May is shaping up to be an incredible month for sex scandals, and we’re only half way through the month!
No sooner did we learn that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, had been pulled off a plane minutes before departing for France due to an alleged sexual attack against a hotel maid, than reports began to surface that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a 14-year-old son by a woman who has worked in his home for years.
Earlier this month, Nevada Senator John Ensign resigned in the wake of an affair he had with the wife of his former chief of staff and best friend.
Two days ago (May 17), The New York Times reported that a fraternity on the campus of one of the most prestigious University’s in the country, Yale, “…has been banned from conducting any activities on campus for five years, including recruiting, as punishment for an episode last October in which members led pledges in chants offensive to women… which included ‘No means yes!’” Last month, The Times reported that “In 2008, fraternity members photographed themselves in front of the Yale Women’s Center with a poster reading, ‘We Love Yale Sluts.’ ”
On the same day, The Times also reported the release of “a five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis… [They] concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.”
What was the cause? (You’re gonna like this one.)
“…the report says the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.”
We’ve had the “Twinkie Defense” to explain the murderous rampage by Dan White in San Francisco, and the oldest excuse in the book, when Eve told Adam that “The Devil made me do it,” after eating the forbidden apple. Now, joining that pantheon of incredibly misguided reasoning, we have… (hold your applause)… the “Woodstock Defense,” an “… explanation [that] has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010.”
While lawyers representing Strauss-Kahn argue that their client’s activities with the maid were consensual, Jeffrey Shapiro, the maid’s lawyer said that there was “nothing, nothing” consensual. “She is a simple housekeeper who was going into a room to clean a room…”
Although Schwarzenegger’s affair was consensual, he apparently kept it secret from his wife, Maria Shriver and their four children, for 14 years.
The media always uses scandals like this to trot out the usual experts to talk about the needs of men in power, yada, yada – the same tired, rationalizations used in a wrong-headed attempt to explain what is sometimes referred to as “inappropriate” behavior, a phrase that desperately needs to be retired.
“Inappropriate,” when did we last hear something like that?
“I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate,” former President Clinton said in testimony regarding his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton then added words that seem to have been lost in recent years: “In fact, it was wrong.”
Although I remain deeply disappointed with the staggering breach of trust by the highest elected official in the country, I am somewhat contented that Clinton at least defined his actions in the clearest possible way.
While the report by Catholic Bishops is not likely to end the debate for cause, it doesn’t begin to explain the decades of deceit and cover-up by the church which has paid billions in settlements. What can’t be measured, however, is the loss of trust by millions of church-goers who, for decades, believed that all priests, much like elected officials, were above reproach.
Of course, one of the biggest fallouts concerning stories like these is that more and more of us will become cynical of anyone in positions of power and influence. We can’t afford to buy into that kind of thinking. Quite simply, it paints too many decent, hardworking officials and clerics with the brush of suspicion based on the actions of others who happen to share the same profession.
While accountability is important in matters where a breach of trust has occurred, we must strive to remain open-minded about the behavior of others until proven otherwise. Otherwise, we will forever be suspicious of our future.