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The Letter Of The Law

In the news today was the all-to-familiar story of a Catholic priest pleading guilty to sexually molesting an altar boy. The Rev. Robert V. Gale admitted to abusing the boy on an average of twice a month between 1980 and 1985, when the boy was 10-15 years old.

I'm not going to go too deeply into the particulars of this story, but I do recall that at the height of the priest sex abuse scandal, I heard the horrifying statistic that 117 of the 175 Cardinals of the Catholic Church in the United States (or perhaps Bishops -- I'm not that up on the Catholic hierarchy) had been involved in a child sex abuse scandal, mainly in covering up the incidents.

That's right. An almost perfect 2/3 proportion of these exemplars of moral rectitude, these Princes of the Church, these pillars of the community, had arranged for children's families to be bought off and for pedophile priests to be transferred away from the scenes of their crimes and foisted off on other unsuspecting communities.

I was outraged at the time. I demanded to know why the hell they weren't themselves arrested and hauled before the court, and why the Church itself wasn't being investigated under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970) statutes. I was full of righteous outrage, and I wanted blood. That's when it was explained to me that Cardinals had no legal obligation to report such crimes to authorities, and were in fact perfectly within the law to arrange private settlements with the families and shuffle serial predators around the country.

This morning, Wizbang was deluged with spam in the comments sections. I deleted and banned them as fast as they could, but still at 15 sneaked through in the span of seven minutes. Running high on outrage, I followed the spammed link and lo and behold, there was an 800 number on the page. I called them up and read them the riot act in high dudgeon. The company insisted it wasn't them, but a rogue affiliate, and they vowed to "deal with" the offender. They were short on specifics, though, and wanted to make perfectly clear that what they (or their affiliate) had done "wasn't illegal."

We have a fax machine where I work. We regularly get junk faxes for vacations, home refinancing, health insurance, and a bunch of other crap. I've called them on occasion and ripped them new ones. They kindly offer to take us off their list (never bothering to explain just how we got on that list in the first place). They refuse to admit that the faxing is illegal, however. In fact, many of them cite the ruling by Judge Limbaugh (Rush's uncle, lending credence to the theory that asshattery might have a genetic component) overturning that law. They fail to note that Limbaugh's ruling itself was overturned by a higher court. But the one thing they keep insisting on is that what they are doing "isn't against the law."

The general tone of our society has grown more and more coarse. It seems whenever I'm in a place where younger people congregate (teenagers especially), the most frequent word tossed around is the infamous "f-bomb." It's "f this" and "this f'in that" and "I'm gonna f'in do something" all over the place. And on the rare occasions I've spoken up about this to the offenders (usually asking them to respect the presence of young children, the most frequent response is "f you, there's no law that says I can't say whatever the f I want."

A little while ago I came to a tremendous insight. "It's not illegal" isn't an excuse, it's a confession. When someone says "there's no law against it," what they are really saying is "I know what I'm doing is wrong, that I am offending and quite possibly infringing on your rights and your property, but since nobody has bothered to spell out in the law exactly what I'm doing and why it's wrong, I don't care." As far as I'm concerned, the instant someone uses the "it's not illegal" argument, they've lost all credibility and standing.

Of course, I've used it myself on occasion, but at least i've had the decency to feel bad about it...

J.


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Comments (16)

Jay,You have <a hr... (Below threshold)

Jay,

You have more power than you realize. Play some hardball.

Puddle, you have absolutely... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Puddle, you have absolutely no idea how much self-restraint it took to NOT publish the toll-free number of the spammer (or spammer's client -- it makes no difference to me). But that would've taken the focus off the main gist of my piece.

Congrats on the squelching of the Maitre d', though. I'm firmly in favor of anyone with a snooty French title getting knocked down a peg or two at any opportunity, and your tale warmed my heart.

J.

It took Mr. Nose-In-The-Air... (Below threshold)

It took Mr. Nose-In-The-Air all of twenty minutes to do the right thing once he was properly motivated. That warmed my heart!

If you have a fax number fo... (Below threshold)

If you have a fax number for a junk faxer, get enough black paper to tape into a loop, and fax that back to them. Back in the era of thermal faxes it would burn out the printhead; now it just wasts their toner.

That's diabolical ... I lo... (Below threshold)

That's diabolical ... I love it.

Hey, have you ever tried th... (Below threshold)
John:

Hey, have you ever tried the riposte,
"Well, you make a good point. It's just insulting and annoying, but not illegal. Actually, you know, it's also not illegal for me to hit you in the head with this baseball bat if your words are intended to insult and annoy me. That's this bat, here. So, do you feel lucky, punk..."

FYI, it's bishops, not Card... (Below threshold)
Ian:

FYI, it's bishops, not Cardinals. Cardinals are specific types of bishops (ones who can participate in a Papal conclave), and as of right now I think there are only a few in the US: McCarrick (Washington), Law (was in Boston), Rigali (Philadelphia), Egan (NY), Mahony (LA), George (Chicago), Maida (Detroit), Bevilacqua (Philadelphia, retired but is still a Cardinal), Hickey (Washington, retired but is still a Cardinal), Keeler (Baltimore), and maybe one or two others, retired.

