“They were all against me from the start” he muttered. “There was never any chance of a fair trial. Probably most of the jurors were Protestants, or not even Christians at all.” Father O’Donnell slumped before me in the cramped little cell, the posture of a man thoroughly defeated.
It’s typical for clients to talk my ear off, trying to make me see their side of it as if I’m the one who decides what will happen to them. Makes my job easier though, so I encourage it. Beats the hell out of the difficult ones I have to tease every little detail out of. I ask if I can sit down.
“Suit yourself” he sighed. “I haven’t got much to offer in the way of hospitality, things being as they are. I’d make you some tea or take your coat except that they’ve thrown me into the dungeon. An anti-Christian conspiracy is what it is, they’re trying to dismantle the church with trumped up lawsuits. That’s what this witch hunt is about.”
I didn’t bother pointing out the irony of using the term ‘witch hunt’, given who was behind that. I just settled in, took out a pen and paper, then my micro tape recorder. “Do you consent to being recorded?” He nodded dismissively before resuming his rant. All the same to me. I pressed the shiny red REC button and the little spools inside began to turn.
“Consent! Don’t remind me. Who decides how to define that? It was the church during better times, as it should be. The official age of reason was seven, until liberals got ahold of it. But if the law says the little ones aren’t equipped to decide that they want sex, then they also aren’t equipped to decide that they don’t.”
I sputtered, glad I wasn’t drinking coffee just then. He glared at me. “It’s just...Father...I’ve heard a lot of rationalizations for this sort of...behavior...during my career. More than you know. That has to be one of the most...I don’t even know the right word for it.”
He crossed his arms, seemingly on the verge of deciding that I, too, was part of the grand conspiracy against him and the church. “Look Father, I’m not gonna pretend to sympathize. But I’m also the only person willing to defend you. If we have any hope of mounting a successful appeal, you’ve got to work with me on this.” I made a show of halting the recording.
“You must know that you haven’t got a lot of friends or allies at the moment. So I beg you, don’t lie to me. You did rape those kids, didn’t you?” He recoiled slightly, as if I’d jabbed a sensitive spot. When next he spoke, it was with a cautious, measured tone that I’ve heard often enough to know what it means.
“Well, first we have to define our terms. What is rape? What is a kid? There’s a variety of definitions for either around the world.” I sighed, resumed recording and made myself as comfortable as I could. He’d dug his heels in. I could tell this would take longer than I hoped.
“The Muslims, for example! They have a whole society of their own in which child marriage is sanctioned by the state and a protected part of their religion!” I asked whether he’d been in the habit of defending Islamic theology or culture before this. He pursed his lips.
“Well then what about the gays?” he demanded, as if that was supposed to make any sense to me. “What about them?” When he clarified his meaning, I groaned. These guys always try to make it into a civil rights thing. Comparing themselves to gays a few decades ago, as if to say that they’re simply being persecuted by a bigoted public whose morals will one day change to embrace their…’orientation’.
“Have you heard of Bruce Rind?” I told him that some of my other clients mentioned him, but I’ve never looked into it in any depth. The one time I mentioned that name to a colleague, I was advised that it’s a dead end. That for whatever reason, this guy’s findings are inadmissible in a court of law. Not mine to ask why.
“Back in 1998, a psychologist by that name collected every study involving cases of sex between minors and adults to find out whether the widespread assumption that it causes lasting emotional trauma is true.”
I cringed, but continued to listen as I jotted down notes. I could guess where he was going with it, though. “What he found is that this belief is based on lumping all cases of sex between adults and minors together, regardless of whether the sex was consensual or forced.”
I interrupted here, my tone betraying some small fraction of my frustration, to point out that there’s no such thing as consensual sex with kids. “In the eyes of the law, certainly” he stipulated. I tried to contradict him again, but the stubborn pervert just bulldozed right on ahead.
“Imagine if we did that with regular sex. If we decided women can’t really consent to sex with men because we’ve created a law that says so. Therefore all sex is rape. Then we lump cases of actual violent rape together with cases where it was consensual.
The averaged results would appear to vindicate the belief that any sex at all between men and women causes at least some amount of permanent emotional trauma. But only because we’ve deliberately neglected to differentiate between cases of actual rape and consensual sex, in the belief that the latter doesn’t exist...just because the very idea of it offends us.”
I asked him what any of this has to do with reality. These types often concoct elaborate mind games like these in an effort to justify what they’ve done. I could fill a library with all the excuses I’ve heard, it really never ends.
“But these results were so controversial at the time they were published, that congress successfully passed a law prohibiting Rind’s findings from being used in court to defend…” He trailed off, so I filled in the gap. “...Guys like you.”
