The Prince, The Sex Offender, and the Ethics of Friendship

Prince Andrew with one of his friend's victims in 2001

The ethics of friendship is complicated.

President Bush claimed to be friends with Vladimir Putin. F.D.R. once said that Josef Stalin was his friend. President Obama was famously friendly with dubious characters like Rev. Wright and William Ayres.

History is full of heroes and near-heroes who had infamous friends, though the extent of the often friendship is difficult to know. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Elvis were supposedly buddies with Richard Nixon. Bill and Hillary Clinton were close friends with Dick Morris. Wyatt Earp was a life-long friend of “Doc” Holliday; Andrew Jackson may have been friends with pirate Jean Lafitte, who helped him win the Battle of New Orleans. We simultaneously celebrate loyal friends, and yet we also judge people by the company they keep. Should we condemn individuals who have friends with serious character flaws or a history of unsavory acts? Or should we admire them for sticking with their friends when everyone else is turning against them?

Prince Andrew, an heir to the British throne, is under fire in the U.K. for his longstanding friendship with American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who is, among many things, a convicted sex offender with some serious crimes on his record. Can maintaining a friendship be irresponsible and a breach of duty—unethical? Should anyone shun a friend because he or she is justifiably reviled elsewhere? Can misbehavior in one part of your life disqualify you for love, affection and unequivocal regard? Should it?

My father’s best friend throughout his life was pretty clearly a sociopath. My dad knew it. His friend, whom he got to know as a young child, was a compulsive liar and con man who treated his own family wretchedly. After his death, it was discovered that he had maintained a simultaneous bigamous marriage in Australia. My father wasn’t shocked. “That’s just like him,” he said. But my dad’s friend was dedicated to him, and was always there for my father when my father needed a favor, an ally, or someone to talk to. Indeed, the sociopathic bigamist helped get me into college.

It always amazed me that my father, who followed such strict moral and ethical codes in his own life, could remain friends with someone like this. When I asked my dad, an only child, about it, he simply said, “I see close friends like brothers or children. You love them and accept them unconditionally. I didn’t approve of the way he led his life, and he knew it, but as a friend, he was trustworthy, fair and giving. Everyone has a right to friends.”

I think I agree with my father, though I could never accept his sociopathic friend as mine. And there is also a difference between maintaining relationships with close, life-long friends, and commencing new friendships with people you know first as thieves, traitors, liars, bigots and bullies. There is much I forgive in my friends, as there is much they forgive in me.  Still, who you choose as your friends does indicate something about your values and priorities. I would hesitate to trust someone who had a lot of sociopaths as friends.

Prince Andrew, however, is in a special situation. He is always, metaphorically speaking, wearing a crown. His friendships, however he may intend them, carry the prestige and perceived approval of the British Royal Family, and thus Great Britain itself. That means that he has a duty to end a friendship with someone like Epstein. Similarly, if Barack Obama had grown up with Bernie Madoff the way my father grew up with the bigamist, he would nonetheless be obligated to end the friendship because of its unavoidable symbolic implications. A U.S. President can’t be seen as a the pal of a mega-felon, and similarly, a British prince cannot be friends with a serial sex offender.

Loyalty is admirable, and unconditional regard is a generous and loving gift. Everyone has a right to have friends, as my father said. But nobody has the right to have princes and U.S. Presidents as friends, if the friendship risks corrupting the values of a culture.

44 thoughts on “The Prince, The Sex Offender, and the Ethics of Friendship

  1. I think it was biographer Fawn Brody who said that the 3rd president of the USA, the great Thomas Jefferson, was “…a first-rate mind in a deeply flawed personality”.

  2. I find the concept of loyalty slightly odd. Is it not simply favouring one person over someone else that deserves the reward more simply because you wish to engender reciprocity of the same type of preferential treatment from them in the future?
    Friendship is a related concept, would you be friends with someone that was in no position to do you any favours and whose company you don’t enjoy? There is a cost/benefit calculation.

