You would think that this would be an easy question.
What is a “boy”?
Now, I am not talking about all those cute posters about what happens when you mix noise and dirt. I am actually talking about a term linked to some of the most important facts at the heart of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis.
As it turns out, “boy” is an almost useless word, in the context of news coverage. If you look in one major online dictionary and this is what you will find:
1 a: a male child from birth to adulthood
OK, so we are dealing with a male somewhere between birth and, what, age 21?
With that question in mind, consider the top of the following Associated Press report — “Church covered up priest’s abuse of 50 boys” — about another horrible case that has jumped off the back burner and into the headlines:
FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese acknowledged Wednesday that it concealed for decades a priest’s admission that he sexually abused dozens of Iowa boys — a silence that may have put other children in danger.
The Rev. Jerome Coyle, now 85, was stripped of his parish assignments in the 1980s but never defrocked. And it was not until this week, after The Associated Press inquired about him, that he was publicly identified by the church as an admitted pedophile, even though the Diocese of Sioux City had been aware of his conduct for 32 years.
The diocese recently helped Coyle move into a retirement home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, without informing administrators at the Catholic school across the street.
The key words there are, of course, “boys” and “pedophile.”
Yes, here we go again: What is the common definition of “pedophilia”? That would be, to quote that recent Commonweal article by former Newsweek scribe Kenneth L. Woodward, an “adult who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children.”
Is this what we are talking about with the victims in most of these Coyle cases, or does AP need to run a correction?