Tag Archives: child abuse

Papal Resignation

prancingpope21So, Joseph Ratzinger has announced his resignation as Pope, and the news media are abuzz with speculation about who his successor will be.
Ratzinger’s Papacy was certainly controversial. His membership of the Hitler Youth raised a few eyebrows. That was a little unfair, as he had very little choice in the matter, and his family would have been threatened if he had refused to join. Indeed, there is evidence that he and his family were opposed to the Nazis. My criticism of him in this regard is that he was in a position to know that the Nazis were by no means atheists, as he claimed on a recent paid holiday to the UK.

The criticism of his handling of the child abuse scandal within his church is on firmer ground, though there is still a degree of hyperbole. It would be wrong, for example, to assert that he is himself a “kiddy fiddler”, but it is true that his lackadaisical attitude to paedophile priests, both before and during his reign, meant that more victims suffered, and for longer, than if he’d acted promptly.

Some people are lamenting the departure of a Pope so adept at bringing the Roman Catholic Church into disrepute, but I’m looking forward to a whole new era of scandal especially if, as is being mooted, the next Pope comes from Africa, a region in which the Catholic Church has particularly bloody hands.

Meanwhile, rumours abound over the precise reason for Ratzinger’s resignation, since “failing health” hasn’t tempted his predecessors to quit.  Perhaps he has had a better job offer!



The Daily Mail – Dishonest, or Merely Asleep?

Dawkins Headline

The Daily Mail today published an article titled “‘Being raised Catholic is worse than child abuse’: Latest incendiary claim made by atheist professor Richard Dawkins”

There are problems with the article , but there are a couple with the headline itself. For one thing, the “latest incendiary claim” was made in 2006! Furthermore, Dawkins’ contention is a great deal more nuanced than is suggested by the “journalist”, Daniel Martin.

I’m not keen on some of Dawkins’ wording in his original writing, all those years ago. For example, he wrote:

” Doubtless, too, some fall at the violent end, which is terrible but I would make two points about it. First, just because some pedophile assaults are violent and painful, it doesn’t mean that all are. A child too young to notice what is happening at the hands of a gentle pedophile will have no difficulty at all in noticing the pain inflicted by a violent one.”

It can, and I believe should, be argued that any assault is a form of violence, and I would have preferred the words in that quote that I’ve bolded to have been in quotes. Even better would have been more appropriate words but, in fairness, I can’t think of any myself, so I can hardly criticise Dawkins for not being able to.

What Dawkins is saying is that there are different levels of severity of child abuse. This is as true of religious teaching as it is of physical abuse. Many of the people who are horrified and offended by Dawkins’ stance on this issue probably don’t realise just how cruel some of the more extreme religious adherents can be. Often, the two go hand in hand, with the indoctrination used to further the sexual and/or sadistic predilections of the abuser.

A child being told that a beloved grandparent, for example, has gone to heaven, even though in the view of some (including myself) it is not the best way to deal with bereavement, is not in the same league as telling that child that their friend, who as far as she can tell has been taught the same doctrine,  is going to be tortured for all eternity for having a different group name. The differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs are unlikely to be understood by the 7 year old in Dawkins’ example.

As I understand it, Dawkins isn’t saying child abuse is trivial, though in some cases the child may treat it as such. He’s saying that, sometimes, religious indoctrination can be even worse.

But it’s not just Dawkins saying this. The last word should go to the woman who wrote the letter to Dawkins that he cited.

“Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yuchy’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest ? but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.”

Wikileaks – may the farce be with you

Many think that Julian Assange is a hero, many think he’s a villain. Personally, I think hero-worship is silly. Many acknowledged heroes have ably demonstrated that they have feet of clay. I  won’t, therefore, be lauding Assange & Wikileaks uncritically. Time will tell whether their activities, on balance, have been a good thing.

For the moment though we can make a provisional judgement based on the criticisms made by their enemies. From the dubious rape allegations to the accusations of treason, these criticisms have been the model of hysterical hyperbole. Assange has not even been charged with a crime in Sweden, and police say they only want to question him, yet one commentator on American television has claimed that Michael Moore, who has spoken in Assange’s defence, and put up some of the bail money, is supporting a serial rapist!

Another claim that is persistently made is that, by releasing information in its unedited form, Wikileaks is putting lives at risk. Except it’s not true. I can’t say with certainty that it hasn’t happened, but I can say that information has been edited, and names redacted, while those screaming “treason” have yet to show an example of lives at risk. They merely shout the claim as loudly and often as they can, then use the supposition as “evidence” that Assange needs to be assassinated!

So why this extreme reaction? Here are two examples of the sort of information Wikileaks has made available, and that the Powers That Be would rather not have people know:

In Ireland a commission was set up, in 2006, to look into allegations of child abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests. The present Pope, one Mr Ratzinger, refused to allow Vatican officials to testify; he was even “furious” at attempts to question them in Rome.  If only he’d thought to vent that fury at the actual child abusers, and those who helped cover up for them, rather than the embarrassment that talking about it has caused him.

The USA’s fondness for the rule of law has been brought into question in another leak. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directed America’s envoys around the world to gather information about other diplomats and dignitaries. Nothing sinister about that, until you realise that the information demanded included credit card details, even the P.I.N., which nobody has a right to know. Even trying to find out someone’s Personal Identification Number is a criminal act, unless you already have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and obtain a warrant. I’d like to see the warrant that allowed access to the bank details of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, one of the people specifically targeted by Clinton.

There was a time when politicians and leaders put some effort into claiming that they acted in the public interest, but these days such claims, though still made, are half-hearted. They probably know people won’t just take their word anymore,  because they or their predecessors have been caught out so often before. As information technology improves the situation will, from their perspective, deteriorate. The Iranian post-election furore involving Twitter, much lauded in the West, is not substantially different from the activities of Wikileaks.

Nor are the cries for the assassination of Julian Assange notably different from the calls for a fatwa by an authoritarian Muslim cleric.

Whether Assange is a hero or a villain, his opponents haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory.

Mr Ratzinger’s coming to visit

The current incumbent of the bishopric of Rome, Joe “the rat” Ratzinger, is going to visit the UK in September. We, apparently, are so thrilled that we are going to pay a fortune for the privilege.  Whoopee!!

It has been inaccurately reported that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are lying in wait ready to arrest him the moment he arrives. (In fact they are merely looking on with interest while some lawyers investigate the possibility of him being arrested.) Some people think that he can’t be held responsible for the criminal actions of some of his priests, and I would agree, but they are overlooking the fact that he took part in the conspiracy to cover up child abuse in several countries including Britain. The conspiracy is what he should, but won’t, be arrested for. The ConDem government are seeing to that, by making sure the rules won’t apply to Ratzinger.

It seems that avoiding embarrassment is more important than protecting children, for governments as well as religions.