Würzburg, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - Across the West, homosexuality is embraced and transgenderism is tolerated. Now, it seems pedophilia is next to be normalized.
The most recent indicator manifested in Germany in May. In a TEDx presentation titled "Pedophilia Is A Natural Sexual Orientation," medical student Mirjam Heine shared with a University of Würzburg audience the story of 19-year-old law student "Jonas":
Jonas has a secret which he thinks he cannot share with anyone — not even with his best friend or with his parents. He's just too afraid of anger, rejection and repulsion. Jonas knows that he has to suppress his sexual drive for his entire life. And he also knows that there will never be a loving and fulfilling partnership that he can enter. Because Jonas is a pedophile.
Heine continued by pointing out that pedophilia is often conflated with child sexual abuse and stressing it is crucial to differentiate between the two.
"Whether the persistent occurrence of sexual thoughts and feelings for pre-adolescent children have been acted upon or not is not relevant to the diagnosis," she said. "Pedophilia is only the sexual preference for pre-adolescent children," while child sexual abuse — any pedophilic act — "is illegal and must always be."
To illustrate, Heine pointed out that Jonas, though a pedophile, is not a child molester — he has never acted on his urges, knowing that to do so would destroy lives, including his own.
"Not every pedophile abuses children, and not everyone who abuses children is a pedophile," she continued. "Differentiating between these two groups is essential. Let me be very clear, here. Abusing children is wrong, without any doubt. But a pedophile who doesn't abuse children has done nothing wrong."
Heine went on to argue that pedophiles should be allowed to come out into the open so they can seek therapy and medication without shame. She was applauded by her German audience. But once her presentation was posted online, it sparked backlash. To tamp down criticism, TEDx removed the video from its official page and is deleting uploads to YouTube.
The furor underscored how abhorrent pedophilia remains to the general public. But many people worry the disorder is beginning the long trek to normalization.
Over the years, the American Psychiatric Association has variously defined pedophilia as a sexual deviation, a sociopathic condition and a non-psychotic medical disorder. Now, there's a growing push to reclassify it as a distinct sexual orientation as Heine did in her presentation.
And therein lies the fear. According to U.K. sociologist Sarah Goode, reclassifying pedophilia as a sexual orientation would play into what she calls "the sexual liberation discourse."
"There are a lot of people who say: 'We outlawed homosexuality, and we were wrong. Perhaps we're wrong about pedophilia,'" she explains.
As the de-Christianization of the West accelerates, social perceptions are shifting. In a 2013 article titled "Paedophilia: Bringing Dark Desires to Light," U.K. journalist Jon Henley observed that "child brides were once the norm; in the late 16th century, the age of consent in England was 10."
He noted that, as the Sexual Revolution took deeper root in British society in the 1970s, groups like the Paedophile Information Exchange and Paedophile Action for Liberation were admitted to the National Council for Civil Liberties which, in turn, later publicly questioned the lasting damage caused by "consensual pedophilic relations." A similar push occurred in the United States during this period, resulting in the formation of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA).
Henley also pointed to research suggesting that sex acts between adults and children might not be all bad, including a 1987 Dutch study claiming that its "sample of boys in pedophilic relationships felt positively about them," and a major 1998–2000 American analysis suggesting that such relationships, when entered into voluntarily, are "nearly uncorrelated with undesirable outcomes."
Like Heine, Goode argues for a shift in social attitudes toward pedophilia.
"Adult sexual attraction to children is part of the continuum of human sexuality; it's not something we can eliminate," she says. The key to minimizing child sex abuse, she argues, is to lift the stigma on sexual attraction to children and allow pedophiles "to be ordinary members of society, with moral standards like everyone else."
Outside the social sciences, this remains a minority view. Writing in National Review in 2013, author Wesley J. Smith blasted the process of normalization, echoing the concerns of a majority of Americans: "I call this kind of discussion, 'terminal nonjudgmentalism,' because it is designed to move us from viewing pedophilia as absolutely unacceptable, to an issue that is debatable and should be 'discussed,' toward the final goal of acceptability."
"Pedophiles can already get help in controlling their urges before they ruin a child's life," he protested, "and certainly, many do. Good on them. But turning the abhorrent and pathological into the somehow acceptable will not protect children. Quite the contrary."
"Think about it," Smith continued. "If the desire for sexual congress with children is just 'another orientation' ... and if some children supposedly 'like it' when they voluntarily engage in sex with adults — and indeed, if it doesn't actually hurt them — how long would the absolute rejection of cross-generation congress last? Not very."
"It wouldn't be long until we saw the absolute prohibition on pedophilic sex downgraded to a mere 'taboo,' which, as the last 50 years teach us, are made to be broken. NAMBLA members must be grinning ear-to-ear."