Your Hypocrisy Is Showing
Our PM is tough on perverts, not priests
by John F. Conway
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid
them not, to come unto me: for such is the
Kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 19:14
But many that are first shall be last; and the
Last shall be first. —Matthew 19:30
In Harperland, there are apparently two classes of sexual predators of children.
One class includes those it is safe to attack publicly, pandering to popular outrage and scoring political points. Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives such miscreants no quarter, savaging them at every opportunity.
The other class includes those granted safe haven and protection by the Roman Catholic Church.
On these, our law-and-order prime minister prefers to remain strangely silent.
Recent media coverage dramatically juxtaposed these two classes of predators and, implicitly, how they are treated by the king of Harperland. During the public hubbub we again learned there are just no limits to the deceit, manipulation and crass opportunism that define Harper’s posturing on crime and punishment.
The Canadian Press recently broke the news that reviled former hockey coach Graham James was pardoned in 2007. James is particularly notorious for his abuse of former hockey star Sheldon Kennedy, whose tortured book exposed James’s years of sexual predation. But James sexually abused many boys in the 1980s and 1990s during his junior hockey coaching career.
James was convicted on two charges, sentenced to three-and-a-half years, served his time and was released. His pardon, like almost 250,000 others since 1970, was granted under the law which stipulates that a convicted felon can apply for a pardon after five years with a post-release clean record. Sexual offenders have additional conditions imposed on their pardons, since their records remain accessible in certain contexts that might put potential victims at risk (applying for a job working with children, for example).
The word “pardon” is perhaps misleading, since all that happens is that the record is expunged for the purposes of criminal record checks in order to help the re-integration of the rehabilitated into normal life. The offense is not forgiven and the record remains in the system should the person re-offend.
The evidence is clear that the measure works. It helps to successfully re-integrate rehabilitated offenders into the community. In fact, only about three per cent of the total granted have been rescinded due to re-offending. (Yes, pardons can be rescinded).
Regardless of the facts, our prime minister seized on this story. Our tough-on-crime, protect-our-children leader denounced this law “written when soft-on-crime attitudes were fashionable and concern for criminals took priority over compassion for victims” (i.e., blame the Liberals, they did it).
If nothing else, Harper has the uncanny ability to engage in blatant deception without the slightest twinge of conscience. That particular law was reviewed by then Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day (a Tory) in 2006, who made only some minor administrative tweaks and decided to leave it in place. But the current Public Safety Minister Vic Toews joined the lynch mob on the prime minister’s direct order and noted “certain types of criminals cannot be rehabilitated.”
Nevertheless, Harper’s posturing certainly resonated with public outrage that this vile sexual predator of children had been “pardoned.”
Public anxiety has grown as Canadians fear for the safety of their children in the wake of scandal after scandal about routine sexual abuse by coaches working with children. All of us who have had kids in these situations worry and wonder about what might have happened, and those with children in sports are haunted by the knowledge that the most charming and effective coaches can be the worst predators.
Harper’s manipulative handling of the James case is consistent with his cynical politics. He is adept at playing the law-and-order, tough-on-crime card to scare Canadians and stoke public hysteria.
And then, he exploits this fear for political gain.
Harper presents many tough-on-crime bills to the House of Commons. Of course, when he prorogues Parliament, they die on the order paper. No problem — Harper tells us the other parties, or the Liberal Senate, are to blame because they are soft on crime. If he keeps repeating it, people will begin to believe it.
The prime minister and his Conservative government do more than propose bills and let them die. They’ve also lengthened prison sentences, built more prisons and made prison regimes harsher. And then Stephen Harper tells us we are safer in our beds. Meanwhile, centuries of evidence tell us harsh and punitive measures create more dangerous criminals — making us less safe.
No matter. Harper cares not for the truth, and evidence that does not suit him is simply ignored. He just panders to his redneck base and works his grift on the Canadians he’s frightened into supporting him.
This is his plan: create, and then manipulate, public fear which will serve him as he seeks re-election.
But the fact remains: few of us have sympathy for James and his ilk, and we do want to protect our children and punish predators. Obviously.
We loathe those who sexually abuse children. And in our moments of fear and anger, we too might vote with the mob as we contemplate the horrors kids endured at the hands of the adults they innocently trusted and often worshipped.
At the root of this flash of anger lies our own guilt that we too put our trust in these individuals and failed to protect our children.
Let’s face it: for a cynical politician like Harper, this is a win-win situation.
Or is it? Harper’s silence on the other class of sexual predator, the one he never mentions, exposes his hypocrisy.
And if voters notice, this exposed hypocrisy could hurt him.
If our prime minister is truly worried about protecting children and finding justice for victims, why has he not made headline-grabbing pronouncements on a certain epidemic of sexual predation?
The evidence is clear and ever-growing: the Roman Catholic Church remains a safe haven for priests who have sexually abused legions of children.
An Ipsos Reid poll reports that two million Canadians know someone sexually assaulted by a priest. This is a scandal that has rocked Canada and the U.S. over the past 20 years and more, and is now sweeping across Europe. For decades, the Church covered up the abuse. Predatory priests exposed in one parish were knowingly moved to another where they began again.
The Church worked hard to cover up evidence, and diligently protected guilty predators from prosecution.
We are sickened and outraged that predatory coaches abuse the trust of our children. But what about priests who gratify their sexual appetites by exploiting the innocent religious conviction and unquestioning faith of children? As the house of cards collapses, the evidence is piling up that Church officials all the way up to the Vatican were complicit in suppressing evidence of crimes and protecting known predators from prosecution — all for the sake of the Church’s reputation. There was an unforgiveable absence of concern for the innocent victims who remain the collateral damage of one of the biggest criminal conspiracies in modern times.
It appears that even Pope Benedict XVI may have been complicit in the cover-up while he served as archbishop of Munich, and then as the cardinal in the Vatican responsible for developing and implementing policies for handling cases of sexual abuse.
Why hasn’t our tough-on-crime prime minister publicly demanded that these offending priests be brought to justice? Why has he not demanded criminal charges be brought against those guilty of covering up the crimes? Why has our tough, brave, compassionate prime minister remained silent?
It’s peculiar, because Stephen Harper could find attitudes in the history of the Church that suit his approach to crime and punishment. St. Basil the Great, back in the 300s, declared such priests should be publicly flogged, imprisoned and banished from the Church. The Church’s first legal text, Decretum Gratiani (1140), suggested priests guilty of pederasty should suffer the same consequences as lay people — including death.
As bishops fall, offenders are charged and the exposés continue, finally the victims are getting some measure of justice. Finally, the last are first, and many of the first are last. More importantly, the suffering of the children has become the real issue that can no longer be evaded.
Except, perhaps, when it suits certain politicians who consistently avoid criticizing powerful religious institutions.