I should explain the lack of posts this past week. I am in transit, simply, a roof over my head but no broadband, not even a couch until the furniture arrives a few days from now. Working hours are fully occupied with my academic work, and in any case I find home the better environment in which to write on the more personal level intended for Kelvin Grove. So patience, friends, while I complete the process of transition and normal service is resumed.
What did it for me was the phrase ‘in every diocese’.
The report was about Belgium, but it could just as easily have been a story about Ireland, Boston and the US, or any number of European and African countries. Nowhere in the world is exempt. Child abuse in the Catholic Church isn’t occasional, but systemic. In every country, in every diocese, it happened and happens still, except where they’ve been found out and have belatedly tried to rein in their abusers. I was born into catholicism, and schooled in its mysteries, and I love the art and mythology it has given the world. Warhol, Picasso, Graham Greene, Robert Mapplethorpe – so many of our great artists were inspired by the grandiose sado-masochistic art of the Church of Rome. But exquisite taste is no excuse for child abuse and I am, frankly, disappointed. Call me naive, but I took them at their word, and it is clear that the people who run this wealthy, powerful institution are, simply, apologists for paedophilia. Maybe all patriarchal religious sects are just machines for the abuse of children. And women, and homosexuals, of course. Islam certainly fits that description. Evangelical christian sects often turn out to be vehicles for egomaniacal abusers. And so, Dawkins’ anger is justified not just by the science, but the morals. Religion in the 21st century is anti-human, and should be fought against with as much conviction as 20th century progressives fought against nazism, Stalinism, communism, and authoritarian creeds in general. The only question is – and it’s for believers to answer – can any religious belief any longer be regarded as morally defensible?
On the eve of the Pope’s visit to Britain, and a documentary expected to be, well, objective about the Church’s scandalous cover up of child abusers in its ranks, the BBC is accused by Cardinal Keith O’Brien of bias against christianity. The BBC is “radically secular and socially liberal”, he is reported as believing, which one hopes is true. But it has never been anti-religion. Believers of all denominations are regularly given prime air time on shows such as Radio 4′s Thought for the Day and BBC2′s Newsnight. Religion in general, and even the most extreme and authoritarian of belief systems, are given the utmost respect by the BBC, in my experience as a viewer and listener. I find that tiresome, personally, given the venom that some religious types like to spit out against gays, women, and others – including opposing religious sects – but I also believe in lifestyle pluralism and the freedom of belief of others, as long as it is mutual. The BBC is a secular organisation, however, and should be utterly merciless in lending its authority to the continuing exposure of paedophile priests, and the obscenity of the church’s long term complicity in the worst crimes imaginable. The only thing worse than a paedophile is a paedophile who commits his abuses under cover of priestly authority, preying on the simple souls who place their earthly trust in him. If the current Pope will not face up to his responsibilities in this scandal, thank God (if indeed He exists) that we have organisations like the BBC who will report the truth. Accusations of bias will not obscure that truth any longer.
I’ve made my first ebook purchase, Tony Blair’s A Journey, having just completed Peter Mandelson’s The Third Man in old-fashioned hardback. I’ll post later on the experience of reading a big book on iPad rather than paper.
Mandelson’s book is indisputably a good read, and an important document for all students of political communication, telling as it does the story of New Labour’s rise and fall from the perspective of one of its key architects. Subjective it certainly is, and Blair’s account will surely offer another take on the narrative. ‘Narrative’ is a word Mandelson uses a lot, in a book which fully acknowledges the constructed quality of political ‘reality’ and highlights his own role in the construction of New Labour. For someone who lived as a young adult through 18 years of Conservative government before Labour came to power in 1997, it demands admiration and respect, if not affection. Whatever you think about the Mandelsonian approach to political communication and the excesses of spin, the fact is that he, along with Blair, Brown and Campbell, made Labour government possible again, when it had begun to seem impossible. I never ceased to be a supporter of New Labour, believing that a flawed Labour government was always better than an ideologically pure and self-righteous Labour opposition. History will record that the New Labour years were, on balance, good for Britain and the British people, most of them. The UK was a better place to live in 2010 than it had been in 1997, or 1987. Even the decision to go to war in Iraq, Labour’s most controversial decision in government, and hard for anyone with a shred of humanity to defend in anything but the long historical view, will one day be seen as a lesser evil than allowing Saddam and his monstrous sons to remain in power, with their gas and their torture and their subjection of an entire nation to brutal despotism in perpetuity. Mandelson’s book, and now Blair’s, following on Campbell’s diaries, lifts the lid on how those decisions came to be made. We should take them individually with a sizeable pinch of salt, because each is written by an author with an interest in his own place in history. Together, though, they begin to approach a kind of truth.