    If Jeffrey Epstein has served his time, paid his debt to society, and Prince Andrew wants to be friends with him then that is his private decision and I don’t think it ethical of the media to stir up shit about it.

  3. Oh NOOOO! Not this again!! So soon???

    Prince Andrew is a public figure, celebrity, a role model, and a living symbol of his society and nation. He doesn’t have any privacy. If he wants privacy, he can renounce hos status, position and place in line for the throne. Otherwise, he’s owned lock, stock amd barrel.

    You REALLY want to see Pres. Obama playing golf with Ayers, Bernie Maddoff, The Craig’s List rapist and O.J.? All in private, of course….

  4. Likelihood is that folks like Obama are just more discrete about it, so, if a tree falls in the forest, and we didn’t hear it, did it still happen?

  5. Sorry, but I am really conflicted about this. Requires more thought.

    I remember a friend years ago whose family was a friend of Spiro Agnew. When queried on the relationship, the answer was: “Love the man, hate his deeds.” I don’t think this covers it.

    This one makes my head hurt.

  6. That was a pretty good summation, Jack. A great failure among public figures and other celebrities these days is their concept that their lives are their own and thus, by extension, are their relationships. In fact, nobody’s life is truly all his own, as a man’s life comes from God and owes God something in return. But our fellow citizens also own a part of us. And the more prominent we become (for whatever reason) the greater our influence over others in the conduct of our affairs. When this influence extends to young people (as in today’s society it almost invariably does) then those responsibilities of good conduct increase manyfold. And it’s always been true that a man is judged by the company he keeps. Entertainment celebrities have come to reject these premises outright. Political and social ones increasingly ignore it. Thereby, they legitimize wrongdoing by association; whether or not they actively participate in it.

    • My life is my own. I enjoy my internal locus of control.

      My only other problem with this post is your singling out entertainment celebrities for rejecting the premises. I don’t think they do it any more than others do. We just don’t hear about our mechanics’ friendships.

  7. That’s a key difference between the Christian and humanist worldviews, TGT. But, as Jack attempted to point out, there exists a difference of degree between a casual private association by an ordinary citizen and those by people who, by their status (and, thus, influence) consort with others whose nature is less than inspiring. Indeed, no man is an island and all of us should seek friends of the highest calibre. We certainly shouldn’t reject those who fall short, as we all do to one degree or another. Jesus didn’t! But neither should we casually accept the ways of a friend who’s strayed to such a degree; especially when he rejects any repentance. AND- as a public figure- one holds a higher responsibility to those who look to you for guidance. I wasn’t singling out entertainment celebrities in this. But they can hardly be ignored, either, due to the pervasiveness of their stories and the increasing level of depravity that has come to characterize them as a group.

    • About rejecting “…those who fall short; Jesus didn’t!”

      We don’t really know whether he did or not. There is no reliable evidence one way or the other.

            • Have you read any of the scholarship on the bible? The Gospels were chosen hundreds of years after Jesus died by a tribunal. There were a number of possible books. Any that did not match the tribunal’s desires for the religion were tossed. Passages were also editted at this time (and during the preceding years).

              Catholic history is one thing I know well.

              • You’re referring to the Nicaean conclave. At the time, as you say, the Bible’s New Testament was still taking form. There were many books and witnesses, but not all could be included, otherwise the Bible would have become so mammoth in size as to be unwieldy. Some of the tomes were also of dubious authorship or reflected the Gnostic leanings that the leading bishops of the time had dismissed as heretical. These were edited in favor of those accounts that best defined the Christian creed. Of course, those that didn’t survive the Nicaean editing remain available for the most part. They’re just not part of the Bible proper. As to their individual worthiness; that’s for the scholar and discerning Christian layman to interpret on his own. But they were edited, not censored.

                • Ah, so you understand that the bible is the work of bureaucrats and their desires for their religion, not the words and teachings of Jesus in any reliable form.

