Don’t mess with Boston

Senator Kennedy has attacked Senator Santorum over a 2002 column. In that column, Santorum blamed moral relativism for the Catholic Church’s sex scandals, and added that he wasn’t surprised that Boston was at the center of the storm, since it is “a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America.” Our friend Captain Ed also criticizes Santorum.
The Senator’s claim that moral relativism lies at the heart of the sex scandal strikes me as plausible. Ed’s claim that permissive sexual mores were irrelevant is also plausible (but probably less so), as is the claim that such mores are relevant but not the key. Exhaustive historical and sociological analysis might demonstrate that Santorum was flat-out wrong. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time a Senator erred in alleging a causal relationship between ideology he doesn’t like and a phenomenon no one likes. Nothing to condemn here.
Santorum’s claim that the scandal was especially likely to occur in a “seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism” such as Boston strikes me as much less plausible. Santorum should not have made a tenuous claim that singled out a particular city.
Even so, Kennedy’s rhetoric of outrage is overblown. I don’t think Santorum’s column can fairly be read as stating that, in Kennedy’s words, “the people of Boston are to blame for the clergy sexual abuse.” Nor did Santorum suggest, as Senator Kerry claims he did, that “the state was responsible for [these] acts.”

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