20 September 2010

Notes on the Papal Visit 4: Playing the Man, Not the Ball

And continuing from yesterday...

I've friends who say of this that there's no smoke without fire, but so far it seems that all the smoke there's been has come from smoke bombs thrown by lazy or malicious journalists. I think the press has actually done the Church a favour with the abuse stuff -- though I'm sure this wasn't the intention -- by forcing it to confront the problems, but that doesn't change the fact unlike so much else that's been reported, these particular personal attacks on the Pope have indeed been 'petty gossip'. Abuse has been widespread in the Church, especially about thirty years ago, and even allowing for the shambolic organisation of the Church at national level, a tendency towards cover-up seems to have been endemic, but there's not a jot of proof that indicates that Benedict, in whatever capacity, was responsible for either committing or concealing abuse.

That's not to say that prior to about eight years ago Benedict was as good and thorough as he might have been in tackling these problems, or that he didn't make mistakes, but that's a far cry from saying that he was in any way responsible for their having been perpetuated, and as John Allen has pointed out, since 2001 he's done more than anyone to try to cleanse the Church's Augean stables.

Meanwhile, and I know it's generally bad form to play the man and not the ball but given their form in this area I think their credibility counts, look at the people who have been screeching loudest that he's a criminal who shouldn't be allowed here, two of the most prominent of whom have put their name to documents that pretty much condone sexual relations between adults and children.

Take Richard Dawkins, for instance. In The God Delusion he claims to have been molested as a child by one of his teachers, covering up the identity of the abuser and saying that it did him no harm at all.
'All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless if, fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defence, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).'
So depending on who's doing the abusing, and the exact nature of the abuse, Professor Dawkins thinks that there are situations in which child molestation, even if embarrassing, is essentially harmless. This doubtless goes some way to explaining why just a page later in that same screed he records how he has wondered aloud whether it'd be better for a child to be raped by a priest than to be taught by one.
'Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by the child up Catholic in the first place.'
Is this really a credible person to make any sort of claims about the Pope's record in this area?

Or Peter Tatchell. Yes, Peter Tatchell, the very fellow who did that ludicrous 'documentary' about the Pope for Channel 4 the other week. By this point, you should be well aware of how in 1997 he wrote in the Guardian that:
'The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy. While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.’
Yes, that's Peter Tatchell, whose main mission in life seems to be lowering the age of consent so that many cases of clerical sex abuse would actually cease to be intrinsically illegal.

I'm glad to see some more thoughtful and traditional atheists, such as Brendan O'Neill and the Guardian's Andrew Brown, realising the risible and hysterical nature of so many of the current attacks on the Pope.

And though he's no atheist*, and so I'm reluctant to cite him here, the libertarian political blogger 'Guido Fawkes' is utterly right to say that the current attacks on the Pope are nothing more than atheist bigotry dressed up in rationalist clothes. Yes, bigotry, which is not a belief that you're right, but an absolute unshakeable refusal to countenance the possibility that you might be wrong. This is about attacking somebody who is seen to embody not just the Catholic faith, but traditional Christianity in general.

Not, of course, that Catholics or Britain's wider Christian community should be too heartbroken about being attacked in this way. As Our Lord pointed out, if the world hates us, we should remember that it hated Him first.
* Nor, to be fair, is he someone I like to cite in any situation.

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