Maybe I need to get over it, but a holy ghost has nagged at me the last couple of days. I'm talking about three little words -- "cycle of sin" -- that were featured prominently in media reports this week about a senior Air Force enlisted man who pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct.
The top of The Associated Press story published by many newspapers and websites nationwide:
MASCOUTAH, Ill. -- A senior Ohio Air Force base official pleaded guilty on Monday to sexual misconduct and adultery, blaming extramarital affairs he had with married female subordinates and inappropriate sexual advances he made toward others on getting "caught up in a cycle of sin."
From the Air Force Times:
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The former command chief of Air Force Materiel Command on Monday pleaded guilty to 13 of the 19 sex-related criminal counts against him, telling the military judge he was "caught in a cycle of sin."
The Dayton Daily News saved the sin reference until the seventh paragraph of its report on Chief Master Sgt. William C. Gurney's guilty plea:
"There were a lot of things happening in my life at the time," Gurney said, responding to questions from the judge about the guilty pleas. "I was caught up in a cycle of sin. I was making a lot of bad decisions. My actions were wrong."
Anybody care to guess what the religion ghost is?
Sin is not a military word, right?
Yet that simple phrase -- "cycle of sin" -- receives no elaboration or explanation in any of the media reports that I read. And that's where the nagging part came in: I Googled "William Gurney" and words such as "church" and "faith," curious to discover anything that might explain his choice of the term "sin." But I found zilch. Zero. Nothing.
So am I criticizing the reporters who failed to address the holy ghost? Not necessarily. You're dealing with a court hearing where I am quite certain no one gave the media an opportunity to ask follow-up questions.
Journalist: "Um, judge, could you please ask the defendant to tell us what he meant by sin?"
At the same time, it does not appear that the senior enlisted man has granted any media interviews.
So, in this case, reporters are left playing the role of stenographers. When the defendant uses the phrase "cycle of sin," you must report it even if you can't fully explain it, right?