Thursday, October 08, 2015

Feeding time at the herpetarium

A carryover from this post:

Andrew W:

"So do unrecognised pedophiles. At what point do you want to shoot on sight?"

You're moving the goalpost. The question at issue is how the church should deal with known pedophiles.

One of your sophistries is to shift the discussion from the actual issue at hand to borderline cases. But you can't extrapolate from borderline cases to clearcut cases, precisely because the latter lack the same conditions as the former. We could spend time finessing hypothetical borderline cases, but that's a diversionary tactic. 

I don't need to answer every hypothetical case before I'm allowed to address a specific concrete example. That's a recipe for moral paralysis. Chasing an infinite regress of hypothetical examples and counterexamples, while ignoring the actual case at hand. 

"Yes, that's a reduction-ad-absurdum."

No, that's trivializing a grave moral issue. 

"It's also a completely logical consequence of saying 'prevention at all costs.'"

Which is not what I said.

"And if you're not saying 'prevention at all costs', then you need a metric to decide how to balance a risk of recidivism versus genuine protection."

I need no metric inasmuch as there are no competing rights to be balanced. The pedophile has no right to be in church in the first place. 

"Note that an unrecognised pedophile actually poses a far greater risk to your child than a recognised one; you just have much less information to evaluate the risk."

A red herring. The issue is how to deal with someone with a rap sheet. In particular, a serial pedophile. Naturally we can't act on purely unknowns. That's a distraction. 

"Would I let a once-pedophile near my child? Sure."

Then you're a fool who's derelict in your paternal duties.

"Would I leave them alone? Most likely not."

"Most likely?

"Would I let them father a child of their own given a willing wife? Well, that's the tricky question, isn't it?"

That's not the question. The question is whether a pastor should marry them. Likewise, whether a pastor should recommend to a single women in his church that she marry a pedophile. 

"Except at this point I'm not discussing what *I* think."

In which case both of us reject your premise. 

"The argument that known pedophiles pose a greater risk to children than unknown pedophiles falls prey to the same poor reasoning…"

That wasn't the argument. 

"The offence in rape is against the woman, not the child. Where the child becomes an issue is when it is subsequently killed because it was conceived in the wrong way."

I answered you on your own terms. Now you change the subject. Your original objection was about preempting their existence. After that argument failed, you rewrite your objection.

"Let me make one final remark on the case involving Wilson before I turn to the general case. A majority - but not all - of the supervisory board agreed that marriage was a positive move towards the man's rehabilitation. Assuming the subsequent crime, was that decision wrong, or was there a failure of supervision? If so, is this based on the benefit of hindsight, or was the evidence there already?"

It's wrong to enable a known serial pedophile, then wait and see what happens. 

"(1) Imagine that some number of pedophiles are rehabilitated post-incarceration and go on to be good fathers, and some do not."

"Imagine"? So let's just make up some fake statistics to becloud the issue?

"What statistical likelihood of reoffense would one be willing to tolerate if the situation was generally good? If your answer is zero, how do you reconcile that with the knowledge that some proportion of (non-criminal) parents will end up abusing their offspring?"

This isn't about comparative stats. And my argument was always much broader than the particular case you've fixated on.

From what I've read, pedophiles range along a continuum. They fantasize about harming children. The stimulus may involve watching kiddy porn or watching kids at a playground. That sort of thing. Not all pedophiles act out their fantasies.

However, a percentage of pedophiles take it to the next level. This can involve abduction, molestation, mutilation, torture, and/or murder. 

We don't know in advance what the propensity of any particular pedophile is. And that, of itself, is a huge risk factor. It is wrong to test the propensity of a known pedophile by giving him access to kids, then waiting to find out how dangerous he is. It is inexcusable to put children in that situation.

A church has no obligation to give a known pedophile a chance to reoffend or not. Indeed, it has an obligation not to give him that chance. He should be nowhere near their kids. He should not be allowed to come to church. He should not be in physical proximity with kids.

A church can't control what he does on his own. That's up to the authorities. But a church is responsible for events that fall within its purview. 

It's like asking how you know when it's time to feed a reticulated python. Well, one way to find out is to put a child in the snakepit and see if the python eats the child. If he doesn't, then you know he wasn't hungry. But that would be amorally impermissible way to answer the question.

In the situation under consideration, on the one hand you have a known pedophile. On the other hand you don't know in advance the extent of his propensities. You know what he did in the past (or at least what's a matter of public record), but you don't know what he will do in the future. Is it proper to discover his full propensities by exposing him to children, then observing what happens next? That would be inexcusably reckless and evil. 

This shouldn't be a difficult issue. There's no reason for professing Christians to tie themselves into knots regarding the right policy. It isn't complicated–at all. It is evil to treat children as bait to sort out the "safe" pedophiles from the dangerous pedophiles. Who in their right mind thought the church should give him that opportunity? 

"Or does this have nothing to do with rehabilitation and is purely a matter of justice?"

It's a matter of prudence. 

Finally, you're someone who likes to argue for the sake of arguing. You take a morally grave, clearcut concerning the protection of defenseless children, then try to fuzz it up. That's an evil tactic. Don't come back. 


  1. This shouldn't be a difficult issue. There's no reason for professing Christians to tie themselves into knots regarding the right policy. It isn't complicated–at all.


    Moreover, If a pedophile is truly repentant then he'd be willing to do anything to keep children out of harms way. Including any potential harm he/she might inflict. Also, a church and a sinner (e.g. like the pedophile) that understandings well the Biblical doctrine of depravity (not to mention basic secular anti-Christian psychology) knows that people can be sincerely repentant and still fall and fail morally given the right circumstances. A repentant former drunk may know that drinking is Biblically permissible, but will often avoid drinking entirely because he knows his own weakness. How much more should a pedophile keep himself out of tempting situations toward something that's intrinsically evil? If he doesn't think it necessary, then he doesn't know two things 1. the Biblical doctrine of depravity (even of truly regenerate saved persons), 2. how that doctrine is true even of himself. He's either ignorant or self-deceived.

    He doesn't need to go to a church to have fellowship with believers. Adult believers could visit him in his home. Or he could attend services or Christian meetings or support groups that are geared toward only adults. Provided he's open with his former crime so that no one will unknowingly place him in a tempting situation.

  2. By the way, I responded to Andrew W's comments about vaccination here.