Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine May-June 2010
CONTEXTUALISING THE IRISH CRISIS
Dear Father Editor,
In his comment "Horror and Hope" William Oddie writes of the "seemingly never ending story of the worldwide pandemic of paedophile scandals among Catholic clergy, and the apparently universal practice of Episcopal cover-up".
There are many strands to the phenomenon of the abuse of children and young persons in our time, which is by no means limited to Catholic clergy or the Catholic Church. The term "abuse" now covers sexual contact, physical beating, deprivation of food and, in the view of some, smacking. There are tragic victims, cover-ups, false allegations, demands for money, denials by those who cannot face up to what has happened, campaigns by those who see tolerance of paedophilia as a liberal concept and by those who seek to use every anecdote, particularly of clerical abuse, to keep the story going and smear an entire group.
My experience in this field is direct and relevant and I do not accept that there is a worldwide "pandemic of paedophile scandals among the Catholic clergy" and that the abuse is "endemic". It is sixty years since I became a Catholic; five of those years were spent in schools staffed by secular priests and religious, another four in approved schools staffed by laity and with Catholic chaplains; two years were spent in a local authority approved school and thirty years in prisons and the courts as a senior probation officer. I was a member of the All Party Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group for twenty five years. At no time did I encounter a Catholic priest who had been convicted in a Court of Law of child abuse or any other crime or had been accused of such. The "pandemic" seems to have escaped my notice.
One conviction of abuse against a child or young person would be one too many but my attempts to gather reliable information on the number of priests convicted of crimes against children and young persons in the last thirty years have been unsuccessful. Most recently the Office of the Irish Prime Minister was unable to supply me with figures relating to Ireland and neither could the Department to which they passed my letter for answer.
Many of the allegations in question date from the 1970s and early 1980s and William Oddie is wrong to be so dismissive of the claim that the recidivist nature of sex offending was not understood. At that time there was widespread ignorance on the subject. The Catholic authorities were not alone in "denial". In the late 1970s a Home Office Minister, advised by his Civil Servants, told me there was no paedophile problem in the United Kingdom despite the evidence presented to him by a deputation of MPs. The Catholic bishops and perhaps more importantly the bureaucracy advising them did not work in a vacuum. In the 1970s an "enlightened view" circulating in Criminal Justice and Social Work circles was that to bring to Court a child or young person who had been abused and to require him or her to relive the experiences as a witness was likely to do more harm than the abuse itself.
It was a naive and disingenuous view which appealed to the genuinely concerned, to the liberal-minded, and to libertarians then actively campaigning to sanitise paedophilia and pederasty. Paedophile Action for Liberation and The Paedophile Information Exchange had their own journals and the latter was affiliated to the respected National Council for Civil Liberties from 1975 to 1982. The Dutch Speijer Report, which advocated the abolition of legislation against homosexual activity with minors, was translated into English and provided for the Paedophile Information Exchange by the Albany Trust which was subsidised by the Department of Education and Science. The Trust's "Youth and Sexuality Project" was prepared to consider paedophilia as "one shade of the spectrum of human sexuality". In June 1977 Lord Stamp told an incredulous
House of Lords that the Criminal Law Revision Committee had received a submission from the Paedophile Information Exchange proposing four years as acceptable as the age of consent. In 1983 a chairman of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality described paedophiles as "a group oppressed by prejudice, violence, ignorance, biased law making and the denial of basic civil rights".
When I brought my concerns about campaigns to sanitise the abuse of children and young persons to a group of MPs I was met with shock and denial. Those of us who challenged the paedophile movement and its supporters were dismissed and derided as illiberal and reactionary. This was the climate in which the Church and its agencies and others working with the young had to function. This is not to excuse them. Only with the onset of the Thatcher era did things become easier for those of us who opposed the drift. By then the damage had been done. The resolve of many had been undermined and perpetrators of abuse thought they had been given a green light. Some of those who allowed their names to be associated with what was seen as a liberal-minded approach went on to hold office in the post 1997 Labour Government.
The Catholic Church, unlike extremists on the liberal and libertarian left, has never wavered in its teaching that abuse of any child or young person is evil. A fractional minority of clergy have been proved to have fallen miserably below the standard set. Even so one case of abuse is one too many. Some bishops and those advising them, like many in the secular world, sought to deny the problem; a few with a twisted logic sought to protect the good name of the Church by buying the silence of victims. None promoted paedophilia or pederasty or presented it as anything but evil in sharp contrast to the liberal elite who campaigned relentlessly in the 1970s for the abolition of the age of consent and presented paedophiles as "gentle, fond of children and benevolent".
In my experience some who are making this what William Oddie calls "a never ending story" are seeking justice and they deserve support; others are using the misdemeanours of a seemingly fractional number of clergy to discredit the Church and the priesthood. Such a campaign in Germany in the 1930s is well documented in John Frain's new book "The Cross and the Third Reich".
Kenneth H Kavanagh
On p.35 we point out that Peter Tatchell was given pulpits by The Guardian and the BBC to argue for the abolition of any fixed age of consent. And this position is not without a certain coherence for a vision of sex separated from procreation and concupiscence -see Fr Cummings' article.
IMPROVING SCIENCE AND RELIGION COVERAGE
Dear Father Editor,
Thank you for printing the two wonderful articles - one on celibate love and the other on the feminine (March 10).
It's taken me a while out here in the "wild west" of Idaho to even know of the London Debate (January 10). Alas, I am somewhat aware of these atheists against whom, I'm afraid, no rational argument would do any good. Just the attempt is reminding me of NT. Wright's Evil And The Justice Of God.
