Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

Compare and contrast

I have zero tolerance where child abuse, in any form, is concerned. As a father it makes my blood boil. So let me state clearly; I deplore sexual abuse and have no desire to make apology for offenders or protectors. Where crimes were/are committed the judicial system must be used for it is shameful when the issue is not dealt with appropriately by institutions and individuals.

It is well documented, and profoundly sad, that the church has historically failed in this regard. Many crimes reported today, and an obvious failure to deal with them effectively, stem from the 1960s- 1980’s- in the wake of a sexual revolution but before modern safe-guarding practices were put in place. A time, to be fair, when most institutions chose to look the other way or trust in woefully ineffective therapy to deal with the problem. We might consider how the BBC handled its staff including Jimmy Saville. Or how politicians, including Harriet Harman, lobbied for pedophile groups.

Statistics suggest the problem was societal and not linked to just one institution; the church. Secular care homes had/have no better record than religious ones. Teachers tend to abuse at a higher rate than clergy and indeed all professions with access to children are targetted. And whilst hollywood may delight in tales of wicked nuns running evil Irish laundries, survivors state that whilst they were bleak places indeed- so were all work houses and similar institutions of that day. And today the most likely person to abuse a child is not a cleric but a family member or trusted friend. Yet still the church tends to be singled out for demonisation. Why is this? Why does the church get more heat for abuse from the media than celebrities like Roman Polanski?

It makes for a conundrum. How to speak out about press impartiality without minimising, in any way, the suffering of victims? What to do when there is truth in what is reported -and yet the reporting is being done, not to help victims, but for the delight of giving the church a good kicking? To explain let us examine the very different way in which the BBC reports on the grim issue of child abuse when the church is involved and when it is not. The difference in tone being so seismic as to be revelatory.

The first,  ‘bodies of children found in mass grave’  was presented with an eerie photograph and strong language evoking terrible foul play. Yet scrutinise the text and it transpires the remains ‘discovered’ were in a cemetery??! What else did they expect? And that the remains were ‘of children’ is hardly shocking when you discover said cemetery is a plot attached to an orphanage. So what, exactly, is being alleged beyond vague suspicions of something sinister lurking in the past? There seems to be a paucity of hard facts at play but plenty of vague allegation.

Apparently the allegation is valid because records are hazy as to who is buried here. But that, in itself, is hardly evidence of abuse given that all other burial sites of this era would be much the same. This was a time when cholera and disease meant infant mortality was high. An era when record keeping and care of children, especially very poor children, was woefully inadequate. We all know that such children were being stuffed up chimneys, broken in manual labour, flogged and so forth. So if there is specific abuse to be answered for- why isn’t it cited? The story- in its present form- looks more like a hatchet job to continue a favoured narrative (Catholic bad- modern libertarianism good) rather than anything substantial.

Now compare the tone of that first article with a tweet  from Victoria Derbyshire- or with this older article. Once the church is removed from the equation, and the issue placed into the smorgasbord of modern PC agenda, the tone changes significantly. Out goes horror style black and white photos- in comes reasoned presentation. We are encouraged to sympathise with those who prey on the young and objectify them for their twisted gratification. There is no hint of evil at play here (grrr – more is the pity) now it is a health issue in need of medication. So- chillingly- we are told, as in the bad days, that ‘therapy’ is the answer! What a seismic shift in tone and how it speaks volumes.

To conclude then: I find it outrageous that wicked people harm children. I dislike any attempt to downplay the sin involved in such situations. That some hide behind dog collars and habits to access their victims is also heart breaking. And I weep that many children have found/find care homes totally bereft of love and care and places in which sinister characters are lurking. Oh how little ones suffer when the family breaks down! Fathers we have a duty to protect our little ones.

But I also find it sickening that voices within the media would use such stuff to pursue ideological agenda. It suggests they dont care for the victims at all – only their own favoured narrative. So be careful what you believe in a relativistic and pluralistic post-modern society that no longer even believes in truth. I fear the media manipulates our thinking, attitudes and beliefs far more than many realise.

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15 Comments

  1. Richard Ashton

    The best thing we can do for children is to raise them in happy stable families. Every aspect of liberalised sexual behaviour has undermined the family, and thereby done untold harm to children.
    If only the Church was bolder and more insistent in showing how her teachings work for the true well-being of all of us. Catholic morality is no more than the difference between our desires and our needs, between what we want to do and what is good for us.

  2. Patrick fahey

    Hello Fr Ed,

    I saw this report and saw through the thin hatchet job done against the Church.
    The British Biased Corporation that taxes the public to run its own political agenda and pay extreme sums of our money to its cronies, has the temerity to point the finger yet employed and knew full well of the Saville situation but also did nothing.
    Abolish it from state control as it is not independent but obeys the political will of the establishment. Make it swim in the commercial environment and see how these pseudo civil servants fare.
    Never believe anything that this organisation broadcasts.

    God Bless to you Father and well said.

