hands.

Give me your own self. Without you, my desires could never be
satisfied, even if you gave me the whole of creation.

O grant that my soul may always seek you, and that I may persist in
seeking you, until I have found you, and am in full possession of you!

—St Augustine (354-430)

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