A Priest on the Commission

Part: 
One
Chapter: 
3

A decent respect for the wholly creditable, almost entirely unspoken but perhaps genuine anxiety felt by some that my role as priest, my training and background as Roman Catholic theologian might somehow unfairly or unconsciously skew my thoughts and feelings on the issues before the Commission compels this word of assurance.

I do not think that I was invited to join this Commission because I was a priest theologian but rather because of almost 18 years of close personal experience and professional involvement with literally thousands of sexually exploited children, many but not most of whom had been victimized in the actual production of pornography in which they were the hapless performers and "stars."

For this reason I asked a member of my staff, Gregory Loken, a gifted attorney and scholar in his own right as well as a noted advocate for the rights of children and Director of the Youth Advocacy Institute of Covenant House, to make a special study of the question regarding harms to performers in pornography. The Commission has made this statement its own and I consider it an important and original contribution to the research in this field. It is found in Part Four of the Report.

I freely admit to a certain bias in this regard. Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies the sexual abuse of children, and nothing, absolutely nothing-including the most perfervid defense of the First Amendment justifies the recording of this loathsome abuse on film. The Supreme Court of the United States in its unanimous 9-0 Ferber decision affirmed this special horror and declared that child pornography did not merit constitutional protection.

But when all is said and done I am who I am. I cannot exit from my personal skin, I cannot divest of myself, any more than any other citizen, of that "walking around collections of a priori assumptions" that in part help constitute who and what I am.

I am certain that despite some unfair prior assumptions to the contrary the Commission tried as fairly and honestly and objectively as it could to reach their conclusions as a result of honest and open debate. My position on the Commission carried for me an added important symbolic responsibility. Since I was the only member of the Commission that could be ever thought to "represent" a major religion in the United States, I felt a special obligation to my fellow Commissioners and the people of this country not to adopt or impose a particular theological or sectarian slant on my contribution to the work of this Commission.

In short, I tried not to react as a Roman Catholic priest but as a citizen with a broader mandate and constituency. I hope therefore that my views represent a wide spectrum of the current American experience. At the same time I am proud to be what I am and would have it no other way.