Put Mel Reynolds’ bid for public office aside for a minute. Focus instead on his alleged rationale: “redemption.” It’s wrong.
Punishing child molesters isn’t about being mean-spirited. It's about kids’ safety. Keeping abusers out of prominent positions isn’t denying them “redemption.” It’s ensuring the protection of youngsters.
It’s not about penalizing the guilty. It’s about protecting the innocent.
Make no mistake about it; “redemption” can be a very good thing. It can mean that an ex-con is welcomed back into his or her family. It can mean that a remorseful wrongdoer can get into college or get a job.
But it can’t mean letting a convicted drunken driver get another job driving a school bus. It can’t mean buying a handgun for a convicted murderer.
Such reckless actions are not “forgiveness.” They’re folly. They aren’t praiseworthy “redemption.” They’re irresponsible risk.
Most child molesters are dangerous. They are shrewd, manipulative, skillful, and deceitful.
Unlike car jackers and muggers, they don't need or rely on physical prowess or speed to commit their crimes. They rely on their cunning.
Unlike purse-snatchers and shoplifters, they don't become LESS able to commit their crimes as they get older. They become MORE able, largely because - through experience - they learn even better how to detect and seduce the vulnerable and cover up their crimes. Plus they have the advantage – because they ofen have stooped shoulders, graying hair, and softer voices - of seeming even more harmless than they may have seemed in their younger years.
To rob a bank, it helps to have an impressive pistol. To abuse a kid, it helps to have an impressive title. People are more apt to do what you want if you can threaten to hurt them. And people are more apt to do what you want if you can threaten to help them (through internships, connections, deals and letters of recommendation).
To embezzle cash, it helps if you can call yourself a CPA. To abuse a youngster, it helps if you can call yourself a congressman. An impressive title is to a child molester what a pistol is to a bank robber – it’s a way to get others to bend to your will.
There's also a huge difference between public policy and personal choice. I can choose to forgive my predator. That's admirable. But I can't knowingly allow him the chance to hurt others. That's irresponsible.
Look at Pope John Paul II. He visited his would-be assassin in prison. He prayed for the criminal. He did not, however, urge that the violent man be released. To do so would not have been Christian. It would have been reckless.
Some misunderstand and misapply the notions of forgiveness and “redemption” in ways that lead to putting other innocent kids and vulnerable adults in harm's way again, even in cases of proven, serial, predatory behavior by dangerous men. We must resist this misguided thinking. We must temper any kind but dangerous impulse to “forgive” the guilty with true compassion for the vulnerable.