My Horrible Secret

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I have a terrible confession to make, in this my "first" column for New York Press. Neither my father nor my mother, no aunt or uncle, no nanny, no family priest, no servant, no friend of the family, no scoutmaster, not even the German officers who occupied our house, ever sexually abused me. I know, I know, there must be something horribly wrong with me, but there you have it. With everyone spilling the beans about having been abused as a child, I do feel a bit left out, but what the heck. One can't have it all, can they?

I don't know if any of you read about the Canadian schoolteacher who was tried in England for having seduced four teenage students from the school where she had taught. (Or maybe it was two, I can't be bothered to check.) While the trial was going on I wrote that the boys?15 and 14 at the time?were very lucky, and that I would have given anything to have been in their place when I was their age. (Then I saw her picture and became less sure.) Let's face it: at that age boys' testosterone is exploding, and anyone or anything will do. The schoolteacher got off, as well she should have. Not for having committed a charitable act, but because the parents of the boys had approached the tabloids and sold the story for the root of all envy. Even the grotesque British tabloids had to admit there was something wrong with that kind of parenting. For months it was an open secret that the boys were getting laid, thanks to an understanding woman teacher, and suddenly the parents decide to sue her for having corrupted the little gangsters. Yeah, and pigs may fly!

When I was 13 and at Lawrenceville school, next to Princeton, the fastest townie was a pretty girl called Grace. (This is 1950, so the statute of limitations for discretion has long passed.) The football captain, Carl MacDonald, a senior, was purported to be the lucky guy, as was the president of the student council, Temple Brown. Some even alleged that an English professor was getting in there. I was in Thomas House, Lower School, and like everyone else, was a walking hard-on. One afternoon, outside the Jigger shop, I spotted racy Gracie and decided to go for broke. She let me kiss her but when I reached for her breast she told me I was much too young?I had already lied about my age to her?and walked off. By the time I got back to Thomas House I had told three boys that Gracie had taken me in the back of the Jigger shop and had given me one. Mind you, those were the good old days: people had more sense and knew that young boys?and girls?tend to exaggerate.

Nobody believed me, and the more I told people the more they laughed. In fact, another football hero, Jim Seymour I think, advised me to become a writer. "You got a hell of an imagination, kid," or words that that effect.

Gracie must now be 70 and a grandmother, but I have still not forgiven her. Had she done what I invented she did, I could now claim I was sexually abused by an older person, and perhaps even write a book about it. With luck, even a movie.

Which brings me to the point I wish to make. I'm not so sure that all these people who are claiming to have been abused by Catholic priests are telling the truth. Some of course are, but I have my doubts about many. Now don't think I'm a doubting Thomas by nature; I just have been around long enough to know better. For example, I do believe Michael Jackson to be a grotesque pedophile, yet Bill Clinton is proud to be on the same stage with that child molester. Jackson goes around everywhere with an entourage of children, yet no one in the media dares to ask him what he's doing with those kids. He's already paid millions of big ones to parents of children he allegedly abused, so it's not as if it's an unfair question. I guess being a celebrity exempts him.

Catholic priests, needless to say, will never be given the benefit of the doubt, not when the gay lobby or fat Frank Rich of the Times is concerned. Many believe that the incidents of child molestation by Catholic priests are not of a pedophilic nature, but are pure and simple homosexuality, because these acts were committed on adolescent boys. Others think that it's a case of active homosexuals in the priesthood getting it off with teenage boys. All I know is that around 80 percent of the reported cases involved gay priests taking advantage of boys. William F. Buckley recently wrote a brilliant and very Christian column saying that gays have as much right to be priests as straights do; after all, both are supposed to be celibate. Hear, hear, but human nature sometimes gets in the way.

What I don't understand is the Supreme Court. There is a thriving market for child pornography, and the SC suddenly creates a window of opportunity for child abusers to escape prosecution. In their infinite ignorance, the justices threw out parts of a law, intended primarily to stop child pornography produced through computer wizardry, claiming them overly broad and unconstitutional. The next thing you know we'll have civil libertarians telling us that pedophilia should go mainstream.

John Leo has been terrific on this subject, although I can't think of anything he's not good on. He writes that Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, by one Judith Levine, plays down the dangers of pedophilia, and shows how disorder in the intellectual world leaks into the popular culture. For example, when the Rind study concluded that child sex abuse does not cause intense pervasive harm, it was the highest ever endorsement for dirty old men to start screwing babies. (My words, not Leo's.) But the Rind study was not only intellectually shoddy, it was a put-up job. No one, not even Gen. George Patton, can convince me that tiny tots have the right to select adult sex partners.

But Judith Levine and her ilk say, yes, they do, and that the enemy is not the pedophiles, but "the enemy is us." Another is Harris Mirkin, recently profiled in the Times?where else??who writes that the "moral panic" over pedophilia reminds him of the outrage of previous generations over feminism and homosexuality. See what I mean about pedophilia going mainstream? Mirkin is being celebrated as a hero for academic freedom at the University of Missouri. Some hero.

I hope the church cleans up its act, just as I hope that claims of molestation be proved before those who hate the church cry wolf. Alas, I had my chance and blew it 52 years ago.

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