He blushed and looked down at his shoes. “The studies were repeated, over and over, in an effort to falsify their findings or to find fault with the methodology.
Instead, the methodology was confirmed to be sound and the findings were independently reproduced. Subjects who had consensual sex with adults in their youth reported no trauma at all, many even reported those memories were among their fondest!”
I finished up the doodle I’d been drawing on my notepad and began trying to talk him down. “Of course that isn’t true, Father.” He sputtered, but I didn’t let him get a word in. “If that were true, I’d have heard about it. It’s just a conspiracy theory you’ve dreamed up so you can pretend you’re being persecuted.
This...victim complex of yours is almost impressive. The absurd fantasy that legitimate scientific evidence which would vindicate you is being suppressed for political reasons. I can’t help you if you persist in your delusions. Step one is to come to terms with what you did. Then we can start devising a workable defense.”
Father O’Donnell, now red in the face, insisted he was telling the truth. “Kinsey! Alfred Kinsey, of the Kinsey Scale. He published identical findings and was raked over the coals for it! They’ve been demonizing him ever since!” I asked if by “they”, he meant the church.
He deflated somewhat, perhaps recalling all the years he’d spent publically denouncing homosexuality as Satanic depravity. It was also amusing to me that he’d become so interested in science all of a sudden, now that he hoped it might save him from prison. Though studies concerning the existence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom escaped his notice, of course.
“Vern Bullough. Hollida Wakefield. Both wrote papers about political efforts to suppress this type of research. I can’t show you but only because they took away my computer, like a bunch of common burglars. They’ve got it stashed in some evidence locker now, I’m sure of it.”
I asked him what they’re going to find on it. Again, he sank into the meager foam mattress beneath him and fidgeted anxiously. “None of this can save you, Father. You know that, don’t you?” I couldn’t be sure at first, but when he teared up enough that it caught the light, I realized he’d begun to cry.
“They’ll send me to one of their concentration camps”, he sobbed. I assured him no such camps exist. When he clarified he meant Coalinga, I assured him that it’s actually a pretty comfortable facility. “That’s about the best outcome of the appeal that you can realistically hope for, if you’ll pardon my candor. It’s like a white collar prison in there, not what I’d call doing hard time.”
He blubbered that it makes no difference as he still couldn’t leave. “The whole point of it is to remove undesirables from society. To concentrate them all in one place. How is that not a concentration camp?” I thought of asking whether he’s heard of anybody being gassed there. But on a whim, I took it in a different direction.
“What about those literal fenced-in camps the church operates outside the US? The ones gay teens are abducted and sent to against their will? You break them down with hard labor, then rebuild them as God fearing heterosexual Christians. That’s a lot closer to a concentration camp than Coalinga.”
He looked at me like I’d just smeared shit directly under his nose. Face all scrunched up, eyes wide and plainly outraged. “You keep trying to turn it around on me, but there’s no comparison.” Funny. He’d been comparing his plight to theirs just a minute ago. His narrative shifts around so much that it’s become difficult to keep track of.
“Although, the same therapies mental hospitals used to make use of in their efforts to cure homosexuality-” I broke in to point out it was no longer practiced, condemned today as pseudoscience. “Precisely! Yet those exact same treatments are still applied to p..ped…”
He still couldn’t say it. Couldn’t make the connection between that word and himself. Made me want to shout it at him. Seize him by the collar and shake him until he confessed. But that’s not my job, and I’m not so new to cases of this nature that I would let emotion make a fool out of me.
“You’ve got to bring up that research in court” he urged. “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes!” Despite my best efforts not to, I laughed. It was the way he tried to make it sound noble. I repeated that I couldn’t imagine any information that would clear him. The best we could hope for would be to mitigate the sentence somewhat, maybe avoid federal prison.
Not that they’d place him in the general prison population, though. “Cruel and unusual punishment”. Maybe they have a point. What happens to these guys when other prisoners get their hands on ’em is almost almost always an order of magnitude worse than what they were sent to prison for in the first place.
A buddy’s client back in the 80s was convicted for molesting his niece. No penetration, just light touching. He was placed in the general prison population. After less than a week, he was in the hospital for multiple compound fractures and a concussion.
Once healed up enough, they put him back in. Daily rape by his well hung cellmate split open the lining of his colon. Nearly died of septic shock before they could get him back to the hospital. It later turned out he’d also contracted AIDS.
Nobody cared, though. Why would they? The comments section of every video or article I’ve read about cases of this sort, back when I was studying for the bar exam, were filled with page after page of ravenous death threats. Ordinary, decent people who could be your next door neighbors describing in lurid detail all of the elaborate, creative tortures they’d like to subject the perp to.
