Institutionalized Moral Confusion & the Sexualization of Children
Posted by Ed Folsom, January 25, 2024.
In this time of deep moral confusion, the bizarre story of Haitian orphanage founder and operator Paul Geilenfeld is back in the news.
Geilenfeld was recently arrested in Colorado on federal charges out of Miami, alleging that he traveled in international commerce to engage in sex with minors. The conduct allegedly occurred between November of 2006 and December of 2010, at which time Geilenfeld ran an orphanage in Haiti.
At one point, Geilenfeld won a federal lawsuit for defamation in U.S. District Court, against Freeport, Maine, resident Paul Kendrick, over Kendrick’s public claims that Geilenfeld sexually abused minors under his care at the same orphanage. A Maine jury awarded Geilenfeld $7 million, but the verdict was later tossed because Geilenfeld was living in Haiti and lacked standing to bring suit in U.S. federal court to begin with.
According to the Portland Press Herald, Kendrick’s quest to expose Geilenfeld’s misdeeds began at some point after Kendrick made a 2003 trip to Haiti with a medical group. On that trip, Kendrick met a fellow alumnus of Fairfield University, Douglas Perlitz, who was running a school for homeless children in Haiti. Years later, Perlitz was convicted in U.S. District Court, New Haven, Connecticut, of sexually abusing Haitian minors at the school. In the wake of Perlitz’s case, a Haitian journalist, Cyrus Sibert, broke a story reporting that Geilenfeld was also sexually abusing Haitian children.
Kendrick read Sibert’s story and did some investigating, ultimately leading Kendrick to conduct a campaign by blog and email to have Geilenfeld prosecuted. That’s when Geilenfeld sued Kendrick. Geilenfeld was, in fact, arrested and held in jail for a year by Haitian authorities, only to have the charges dismissed when the alleged victims failed to appear for a hearing. Since that time, the alleged victims have appealed and the charges have been reinstated, but the case has still not gone to trial amidst ongoing governmental turmoil in Haiti. And now the U.S. feds have stepped in with sex tourism charges against Geilenfeld. Truly, may justice be served.
The sexualizing of kids, and adults having sex with kids, is pervasive stuff. The Catholic church’s child molestation scandal has been in the news for a long time now. And then there’s the Jeffrey Epstein/Ghislaine Maxwell operation, involving a bevy of heavy-hitters from the world of politics, business, and wealth in general, whose identities and details of involvement we will likely never know beyond what we’ve been allowed to know to his point.
Here in Maine former two-time gubernatorial candidate and former Carter Administration official Eliot Cutler was recently released from jail on a sentence for possessing a large amount of child pornography.
All of this exhibits serious moral confusion about the sexualization of children, and/or straight-up sex with children, among powerful people in positions of trust. Which brings me to another relatively recent story from the genre. Have you heard the one about the German sexuality expert, Helmut Kentler, who ran an operation from the 1970’s into the 1990’s, with the complicity of the Berlin Senate, to place wayward children with pedophile foster parents as a way of re-socializing them? Oh ya, that happened. Talk about moral confusion…
The German news source, Deutsche Welle (DW) reports that in the 1960’s, while the Germans were busy self-examining the mass moral confusion they labored under in the days of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis), a strange and dangerous idea caught the fancy of some powerful people. It was the idea that systemic German sexual repression was what led the Nazis to become Nazis. Helmut Kentler was a proponent of the theory. Kentler’s pedo-sexpertise led him to conclude that the “emancipating sexual education” of children — especially experiential education involving adult “pedagogues” (teachers) — would release children from repressive German moral structures and lead to political liberation. This, in turn, would bring about the true democratization of German society. Some influential people, including Kentler, considered adult sex with children to be progressive and anti-fascist. Get it?
If you don’t quite get it, imagine what it would have been like to try standing against the madness of that time and place. Who would you have been to question the experts, including Germany’s foremost expert on the subject, Helmut Kentler? Wouldn’t that have made you an anti-science, fascist bigot; a threat to democracy, standing in the way of history?
A look at contemporary American political tactics should provide some insight into the difficulty of standing against even the most bizarre and damaging ideas once they trend among the “experts” who control our institutions, especially when those trending ideas are promoted as progressive, scientific, anti-fascist, and/or pro-democracy.
According to DW, some of the pedophiles who became foster parents, caregivers, and child-sex pedagogues under Kentler’s program were powerful people in academia, research organizations, and state welfare offices. All the while, it remained illegal under German law for adults to engage in sex with children. And yet, the Berlin Senate knew what was going on and even provided funding for some of the pedophile caretakers. The moral confusion spread from individual pedophiles to a connected group of pedophile “experts” and then to institutions that the pedophile “experts” influenced or outright controlled.
Although Germany’s Green Party agitated for legalization of adult/child sex (“consensual,” of course), the moral confusion over adult/child sex never quite managed to capture Germany’s legal code itself. But when moral confusion does capture the law itself – whether through decriminalization of the damaging behavior, in which case the criminal law assumes a position of neutrality, or through the enactment of laws that promote the damaging behavior as progressive, enlightened, anti-fascist, scientific, or pro-democratic — standing against the moral confusion at that point is even more difficult. Moral confusion backed by the force of law is very powerful moral confusion.
Who knows? If Germany’s pedophilia trend had captured the law itself, Germany’s late 20th Century moral confusion on the topic might remain entrenched there to this day.
As it is, the story of Kentler’s work with pedophile foster parents and caretakers broke into the public spotlight back in 2020. In this country, the New Yorker did a detailed story on it in 2021. According to that story, Kentler was himself a foster parent for young boys. At one point, Kentler purportedly admitted that he carried on a sexual relationship with one of the boys from age 13 into adulthood. That foster child committed suicide in 1991.
Kentler died in 2008, well before his anti-fascist, pro-democracy adult/child emancipating sexual education scheme, now widely perceived as bizarre and perverse by the public, was publicly disclosed.
Even after all these years, and even after the public disclosures of Kentler’s program and the Berlin Senate’s participation, somehow the names of the pedophile foster parent/caretakers remain undisclosed.
Pedophiles and others who sexualize children and seek to have sex with them have not gone away. Just read the headlines. They remain among us, as morally confused as ever. And there is no reason to believe that they have lost their ability, since the time of Kentler and company, to manipulate language and political abstractions to gain influence in our institutions, to normalize and “center” their moral confusion and marginalize those who stand against it.
Moral confusion abounds. Some of it has managed to bleed beyond individuals and groups into the “experts” class and the institutions they control, and it has bled further, into the state and into the law itself. What would you be called if you were to stand against the moral confusion? Would you be derided for having the temerity to question the “experts;” the Science™? Would you be accused of being a combination of bigot, authoritarian/“fascist,” anti-democratic, and/or on the wrong side of history? Oh, yes. You know that you would.