On yesterday’s Saturday Night Live, Pete Davidson spoke out about how the reason it’s hard for people to completely accept the abuse committed by R. Kelly and Michael Jackson is because of their talent. If they were lesser artists, it would be a lot easier to throw them under the bus.
… This guy is a monster and he should go to jail forever. But if you support the Catholic Church, isn’t that, like, the same thing as being an R. Kelly fan? I don’t really see the difference. Only like one’s music is significantly better.
The bit wasn’t out of line, though. As Slate’s Matthew Dessem joked, “One used an authoritarian culture of secrecy to enable and conceal reprehensible acts of sexual abuse and pedophilia for years,” and the other is R. Kelly.
If anything, the joke was unfair to the singer. At least he’s facing the possibility of prison, fines, and a societal rejection of his past body of work. Only a fraction of predator priests have seen anything resembling justice. Catholics still attend services like the abuse and cover-ups never happened — and we treat their attendance as perfectly normal. You’re going to have a hard time defending the legacy of Jackson and Kelly in years to come, but that How could you? reaction is rarely given to parents who enroll their kids in Catholic school.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis is still in power. State attorneys general have to force the Church to turn over their records. And for all the attention given to the abuse by the Spotlight movie and other newspaper reporters, plenty of people are still baptizing their babies and holding weddings in Catholic churches without ever once connecting the dots and realizing they’re supporting a criminal organization.
The difference between R. Kelly and the Catholic Church is that at least the public has finally come around to recognizing the harm the singer caused.