Augustine’s principle of avoiding revictimization and providing care can be applied to those who are sexually exploited. As my colleague Lani Prunés points out, the federal government and most states have Safe Harbor Laws which treat trafficked minors as victims rather than criminals.
These victims didn’t violate their own chastity and, therfore, are not guilty. But an unfortunate number of states don’t provide trafficking victims immunity from prosecution or adequately fund reintegration services. In so doing, we continue to maintain the shame-based morality of Greco-Roman culture in which the victim of exploitation is responsible for the sin and crime of human trafficking.
Legal protections are essential to aid reintegration, but moral protections are also necessary to support trafficking survivors. By funding recovery programs, we can learn from Augustine the value of not blaming the victim. Victims should be given the help they need to reintegrate into society (as organizations such as FAIR girls, Courtney’s House, or End Trafficking are doing), rather than leaving them vulnerable to returning to a dangerous and degrading form of life.
If we allow people to be shamed or forced into crime through a lack of viable alternatives, we are morally culpable like the Greco-Roman society which taught women that their life was only worth as much as their physical purity.
When Mormon leaders sense a decline of moral standards in the world, they roll out sermons on modesty.
In the 1960s and early ’70s, they preached against miniskirts and hot pants; in today’s sex-drenched society, it’s spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, and skinny jeans.
It’s often couched in the rhetoric of “virtue” and usually aimed at young women, even girls.
It’s not every day you meet a practicing priest in the Catholic Church who is married, so when I got in touch with Fr. Dwight Longenecker (a man who meets the above criteria), I took the opportunity to get his take on sex, marriage, celibacy, and how the Church can, should, and already is dealing with sex differently, both within clergy circles and beyond them.
Dwight Longenecker was brought up in an evangelical home and graduated from the stridently anti-Catholic Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. While there he became an Anglican and went on to study theology at Oxford University. He married Alison and they have four children. After 10 years as a minister in the Church of England Dwight and his family converted to the Catholic faith. Showing that God has a sense of humor, Dwight returned to Greenville to be ordained as a Catholic priest. He now serves as a parish priest in Greenville.
You are both married and a Catholic Priest. How did that happen?
When I was in high school, I used to have a recurring dream that it was the night before the apocalypse and I was somewhere with a guy I liked. We weren’t married, so the dream always came back to a debate over how to spend my last night alive. Would I obey God and die a virgin or would I give in and finally have sex, albeit in sin?
I don’t tend to think of myself as someone who is all that angry, but when I get the most upset, it is almost always because of some circumstance or person that’s kept me from getting my way. And as those dreams portended, following God has frequently meant not getting my way when it comes to sex.
When I was in my 20s and would get mad about being chaste, it always hinged on this notion that I was missing out on a lot of great sex. But the older I get, the more I see that as a lie. In every situation where I could have had sex, it would have been with a man I later got over. And if you had sat me down and asked about other parts of my life, I probably wouldn’t have been as eager to share them with him.
But that’s what sex with someone I’ve not committed to sharing my life with is. If I wouldn’t give him access to my bank account or power of attorney, maybe not even my journals or my house plants, why would I share my body with him? Should that be the least guarded part of my life?