Roy Moore, Paul Shanley, and the NCRJ

November 30, 2017

Most people agree that the now-famous allegations against Roy Moore constitute the kind of sexually predatory behavior for which there is no excuse. Thirty-year olds should not be trying to have sex with teenagers. But this case has been spun by some as a story about the moral defects of the Right. “The capacity of Republican voters to overlook and justify credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault cannot be overstated,” they intoned over at Slate. 

But the capacity of a certain kind of liberal to overlook and justify credible allegations of child sexual abuse cannot be overstated either. That is precisely what they do at “National Center for Reason and Justice,” an organization with an Orwellian name that fits well in the age of Trump. This organization was so determined to discredit the recovered memories of the primary complainant in the criminal case against Paul Stanley that they were had no difficulty overlooking credible allegations from at least 19 other men.

What is their reason for siding with the convicted sex offender? They cite JoAnn Wypijewski, whose article in Counterpunch, “The Passion of Paul Shanley,” actually allows that Shanley presented “an alarming picture of a priest obsessed with sex, one who exploited school settings or counseling sessions to make conquests.” But Wypijewski’s response to 19 affidavits attesting to sexual abuse by Shanley bears remembering during this national moment of reckoning:

Yet repeatedly in the affidavits, the teenager faces a choice: to go away for the weekend with the priest after being propositioned, to climb into his bed naked, to travel alone to another state to visit him, or stay with him another night, or return for counseling, all after allegedly being molested or raped. Repeatedly, the teenager chooses the priest. In one affidavit, a 14-year-old comes to Shanley to talk about his worries; there is a full-body massage and a sleepover. He returns another time and there is a candlelight bath, Gregorian chants on the stereo, and the priest performs oral sex. 

In short, Wypijewski’s defense, and that of the NCRJ, boils down to the idea that sex between an adult and a 14-year old involves choices to be protected rather than behavior to be condemned. They celebrate the kind of behavior for which Roy Moore is (rightly) being condemned.

Judith Levine, an NCRJ director, once argued that football players in Sayreville, New Jersey should avoid prosecution entirely because the specter of being on a sex offender registry, even without prison time, is far worse than “having a finger inched up your anus.” She also once presented the case a 23-year-old man manipulating a 13-year-old girl as “young love.” Another NCRJ director, Debbie Nathan, once gave an award to Lawrence Stanley, a known child pornographer.

The NCRJ might disagree with Roy Moore on many many things, but they have a lot in common him when it comes to the minimization and denial of predatory sexual behavior between adults and children.