Thanks for that clear articulation of what faces us Catholics. However, have you and your editorial board considered a more focussed effort to write of the interface of science with faith? Please allow me to be blunt, but even my believing daughter and her husband who teaches physics, for whom I got this subscription, are relatively uninterested in the articles.
In other words, what a gift it would be if believing folks could look to your magazine as proof of the inclusion of science in the Catholic vision. Catholics are hungry for this kind of thought so that the other end of the spectrum, the atheists, don't capture the day. There would be no need to apologise for this approach and your magazine could forge this weak link into the much stronger one that some of us suppose it to be.
Otherwise it might seem that the true power of God in the Universe (not the "expanding force" that Teilhard de Chardin intuited) is to be guarded rather than accepted in a faith-filled way.
It's good to be reminded to be more focussed. The relationship of science and religion is our central focus and raison d’être. Most pieces we publish, especially our editorials, if not explicitly and directly, are still attempting to support the vision of Christ as the fulfilment of Creation. In the "London Debate" issue the editorial, the articles by Dominic Rolls and Dylan James articles, and the Cutting Edge, Road from Regensburg and Notes from across the Atlantic columns were, we think, profoundly relevant to this. We don't of course claim to be the last word on the matter, and we are surely in need of improvement.
We do not agree that arguing with atheists is a fruitless activity. People have been changed through sound apologetics (e.g. OS. Lewis, Anthony Flew), but even if we do not win the main protagonists over, it is vital that those listening to such debates hear rational answers to questions and objections raised -especially about the existence of God. Whilst we respect much of what Teilhard was trying to do we do not accept his concept of Christogenesis, and do indeed want to help people to see the truly transcendent power of God shining through his creation as well as his supernatural revelation.
FOSSIL EVIDENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT EVOLUTION
Dear Father Editor,
In "Cutting Edge" (Jan/Feb) there is a perfect example of the arrogance and complacency of certain scientists. The great fact that drives a coach and horses through the theory of evolution, the lack of fossil (or skeletal) evidence for it, is here described dismissively as "one of the arguments against". But this "argument" will continue to haunt the great theory until the end of time. Until a convincing fossil of a creature intermediate between species is found (under the Antarctic ice sheet perhaps?) the great void where such fossils, and billions of them at that should be, will remain a perpetual thorn in the flesh for evolutionists.
The author points out that certain conditions are necessary for fossil formation and that these are rare. In the billions of years timescale of the evolutionists I suggest that these precise conditions were, if not frequent, numerous enough to produce a fair number of fossils of all kinds including intermediates.
During this vast period intermediate creatures would have been dying daily as is normal in nature. Where are their remains? In the great "fossil graveyards" of Siberia all the skeletons are of perfected forms.
The remains of three animals are then trotted out and, with an air of serene papal infallibility, are declared to be "intermediates" and supportive of the theory. Only three in 160 years and of debatable authenticity at that!
A feathered dinosaur is by no means half way to being a bird and feathers are not the only thing that need to evolve; there have to be lighter bones and warmer blood. The thought of certain dinosaurs running into the wind in an attempt to take off and, after several million years, succeeding like the Wright brothers in flying a few yards, is a fantasy that sufficiently points up the absurdity of evolution. God can do things quicker and more efficiently than this.
If a duck billed platypus is demonstrably not evolving, why not a feathery one-off dinosaur or a ditto half-necked giraffe?
Evolutionists are here guilty of the ultimate scientific sin - arranging evidence to fit a theory. In a rationalistic age that wants God out of the way, evolution is now a necessary dogma. Atheistic communists have made it a central plank in their education system.
The theory of evolution by natural selection alone is indeed discredited. The natural processes, relationships and patterns of the wider, relatively stable, environment are also essential.
We believe that the "efficiency" and wonder of God's work is shown by the unity of principle behind the whole of the cosmic environment, the unity of the uni-verse itself.
God's necessary immediate power is no less fundamental to the mutational relationship of one pattern of bodily organisation to another than it is to the relationship of one moment of time to another, or of a leaf to the branch or the ground upon which it falls. It is all wonderful, it is all lawful and explained through intelligible patterns, which all feed into the one unity of the universe.
A priori we cannot say how many missing links there really are in our fossil record. Moreover we don't know in detail how much structured change occurred when particular species mutated. But when we do find an "intermediate" fossil it gives us a little more information in these regards.
Everything in the universe moves from one state to another. This is all under the wonderful design of God. however relatively more or less dramatic certain changes may appear to us relative to each other.
TOWARDS A DIAGNOSIS OF RECENT DECADES
Dear Father Editor,
Towards the end of his life the philosopher Jacques Maritain took a closer look at the effects of the Council. On the surface these appeared to be good. There was a revival of interest in the things of the Spirit and a searching for renewed ways of loving Christ and one's fellow man.
But he also saw an undercurrent of a new kind of "apostasy" among Catholic thinkers. It was ascribed to the Spirit of the Council. Maritain described it as a kind of "kneeling before the world"; and with his gentle, sardonic humour he describes what he means.
"Have you ever seen a scientist genuflecting to the world (unless he is more of an apologist in disguise than a scientist)?" It was clear to him that there were Catholics, including Catholic thinkers, whose main concern was with the temporal tasks of "justice, peace and happiness." But they did not realise that because of the wounds of Adam and because our ultimate end is supernatural, earthly goals cannot be the supreme end of humanity. To see otherwise is a refusal to see the world in the light of that other world which Christ opened for us, namely, the kingdom of God. Maritain calls this refusal the "Insane Mistake" (Peasant of the Garonne).
Just as Christ said that the world hated him and that if anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him, so Maritain realised that the world cannot be saved except by "sanctity and sanity". These two words he considered to be synonymous.