  3. Steve G

    Grains of Half-Truth?
    Some comments and questions prompted by the post:
    “It is equally clear crimes committed, and failure to deal with them, were particularly acute from the 1960s- 1980’s- the wake of the sexual revolution but before modern safe-guarding practices were put in place.”
    This is not clear at all. If you have any hard statistical evidence for this, please provide it. Why the emphasis on this period? One obvious reason is that the victims of abuse in this period are still alive. They are also living in an age when their stories may actually be greeted with sympathy, credence and a willingness to take action, however belated.
    One of the responders to the (Australian) Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, set up in 2013, went to the press with a group photograph taken when he was an institutionalised child. He had tried to track down all of his contemporaries shown in the photo with the aim of persuading them to testify. Some were still too traumatised and refused. This came as no surprise. What shocked him was the unusually large number of premature deaths due to suicide, drink or drug abuse. Their voices will never be heard. Many of these historical cases dated back to 1940s and 1950s and, therefore, had absolutely nothing to do with the sexual revolution.
    Where did “modern safeguarding practices” spring from exactly? Certainly not from the Catholic Church. Aren’t they, dare I say it, modern?
    “Teachers tend to abuse at a higher rate than clergy and indeed all professions with access to children are targeted.”
    No one pretends that all teachers are angels. The image of Wackford Squeers still looms large, particularly to those of my generation and older. Far too many of my teachers were bullies and some unquestionably derived sexual satisfaction from the administration of daily canings. A ten year old touching his toes can hardly fail to notice what is right at the level of his eyes. Did they abuse at a higher rate than clergy? Again, where are the credible statistics to prove your assertion?
    Teachers themselves ended corporal punishment. The Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP) is often cited as the single most effective pressure group of modern times. Set up in 1968, its efforts saw corporal punishment abolished in state schools in 1982 and in public schools in 1998. I know of no equivalent movement set up by rank and file priests to end institutional child abuse.
    “An era when record keeping and care of children, especially very poor children, was woefully inadequate.”
    This may well be true. Nevertheless, the registration of births, marriages and deaths has been a legal obligation since 1836. Dumping the bodies of nameless children in mass, unmarked graves and failing to record their passing was then, and is now, not only an enormity but a crime.
    “And today the most likely person to abuse a child is not a cleric but a family member or trusted friend”:
    This is hardly news. Most – including child protection professionals – would readily concede the point. However, it does beg the question of how many family members abuse children in their tens, dozens, or even scores?
    “But I also find it sickening that voices within the media would use such stuff to pursue ideological agenda. It suggests they don’t care for the victims at all – only their own favoured narrative.”
    Without the media, none of this would have come to light. Gabriel may have blown his horn but how many clerics blew the whistle? Some journalists may have been sloppy or biased but many have been extremely determined and courageous. In the US in particular, the influence of The Catholic Church in the “corridors of power” has, historically, been much greater than in the UK. Journalists from the Boston Globe risked their careers and livelihoods to uncover the extent of sexual abuse endemic in the Boston Diocese. The protection of children and the exposure of those who colluded in their abuse is a moral obligation not evidence of an “ideological agenda”.
    Does the Catholic Church get more than its fair share of adverse criticism? Possibly. No institution sets itself higher: no institution, therefore, has further to fall. Teachers may frequently get above themselves but few claim to speak with the authority of God. To argue that other institutions are as bad or worse – particularly without offering evidence to back this assertion – is to resort to the very relativism you attribute to your legions of “modernist” hate figures.
    That was then and this is now? True. It happened then and is only being addressed now. Is this something to be applauded or a modernist conspiracy?
    I urge all readers to do two things: watch the movie “Spotlight” (2015) and read a t least some of the testimonies offered to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
    Even an inconvenient truth is preferable to a half-truth.

    • Admin

      You ask for lots of footnotes and backing up data- this is a blog not an academic journal. Most of the facts I cite can be researched online and verified. I was not for a moment minimising the impact of this hideous crime- yet strangely you reply as though I was??! I think you have entirely missed the point I was making.

      You end by asking us to watch a film. As it happens I find this subject too harrowing and can never watch anything about it- even fiction. But for the record, and as you seem so keen on balance, why did you not include the fact that this film has critics as well as plaudits. Critics include author David F. Pierre Jr., who said Spotlight “is a misrepresentation of how the Church dealt with sexual abuse cases”, asserting that the movie’s biggest flaw was its failure to portray psychologists who had assured Church officials that abusive priests could be safely returned to ministry after undergoing therapy treatments.

      Which is to say- it too is not above reproach where allegations of half truth are concerned. And there is the rub…

      • Steve G

        Your “point” is abundantly clear. The Catholic Church is, yet again, being unfairly attacked by the Godless Auntie Beeb. I imagine G4S – whose scandalous treatment of detained asylum seekers the BBC recently exposed – feels very much the same.

        I doubt that anyone would confuse this blog with an academic journal. It is far too long on opinion, prejudice and conspiracy theory and lamentably short on fact. You frequently include internet links to illustrate the points you make – why not here?

