Church v State

Here is a scandal:

..vulnerable children … were routinely exposed to paedophiles, pimps, and pornographers…in 1990 Archbishop Hodge first knew of ‘serious concerns’ about child abuse. Fr Cofie was so concerned for the safety of local children he wrote a report to a church forum advising them on how to spot if a child had been sexually abused.

But Archbishop Hodge was furious at his attempt to publicise the situation. He started screaming and shouting  and refused to discuss it.’ Two months later Fr Cofie’s request for two extra staff for the local diocese carrying out the initial investigation was turned down by Archbishop Hodge. He sent a memo dismissing the plea for an overall increase in resources as ‘not in my view responsible’.

The two church workers continued their investigations and in 1991 believed they had finally reached a watershed when paedophile  Fr Roy Caterer, was convicted.

Caterer, who worked at a school used by the diocese for its children in care, was arrested for sexually abusing seven boys and two girls and jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

But no further action was taken and in February 1992 Fr Davies quit his job in frustration, handing over his information to Scotland Yard…

Shocking, eh?  Typical bloody catholics. And it’s only 20 years ago, not back in the 1960’s, who knows if it’s still going on?

Only it’s not. For Archbishop Hodge, read Margaret Hodge, former leader of Islington council, now labour MP fighting for survival against the BNP in Barking, and quite incredibly, made Minister for Children by Tony. For diocese read council. Roy Caterer was a sports instructor at a boarding school used by Islington. Cofie and Davies were the social workers who were hounded by Hodge.

She has apologised now, sort of. But the question is, how is this different from the church scandals? Should Hodge still be an MP (possibly not for much longer)? Who knew in the Labour hierarchy?

Archbishop Margaret Hodge

Archbishop Hodge’s excuse:

“Of course with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to say you should have done x, y or z. But these judgments were extremely difficult then, with out limited recognition and understanding of these issues.”

How ironic.

This sort of stuff is almost certainly still going on. Unlike the Church, there is no overarching unified view on this problem in children in council care. There is the law, there are guidelines, but no co-ordinated central prioritisation and command.

For a sensible and honest view of the Church child abuse disgrace, it’s only sensible to turn to an Irish libertarian atheist for advice. Cue Brendan O’Neill:

“The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which was launched by the Irish government in 1999 and delivered its report last year, intensively invited Irish-born people around the world to report on incidents of abuse in Irish religious-educational reform schools, where the majority of clerical abuse is said to have occurred, between the period 1914 to 1999.  For that 85-year period, 253 claims of sexual abuse were made by males and 128 by females. It is important – surely? – to note that these are claims of sexual abuse rather than proven incidents, since the vast majority of them did not go to trial

.. the new atheism differs from the atheism of earlier free-thinking humanists in that its main aim is not to enlighten, but to scaremonger about the impact of religion on society. For these thinkers and opinion-formers, the drip-drip of revelations of abuse in Catholic institutions offers an opportunity to demonise the religious as backward and people who possess strong beliefs as suspect.

Many contemporary opinion-formers are not concerned with getting to the truth of how widespread Catholic sexual abuse was, or what were the specific circumstances in which it occurred; rather they want to milk incidents of abuse and make them into an indictment of religion itself. They frequently flit between discussing priests who abuse children and the profound stupidity of people who believe in God..

Nobody is condoning child abuse. My point is that the Church is not alone. The critics who are making hay this week are not doing so to protect children. For them it’s just another weapon to bash the Church with, and at the same time ignore targets closer to home.

Slugger O’Toole suggests:

“A literal defence of the apostolic succession and incanting mantras like “ the church thinks in centuries” won’t wear any more..”

Well, maybe Slugger, but don’t bank on it.


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