It explains somewhat why they’re no longer dumped in with the general prison population, though the other half of it is that no small number of those prisoners were raped during childhood. In many cases that’s the reason for their criminality. Naturally the first opportunity they get for some payback, they really go to town.
I pictured O’Donnell’s bloody, broken body being carried from his cell on a stretcher. Probably he’d still be shouting to anybody who would listen about Bruce Rind, Alfred Kinsey and the rest of that nonsense.
Through the tears, he mumbled something or other about the devil. I asked him to speak up. “It’s just...what I did. It’s so unlike me. I had a moment of weakness. That’s all it takes for Lucifer to get in!” I absorbed his meaning for a moment before asking if he believed Satan somehow manipulated him into victimizing his targets.
He winced at my choice of words, but nodded. “Of course. I never would have done it normally. He was lurking, searching for chinks in my spiritual armor. Waiting for the moment to slip inside, and-” I held up my hand, gesturing for him to spare me the rest.
“It’s surprising to hear you say that, Father. You should know better than most that canonically, Satan doesn’t force anybody to sin. Satan translates to ‘accuser’, or ‘adversary’, in Hebrew. It means something like prosecuting attorney.” Sorta makes sense of all those tired old jokes about how lawyers belong in Hell.
O’Donnell asked what that had to do with the case. “Well it doesn’t really relate to it directly” I admitted, “...except that you’re trying to put the blame for what you did on some outside force. That’s a time honored tradition you know.
Nobody can ever accept that sinister, depraved impulses originate from themselves. That they have a dark side which is an inextricable part of their personality. So they reject it. They externalize it and give it a name. They heap hatred and scorn on it because it’s irreconcilable with their flawless idealized self, which they love to pretend is who they really are.
But that doesn’t change anything. Satan didn’t make you do what you did. You did it. Those urges came from within you. Satan’s job was never to make you sin. It’s to go around looking for egregious sinners to point out to God, so he can argue the case against them.
That’s a kick in the pants, isn’t it? According to scripture, even Satan works for God. Not that I do it out of devotion mind you, it’s just that I can’t stand you. I could never tolerate his plans to make angels subservient to humanity. I still can’t.”
Father O’Donnell, who’d been nodding along thoughtfully through most of it, suddenly processed what I'd said at the end. His head jerked upward, eyes wide, beads of sweat beginning to form on his brow. As there was no longer any point to subterfuge, I shed my outer coverings.
“It..it can’t be” he whispered. “It’s not my time.” but of course, that's not for him to decide. Suddenly, he became defensive. Even this late in the game, he couldn’t stop trying to justify what he’d done. “Alright then. Take me, if that’s what you’ve come to do. But first, I would ask just one thing of you.”
I half expected him to challenge me to dueling fiddles. It turned out to be even more banal. “Show me where the holy scriptures condemn what I did. Carnal relations between adults and children, I mean. Show me even one verse. Don’t you pretend the authors somehow forgot to mention it either, or that it goes without saying!
After all, there’s about a dozen verses which condemn homosexuality in scripture, several of which are even in the New Testament rather than the old. Don’t you try to tell me that, having included all of those, they simply ‘forgot’ to include even a single verse forbidding a man to lie with a child as he would with a woman. Show me even one!” He held up a single trembling finger.
I just stood there, boredom and exasperation written on my face as it slowly metamorphosed. Horns spiraling out from my temples, flesh hardening into a thorny red segmented carapace, curved yellow fangs piercing my lips. I crossed my arms and drummed my gnarled, claw tipped fingers impatiently against my veiny red bicep.
“Don’t...don’t you give me that look!” he cried out. “Father of all lies, that’s what you are! But even you cannot deny that there’s not even one verse in all the Bible which condemns it! Was not Mary herself but fifteen, or even younger, when God came down upon her and impregnated her with his son? Did she consent to it beforehand? Show me where it is written that she did! Even one verse!”
That’s another new one on me. When you’re teetering on the brink of Hell, calling God a child rapist doesn’t strike me as a clever defensive strategy. My hands and forearms split open, greasy black tentacles emerging. Thick, ropey and dripping with mucus, I extended them towards his wrists and ankles.
Little fingers of deep crimson fire licked at the rim of the red, pulsating dimensional orifice as it spread open before us, occupying the entire rear wall of the cell. I first passed through myself, only because it’s great fun to literally drag them kicking and screaming behind me.
A few seconds before the orifice closed, I sent back a tentacle to snatch the little tape recorder from the bed. Just so he’ll have something to listen to while he burns.