"A little while ago I came ... (Below threshold)
Omni:

"A little while ago I came to a tremendous insight. "It's not illegal" isn't an excuse, it's a confession. When someone says "there's no law against it," what they are really saying is "I know what I'm doing is wrong, that I am offending and quite possibly infringing on your rights and your property, but since nobody has bothered to spell out in the law exactly what I'm doing and why it's wrong, I don't care." As far as I'm concerned, the instant someone uses the "it's not illegal" argument, they've lost all credibility and standing."

YES!!!!!!! This is conceptually smilar to when you call someone out for their belligerent posting and they start squawking about "freedom of speech"; in each case the person KNOWS that what they're doing is wrong, and they're doing it deliberately, not accidentally.

I was troubled by a persist... (Below threshold)
Bill:

I was troubled by a persistent fax spammer a few years ago, even though I faxed back to them the form saying "Stop this!" three times. To dissuade them from further harassment I opened a Word document, blank, put in 100 page feeds, and then faxed the document out of my Mac using my onboard fax software. I set it to resend the fax every five minutes. This set their fax machine to spew blank pages continuously. After about 30 minutes I got a call from the spammers saying that if I would stop faxing to them they would stop faxing to me.

Something interesting that ... (Below threshold)

Something interesting that is NEVER, EVER mentioned by the MEM:

Almost all cases of priest pedophilia are also homosexual in nature. More interesting is the fact that no one seems to want to discuss or acknowledge this fact, presumably because it would offend gays.

A more on-topic post:... (Below threshold)

A more on-topic post:

Something that is increasingly lost on people is the disintinction between "immoral" and "illegal." More and more there is a tendency to believe if something is not illegal, than it is not immoral and therefore OK.

That officials of the Catho... (Below threshold)
Mark:

That officials of the Catholic Church would hide behind "it wasn't illegal" as their defense was outrageous, and the kind of thing that causes people to think of ropes and nooses.

Dammit, I STILL cannot in any way understand how these people could cover up, and assist in the continuance of, these crimes. AND then talk down to people who get mad about it.

And yeah, saying "it isn't illegal" is about as flat a confession of wrongdoing as you can get.

I'm sure that there are som... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I'm sure that there are some INDIVIDUALS who happen to be, also, Bishops, who did not act responsibly in these cases, but, as a Catholic with faith in the Church, I've read a lot written and said by a lot of those who are responsible and have acted responsibly in these matters, and there's a lot of misinformation going around, based upon fear...

There's also a strategy by the Catholic Church as to trying to keep certain offending and troubled sexually abusive individuals away from the public and in some context that secularizes them and keeps them in touch with religious persons, for the sake of many (the offenders, the public, the Church) (that is, best to keep an eye on those offending and limit their contact with the public, but to maintain a form of therapy, if you will, for those who offend such as this).

But, the coverup issue is contestable (sp?), debatable. There's a litigation problem same as there is with any criminal and/or civil liability and so you can understand (at least, I can) why the Church would try to remain somewhat private about what they know, don't know -- but actual "coverups" that read similar to enabling is unacceptable to anyone, least of all to us Catholics (and I am not quick to assume that the Church would ever enable such monstrous behaviors, in fact, I am sure that they would not).

As to who actually becomes admitted to seminaries and later becomes ordained in the Priesthood, it's also a problem that began, a lot of people have concluded, by the gay movement making attempts to defile the Church. What better way to do that than to defile the Priesthood, to bring into the Priesthood those people who would abuse the principles of holiness?

The Church became cognizant of this too late, that's for sure, but it is taking steps today to remedy the problem, as to who is admitted into Seminaries, and who becomes ordained in the Priesthood. That there is a shortage of Priests today is a problem but it's also an indication that there just may be a greater examination of who is admitted and why. Things will change but the work by gay activism isn't going to leave the Church alone -- consider this fact and that is, that, once the public grows accustomed to the standard that "Catholic Priests are sexual abusers" (and I agree with earlier comments that most of those have been homosexuals), then the whole sense of holiness and authority by the Church becomes challenged. Which, I believe, is the entire premise by the gay movement, in attacking the Catholic Church.

But, again, it's the seminaries that the real and effective work is taking place, and has to. I've known many Catholic Priests and quite well and they have all been very holy persons, truly remarkable and fine people. A few were gay but they were also celibate and not sexual abusers of themselves or anyone else.

Homosexuality is the problem, in my perception, as to this issue, not the Church but the behavior by certain individuals who have used the Church for their own hideous abuse of themselves and others.

But, no one I've ever encou... (Below threshold)
-S-:

But, no one I've ever encountered in the Catholic Church would ever dare to even attempt to conclude that "it's not illegal (so it's excusable)"...that's the sort of reasoning of personal conscience that the Church instructs against, not supports.

When you become familiar with one or a few nutty, ghastly persons who happen to be employed in some range of work or another, it's a mistake to conclude that ALL persons of similar employment/work are such as they are. Sexually abusive and crazed persons in the Priesthood are not the normal, are certainly not the standard that the Church fosters nor exemplifies.

I'm sorry you were spammed/... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I'm sorry you were spammed/faxed, Jay. I've been receiving a huge amount of spam from China and Korea and now numerous trojan/worm program attachments along with crud from elsewhere.

Oh, not to overlook the persistent hacker attempts from China and one from Brazil, all in the last two/three days.

Now, earlier today and all ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Now, earlier today and all day yesterday, persistent hacker attempts from some idiot in Canada. Whose I.P. I have.




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