An Orthodox Christian might ask, "In what ways do the scandals of pedophilia presented in the media affect ordinary Christians?" As a member of the SCOBA Committee on Social and Moral Issues, and as one who has researched this topic at length, I can say with certainty that this problem touches all our lives. In this article I will reflect on this issue, focusing specifically on what it means for our children.
Our society puts children in a position of far greater danger than we, their elders and guardians, realize. In many countries today, laws regulating sexual activity between adults and children are decidedly more liberal than in the United States. The age of consent has been lowered to sixteen in the UK, fifteen in Sweden and France, fourteen in Canada, Germany, Iceland, Italy, San Marino and Slovenia, and twelve in Holland, Spain, Portugal, and Malta. I mention the laws in these other countries because, while U.S. laws provide greater protection for children, they are not above dispute and are, unfortunately, being disputed. Of course, laws that address issues of this magnitude do not change overnight but they can change and will, if the cultural ground is prepared in such a way that the public no longer perceives sexual activity between adults and children as taboo. Such preparation is taking place now in advertisements that present children in sexual poses, in television dialogs that employ humor to lessen the severity of the issue, and in laws that allow images of children to be used in Internet pornography.
As a result, the interdiction against sexual activity between adults and children is becoming more controvertible in the U.S. For example, the University of Minnesota Press recently published a startling book entitled Harmful to Minors: the Perils of Protecting Children from Sex with a foreword by former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. The book's author, Judith Levine, plays down the harm of pedophilia and argues that the Holland law, which allows sexual activity between adults and twelve year olds, is a "good model." Members of groups such as the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), and International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) are urging Washington legislators and United Nations delegates to support similar positions.
Sexual perpetrators can be relatives, neighbors, strangers or anyone affiliated with children. If U.S. law were changed to allow sexual activity between such adults and a child of twelve or fourteen, then parents could not legally forbid a child from engaging in sexual activity with any adult except on the parents' property. If parents did intervene they could be prosecuted while the sexual perpetrator would remain a law-abiding citizen whose sexual behaviors with children would be legally protected.
Biblical faith understands that human beings are created in God's image, creatures destined "to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ" (Rom 8:29). However because Adam (the father of all humanity) sinned, all humans are born into a fallen humanity (Rom 5:12). Thus, Orthodox Christians baptize even children for remission of sins and to prepare them for a lifetime of spiritual warfare. They also recognize that children require the guidance of their parents, godparents, priests, and Christian teachers to place them on the path of righteousness and purity.
But there are divergent "theologies of the child" that reject both the language of fallenness and adopt a romantic view that children are innately able to know what is best for themselves. The most virulent of these argues that children possess the right to make final decisions in every aspect of their lives and should be free from the "abusive coercion" of adult supervision. Such theologies or philosophies offer a convenient justification for adults who are inclined to have their way with children sexually.
Purity of heart is God's gift of innocence without naiveté, a sanctified perception of reality. It is the goal we have for our children at all stages of their development. Yet we must first look at ourselves. Purity of heart entails more than being merely "appropriate" in our sexual behaviors. It encompasses our intentions, our desires, and our core makeup. The pure in heart see God in all things sensual. Sadly, however, many of us have become insensible to what is impure. In his book, The Sacred Gift of Life, Fr John Breck says: "Our threshold of tolerance toward sexual explicitness and exploitation has been lowered dramatically...the spiritual and psychological toll exacted by this situation is incalculable." Entertainment is one barometer of our heart. Do we shield ourselves from the constant bombardment of sexual and violent images? Do we do something constructive to restrict such material? Do we strive to "pray ceaselessly," to be in the presence of God each moment?
In the Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky says "we are each responsible to all for all, and it's only that men don't know this. If they knew it, the world would be paradise at once." It is a Christian principle that all children need our surveillance and protective love. Children in strong Christian families may or may not be seriously harmed by corrosive sexual norms. What about orphans, however, or children with one deceased parent? What about children in divorcing families (most American families)? Who will protect these children?
Recent scandals have lessened the political clout of the Roman Catholic Church, which up until now had been a firewall of protection for American children. This means that the legal battle for the souls and bodies of children is likely to become more arduous in days ahead. With this in mind, we need to become much more informed and involved--to proactively contact our legislators and speak out on behalf of children. Our youth need to see elders who are passionate about a life of prayer, who are striving to become pure in heart and who are active on their behalf. Our calls, letters and emails do make a difference.
United States Congress
This number quickly and easily connects you with an intern at your senator or representative's office. If you don't know the congressperson's name, the receptionist will provide it. For example, I made two quick calls to my Senators, simply saying, "I'd like to leave a message for senator..., please vote 'yes' on the Child Sex Crimes Wiretapping Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives."
This number quickly and easily connects you with a volunteer at the White House. You get to speak with a live person and leave a message for the President. These messages are summarized at the end of the day and put on his desk.
Family Research Council
801 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Provides info on upcoming legislation.
One Million Moms
Provides specific programs and companies to target about unacceptable ads.
 James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 125.
 Terence Neilan, "World Briefing," New York Times, December 2, 2000, 5(A).
 Dan Izenberg, "Age of Consent for Homosexual Relations Lowered," Jerusalem Post, November 2, 2000, 3.
 "Context Affects Age of Consent," Montreal Gazette, December 1, 2000, 2(A).
 Izenberg, 3.
 Ibid., 3.
Reprinted from SVSNews, summer 2004. Read this article on the St. Vladimir's Seminary website (new window will open).