Throwing stones and leaping to judgment

I am sure we all just had a good giggle at the catholic priest reportedly running from the room as his data stick brought up not a powerpoint presentation related to holy communion – but a series of gay porn images. Yeah, yeah: SO Benny Hill…now all we need are a bevy of bikini clad lovelies and a kazoo!

But having had our giggle, it might just be worth all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike pondering the wisdom of those without sin casting the first stone – or at very least awaiting some of the evidence to get back in, before we get all “holier than thou” about the presumed predilections of this priest.

It’s a view I get to not just because I continue to be a sometime attendant at catholic mass: but because a few years back I wrote extensively about another case where a teacher opened up her laptop…and ended up in total panic as instead of a class lesson, her computer began displaying a range of pretty explicit porn images to her class.

Crucified in America

The teacher’s name was Julie Amero, and her case became something of a cause celebre amongst the IT community. For those unfamiliar, the initial investigation of the incident was inadequate to the point of incompetence, while the court that first heard her case was shamefully computer illiterate.

Ms Amero was found guilty of having accessed the images deliberately and possibly even of wilfully displaying them to her class and for a while, this innocent faced the prospect of up to 40 years jail time simply because the authorities did not understand simple concepts such as spyware and DNS hijacking.

In the end, after a four year ordeal, Ms Amero was vindicated. She still didn’t get her job back, as the authorities, presumably embarrassed by their original idiocy, still claimed that she had failed to shut the computer down quickly enough to prevent her class being exposed to additional imagery.

Think panic! Think about a teacher with little IT experience suddenly dropped into an impossible and fluster-laden situation.

Real issues: bigotry and quick condemnations

Now let’s fast forward to Fr Martin McVeigh, the priest whose (shared) data stick appears to have been host to material not entirely approved by catholic dogma. He might, indeed, be “guilty” as hell: in which case, a conversation with his Bishop as to the advisability of his continuing as a priest in a church that disapproves officially of homoerotica is needed pronto.

Or he might not.

Personally, there are two aspects to this case that I find disturbing and those are NOT the possibility that – shock! horror! – a catholic priest might occasionally browse gay porn. The first is the implied slur, in the reported reaction of some parents in the parish, to the effect that looking at gay porn is a child safety issue. That, ever so subtly, equates gayness with paedophilia and is revolting.

The second, ever so serious, is we MUST be slower to jump to conclusions. From having written about the law and porn over the years, I have encountered many similar cases. Sometimes, individuals have been guilty as charged: in other cases, thoroughly innocent.

Yet the taint of porn by association has stuck and.. .well, chatting to someone on suicide watch because they have simply been accused of looking at images that the net, in its glory, has downloaded onto their pc without their permission or knowledge is a very sobering experience.

Its an amusing story. A good giggle. Now let’s sit and back and wait til we have a better idea what’s been happening before we leap to any more judgments.

jane xx


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