Victorian secrets

By Diogenes (articles - email) | Aug 20, 2007

Columnist Jean Torkelson of the Rocky Mountain News offers a balanced appraisal of the damage done by a local priest with a penchant for nude jogging. But some of the people interviewed for the Torkelson piece have more pronounced views.

"This isn't the Victorian age," one woman snapped. "Nudity isn't an issue in our family."

Nudity has never been an issue in my family, either, but I think that's because there wasn't much of it. We generally showered in the nude, but then reached for towels and robes, and put on a layer or two of clothing before venturing out of the house-- which was, I concede, built in the Victorian style.

A non-Catholic neighbor takes a different attitude…

Berger, a non-Catholic, figures it shows how Catholic priests tend toward weird sex stuff.

… and Torkelson rightly comments:

So it goes in the popular imagination-- though statistics show 96 percent of Catholic priests are free of any such accusations.

Exactly so. I wonder whether 96% of the residents in a typical small town would be free of complaints about "weird sex stuff." But if you learn that Mr. Smith down the street enjoys some strange forms of entertainment, you tell the kids to keep their distance and you probably avoid his company. Nobody asks you to accept Smith as a moral authority. Nobody expects you to be satisfied with a vague explanation about "inappropriate behavior," and assume that he's harmless.

Father Whipkey has some issues. Too bad, but that sort of thing happens. Some priests are weird. So are some schoolteachers, lawyers, housewives, truck drivers, and internet commentators. What makes l'affaire Whipkey memorable is not the misconduct by one mixed-up individual, but the effort by others-- who should know better-- to convince us that it's no big deal.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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