                  That’s good. That just makes you intentionally a fool instead of (possibly excusably) ignorant.

                  • No, TGT. The Bible was written on the inspiration of God, but through human agency. The purpose of the Nicaean conclave was to determine not only which books were divinely inspired, but to pick out the best of them, least the Bible become unwieldy. To that important effort, the best minds in Christendom were summoned. You call it politics. It was, in fact, an expression of faith and wisdom. And, as I said, it was a matter of editing. The bulk of the scripts that were rejected were those of either peripheral value or those whose inspiration (and thus, authenticity) were in question.

                    • Um, how could people determine which books were divinely inspired? That’s a euphemism for “books we like”.

                      You then further undercut your point by admitting that the books were also culled by size, not by divine inspiration.

                      There is no objective way to determine inspiration.

                    • Isn’t there? As I said, the finest scholars and church leaders of the time gathered together in what was then the Byzantine Empire to accomplish this. That was no small feat in itself, given the times. Their work was vital and was the result of their wisdom, faith and resolve. Don’t denigrate their achievement. They should be honored for all time.

              • The legends, fictions, fables and stories in both the Old and New Testaments have no real historical reliability, but millions accept them as literal reality, no matter how many centuries old, no matter how many translations of translations of translations they have been thru, no matter what the agenda of their reputed authors might have been.

                It should not be surprising. Millions of Americans accept as historical reality Pastor Weems’ fanciful tale of young George Washington and his father’s cherry tree.

                • Not surprising in the least. What is surprising is that people know the actual history (like SMP), yet ignore it. Granted, that’s why I normally attack religion (the ability to deny reality when it differs from one’s desires), but it’s still pretty incredible.

                • As a non-believer myself, I wouldn’t say “no real historical reliability”; the Bible is a useful tool for researching the history of the ancient Levant when used cautiously and in conjunction with archeology and non-Jewish/Christian historical records; like all religions, I think Christianity and Judaism have some vague basis in historical fact, but said facts ended up getting dramatically embellished by both politics and the passage of both time and distance.

                  • Not so much “vague”, Julian. The Bible contains accounts that go right back to the dawn of human society in the Middle East. And they are accounts that survived great upheavals, both natural and manmade. For example, the discovery of the ancient pre-Babylonian civilization of Sumer- the oldest known civilization on Earth from the time of Nimrod- was taken to heart by Christian archaeologists. Upon those accounts- along with studies of succeeding nations- the genius and works of the Sumerian people was brought to light. It just has to be remembered that, while the Bible is indeed a work of history and literature, it is primarily a work of Faith.

                    • while the Bible is indeed a work of history and literature, it is primarily a work of Faith.

                      Translation: Parts of the bible have been proven incorrect, so I’m BSing to try to save the rest of it.

                    • You’re putting words in my mouth, TGT. As I pointed out, Biblical passages have inspired scholars into detailed discoveries into once forgotten human history, thus upholding the Biblical accounts. Once again, the Bible records these accounts not just as a matter of history, but primarily as those histories recount moments and events that were important to the Bible’s main purpose as a book of Faith.

                    • No, I’m not putting words in your mouth, I’m translating what you are doing. The bible was taken as 100% fact until science started showing how wrong it was.

                      If you take the fully metaphorical position, then you have no ability to argue that homosexuality is bad or that jesus even exists. The result is a completely unsupportable amalgamation of truth and metaphor, that you support based on faith.

                    • All of your reasoning here is based on your own emotional contempt for Christianity, TGT. The Bible is not a book of science. In early times, some tried to convey it as such. Some still do. But it’s not. I hold a degree in geology, BTW. And Bishop Ussher’s work occurred in medieval times, when there was little else but the Bible to refer to. If you look at the opening passages of Genesis with an open mind, you’ll note that the account of the Creation has much in common with present day theory.

                    • My reasoning is impartial.

                      The Catholic Church, the sole arbiter of the bible for more than 1000 years, treated it as literally true. You can’t wave that away as never occurring.