        “Spotlight” may be a fictional reconstruction but it is far from being a naked fiction – neither melodramatic nor sensationalist in any way. I doubt if David F. Pierre watched it with anything approaching an open mind either. It is, above all, an account of how the Church did NOT deal with sexual abuse cases.

        I finish with this question: if you find this subject “too harrowing” to engage with the facts, why use it as a cheap debating point?

        • Admin

          1. I make clear actual abuse needs dealing with firmly and make not a single complaint about it being reported
          2. I only criticise where said abuse is being used as a hammer. And make that point plainly.
          3. I didn’t say Spotlight was naked fiction- only pointed out it was not, itself, without criticism
          4. There is little point debating if you simply ignore the points I actually made, very carefully, and shift the goal posts to suit you ad hominem attack

  4. David Knowles

    Sexual, physical and psychological abuse of children and vulnerable adults by people using positions of authority in institutions which exist solely to provide care is an evil which, unfortunately, is as old as those institutions themselves. There has always been a minority of individuals who seek such positions not to do good but to satisfy a wide range of unwholesome needs or inadequacies.
    Most people who enter public service, police, army, healthcare, education, social services etc. do so with the best of intentions and for altruistic reasons. However there will always be those who are motivated by a desire for power, advancement, celebrity or merely the ability to bully and abuse at will.
    The only way to prevent this happening is to have extremely efficient vetting of applicants, supervision and monitoring of staff and to have extensive checks and safeguards in place. With regard to the latter we seem to be moving in the right direction but perhaps the most important change which needs to take place is that care and concern for the individual,must always take precedence over concern for the reputation of the institution. Likewise a culture of approachability and of open mindedness should be encouraged whereby individuals can be confident that they will be listened to and respected.
    As regards the media and especially the press they always love a scandal. If the scandal relates to the churches, particularly the Catholic Church then so much the better. After all selling papers is what they are about.
    Whilst sexual abuse by any person in a position of trust is to be utterly condemned, it is most evil and hypocritical when committed by a catholic priest and this evil is exacerbated when the church closes ranks and is motivated primarily by the desire to avoid ‘scandal’. There can be no doubt that during the whole period of living memory and across all continents that such abuse and subsequent cover up has taken place on a massive scale.
    The only way the church, or indeed any institution can recover from these awful events is put into place all the measures which have been recommended by the many inquiries that have taken place. In addition all cases of suspected abuse should be immediately reported to the police without fear or favour and most importantly everything possible should be done to help and support the victims.
    If these measures are taken then the church will eventually regain the respect of the public and the media will be left with no ammunition.
    If the church had placed more emphasis on decrying the sins of the mind ; hate, violence, theft, selfishness, materialism, greed etc. And less on the sins of the flesh( which as the pope says is weak) then perhaps the media would have been less vicious.

  5. Admin

    http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/15530231._No_evidence_of_crime__at_Lanark_orphanage_where_400_children_s_bodies_buried_in_mass_grave/

    So now it is reported, as I suspected, that there is no crime involved. 10,000 impoverished children passed through which puts numbers into perspective

    • Steve G

      My unreserved apologies to the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent and Saint Paul. By ignoring what I knew full well – that the English and Scottish legal systems are separate and different – I accused them of a crime they did not, and could not, have committed. Your inclusion of the above link not only leaves me with egg on my face (not the first time and probably not the last) but also, may I humbly suggest, rather proves my point that rhetoric is more effective when supported by fact.

      I have one question regarding your follow-up comments to my follow-up comments. As an unashamed liberal who believes that the BBC, for all of its many faults, remains a cornerstone of our democracy I find myself lumped into a sizeable section of society crudely stereotyped and frequently lambasted through the medium of this blog. Why is it acceptable to indulge in indiscriminate “ad homines” attacks but not to respond “ad hominem”?

      I stand in error with regard to the Daughters of Charity. As for my wider comments, I simply stand.

      • Admin

        The BBC, and mainstream media in general, has many strengths but also many weaknesses. It cannot be a cornerstone of democracy when it is clearly partisan and scathing of views outside its own. Brexit, Trump and more besides is the clear fallout of a hubristic liberal overreach that has left a great many people angry, left behind and un represented. It has ridden rough shod over religious sensitivities and made our country a much less tolerant place. The way it treats faith is risible at best and outrageous at worst. This article aimed to show that and- I think did. A point only emphasised when you see no crime was committed. Will they apologise? I doubt it.

      • Steve G

        BBC Apology? Don’t hold your breath.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-41273549

        I rather hope that they have got this one wrong.

  6. Pat

    “A time, to be fair, when most institutions chose to look the other way…..”

    It is worse than that. Sometime in the late 1960s or Early 1970s, while reading a scientific magazine which had some articles about my then IT specialism, I encountered a research paper warning that there was a very ‘professional’ effort which produced manuals on gaining access to the vulnerable of all age groups and both sexes. Religious, caring, social support groups and professions were all mentioned as ‘gateways’. The article said that the publications advised the predators on how to behave in order to gain said access. I cannot now remember what the scientific magazine was or exactly when published – I think it may have been American. But, nobody in authority paid any attention. The writing was on the wall but was not noticed.

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