(Sorry, couldn’t resist that subject line.)

The tempest over the late BBC celebrity Jimmy Savile, apparently a pedophile, or at least someone who exploited his celebrity to have sex with minors, raises some important, if familiar, questions. From the NYT today:

But at the Surrey Police headquarters, the former senior officer said, those who investigated the case felt that prosecutors were hesitant to confront a man who had spent decades building a cult of celebrity in Britain that few could match. Mr. Savile’s popularity and power rested on his blend of flashy showmanship on top-rated prime-time BBC programs, working-class chumminess and charitable endeavors that attracted powerful friends and patrons in royal palaces, Parliament and the highest ranks of the police.

“Really, it came down to this: do we really want to take on this man, Saint Jimmy, who does all of this fund-raising and knows all of these people?” the officer said.

Saint Jimmy. Saint Jerry Sandusky (and Holy Mother Church Penn State Football). And so on. The reason the sex abuse scandal in the Church was so, well, scandalous, is because it involved an extreme: men who were supposed to be the holiest using the cover of their status to do the vilest things to children, and other men, who ought to have known better, unwilling to stand up and stop them for a number of reasons, including the fear of staining the image of the Church. Now it is impossible to deny that the sexual abuse of children, and the institutional facility of child sex abuse, is not a Catholic thing, or a church thing. It comes from an all-t00-human cowardice in confronting evil, not only because it could cost you your privileges, but more interestingly, because if X is true, then the thing we desire and need to be Good, Holy, and Beyond Reproach isn’t that at all. Better that a number of boys should be molested than that Penn State football and the Second Mile charity be stained. Better that young people should suffer at the hands of that dirty old man Jimmy Savile than … you know where I’m going.

Of course no one admits they’re doing this at the time, but that’s exactly what they’re doing. There are plenty of stories of this sort of thing going on in families, in which Dad, or Uncle Bob, is the molester, and everybody knows it, or suspects something is wrong, but doesn’t dare to say so because to mention it would be to upset the order the family depends on emotionally and psychologically for its equilibrium. And so when it finally comes out, the tendency is to blame the victim for ruining everyone’s life by forcing them to see what they would rather not have seen.

Anyway, you know all this. I just didn’t want to let the Jimmy Savile row pass without comment. Anyone in authority who knew what that dirtbag was doing to kids, and who didn’t lift a finger to stop him, ought to be held accountable before the law, if possible, as much as any monsignor with dirty hands.

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