                      I don’t know Bishop Ussher’s work, so I’m not going to directly respond to that comment, but I fail to see how it could possibly be relevant. While some parts of the bible might be accurate, there is no reason to believe the unconfirmed parts are in the least bit true.

                      If you look at the opening passages of Genesis with an open mind, you’ll note that the account of the Creation has much in common with present day theory.

                      So long as you mean creationist “theory”, then yes. If you mean scientific theory, then no. The sun was created after the earth? These things were created at all? Humans are independent from animals? Anything that happens to vaguely line up is either chance or due to the supposed knowledge of the time. All the inconsistencies show that the book was written by men telling a tale as best they understood it.

                • You’re correct when you say that many of the Bible’s contents cannot be independently confirmed. Likely enough, many never could be, given the breadth of time and conditions. Although, I think, you might be surprised at how many HAVE been upheld, in full or in part, by archaeological research. Nevetheless, none have ever been disproved by validated research. Non-Christians will always profess doubts or quibble over details, but the faithful accept. The Bible is not called “holy” without reason.

  8. No, TGT. You reasoning is not impartial, but based on your own proclaimed rejection and disdain for Christianity in all its aspects. I’m not here to defend the Catholic Church in all its actions over 2,000 years. Or any church, for that matter. There’s always the matter of human agency. And even the best of institutions can be led astray or suffer corruption. (See my recent remarks on our constitutional debate.) But, as any competant historian will tell you, you make a capital mistake when you evaluate history on the basis of the popular attitudes of the present day.

    As to Genesis: It was the necessary introduction to the Holy Texts. You are, in fact, making the same mistake that a number of biblical scholars have made in trying to interpret it along strictly scientific lines. Again; the Bible is not a work of science. The opening lines of Genesis were a literary outline of the Beginning, framed in such a way as to be understood by people who lived in a semi-nomadic state at the very dawn of history. Science has added many details since. But the basic truth of it- that God was the Creator of all- remains. Unless you can accept that, then you must necessarily dismiss the entire Bible in the manner that you have done.

  9. No, TGT. You reasoning is not impartial, but based on your own proclaimed rejection and disdain for Christianity in all its aspects.

    What part of my reasoning was based on a disdain for Christianity? All the reasoning is based on the assumption that Christianity is not necessarily true. That’s all.

    I’m not here to defend the Catholic Church in all its actions over 2,000 years. Or any church, for that matter. There’s always the matter of human agency. And even the best of institutions can be led astray or suffer corruption. (See my recent remarks on our constitutional debate.) But, as any competant historian will tell you, you make a capital mistake when you evaluate history on the basis of the popular attitudes of the present day.

    Nothing you wrote here denies the historical fact that the bible was taken literally until (and often after) it was shown to be demonstrably false in places.

    As to Genesis: It was the necessary introduction to the Holy Texts. You are, in fact, making the same mistake that a number of biblical scholars have made in trying to interpret it along strictly scientific lines. Again; the Bible is not a work of science. The opening lines of Genesis were a literary outline of the Beginning, framed in such a way as to be understood by people who lived in a semi-nomadic state at the very dawn of history. Science has added many details since.

    This argument is still stupid. The bible was literal until it was shown false. Why would the book say patently incorrect things when it doesn’t have to? Noting that light came before earth wouldn’t have caused any problems. What you are doing is rationalizing.

    But the basic truth of it- that God was the Creator of all- remains.

    Citation needed.

    Unless you can accept that, then you must necessarily dismiss the entire Bible in the manner that you have done.

    That statement doesn’t make sense. Basic logic escapes you.

  10. It depends on how you interpret things, TGT. Again, you look at the texts on a basis of inherent disdain… which you HAVE demonstrated on numerous occasions. Not “intellectual skepticism”, but outright rejection. But that’s your privilege. I’m not here to convert anyone. But your contention that the Bible has been proven false is strictly your own. I would respectfully point out that- as in all works- if you take the Bible out of context (or, as I mentioned, evaluate it by present day biases- or both) the conclusions you can reach are widely varied. That’s why I keep maintaining that the Bible is primarily a book of faith, not science. You must evaluate it on the basis of its spirit. Otherwise, its basic logic WILL escape you.

    • It depends on how you interpret things, TGT. Again, you look at the texts on a basis of inherent disdain… which you HAVE demonstrated on numerous occasions.

      You having that backwards. The disdain comes from the review. The review is not colored by the disdain.

      But your contention that the Bible has been proven false is strictly your own.

      Strawman alert. I claimed parts of the bible have been shown to be false. I did not claim the entire bible is false. My actual statement is understood and accepted by pretty much everyone who doesn’t deny reality. You even, I assume, agree that light was not created after the earth.

      I would respectfully point out that- as in all works- if you take the Bible out of context (or, as I mentioned, evaluate it by present day biases- or both) the conclusions you can reach are widely varied. That’s why I keep maintaining that the Bible is primarily a book of faith, not science.

      Translation: Because the book is completely incorrect in some places, it was never thought to be correct. This overrides our actual knowledge that it was taken as correct.

      That is not good logic.

      You must evaluate it on the basis of its spirit. Otherwise, its basic logic WILL escape you.

      Moving the goalposts, but sure, I’m game. This book, in some places, tells us incorrect information. Therefore, I can not assume that other unsubstantiated claims are correct. Well, that was simple.

      • I would venture to remark that your replies constitute a platoon of strawmen! If you dispute the authenticity of the Bible as truthful accounts inspired by the Hand of God, then you can accept nothing. Note that you have even questioned the very existence of Jesus Christ, which, as the centerpiece of the Bible’s message, would render the whole text a work of fiction. Again, it comes down to a matter of faith in the end. Without it, you condemn it to the realm of mythology. Your option.

        BTW: Modern theory of planetary development suggests that planets form very quickly out of the nascent sun’s accretion disc. Therefore, they may be well under development before a star “turns on” into the main sequence with sustained fusion at its core. Before then, a star glows but dimly in the infared as the result of compaction. This is known as the Wolf-Rayet phase. Studies of extra-solar systems in the past decade suggest this. I’m not suggesting that Genesis was trying to imply this with alliteration. But… it’s interesting to note.

        Actually, I wanted to be an astronomer before being a geologist. However, it didn’t seem like there’d be much in the way of career oportunities, so I chose the latter. It wasn’t the first career mistake I ever made, but it may well have been the biggest!

        • Strawman. I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Where am I attacking a position you do not hold instead of your actual position?

          If you dispute the authenticity of the Bible as truthful accounts inspired by the Hand of God, then you can accept nothing.

          No, I can accept alot of things. You should also note the dispution is based on the evidence that the bible has at least some inaccurate accounts and cannot be treated as trusted source without confirmation.

          Note that you have even questioned the very existence of Jesus Christ, which, as the centerpiece of the Bible’s message, would render the whole text a work of fiction.

          Yes I question claims and accept them only when they are substantiated. No, questioning Jesus does not necessarily make the text a work of fiction.

          Again, it comes down to a matter of faith in the end. Without it, you condemn it to the realm of mythology. Your option.

          Unless you agree that people with faith are idiots, then there is no option in faith. If I chose to have fiath that their were fairies in the world or that Santa Claus really exists, you would rightfully call me an idiot.

          Also, I don’t condemn the bible to anything. I categorize it where it fits. That the bible fits under mythology is due to what the bible says, not what I desire.

          • I stick by my “strawman” term. Especially now. All you have done here is to deny by repetition of prior assertions. And, as you associate the Ministry of Jesus Christ with Santa Claus, the entire question becomes essentially pointless. You are committed to the concept of the Bible as a fable. I contend it is nothing of the sort. No common ground. But God bless you anyway.

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