Monday, June 27, 2011

Stupidest argument ever about clerical abuse

The Tablet has been desperate to fit the clerical abuse phenomenon into the liberal narrative. Remember, that goes 'everything before the Coucil was bad (except the things and people who anticipated it): everything after it was wonderful (except for the things and people who resisted it)'. One of the bad things about the bad old days was taking morality seriously, especially sexual morality. What a relief that's all over now! All that guilt, all that nonsense stopping people be themselves and find their sexual identity.

The hugely influential theory of Dr Alfred Kinsey that we are all 'sexual', we all want and need sex all the time, including children (who suffered horribly in his experiments) was enthusiastically taken forward by progressives in the Church and the ideal of celibacy has come under ceaseless attack. Kinsey published his book on how men are having it off all the time (based on seriously flawed research methods) in 1948. It built on the theories of Freud (active in the 1920s and 1930s); the idea that sexual morality is a superstition for uneducated people goes back to the Enlightenment: think of Oscar Wilde or William Blake. This stuff was being soaked up by plenty of people in the Church before the Council, but only when the old text books had been tossed in the bin could it really flourish unimpeded.

(To illustrate: Arnold Lunn did a major investigation in the English Public Schools' attitude to religion, publishing a book about it in 1933. He found that the masters, chaplains and boys had completely lost the idea that there was anything intrinsically wrong with sex outside marriage: only in Catholic schools was that idea being upheld. So from the 1920s, or even earlier, the Catholic Church was an isolated exception to changing social mores. This isolation became harder to sustain as time went on.)

Whoops! People letting it all hang out can damage the innocent. There have always been depraved clerics but the tidal wave of filth which has engulfed the Church from the 1950s to the 1980s obviously has something to do with this decidedly un-old-fashioned approach to sexuality. So what does The Tablet say?

The leading article takes its start from the revelations about the Rosminian order, and the argument goes like this.

1. In the old days, the theology of the priesthood was such that transgressions by priests were taken very seriously. (True: but where is this going?)

2. So, in the old days, when a priest abused a child the priest's sin was seen as more important than the suffering of the child. (Dubious. But so what?)

3. So, in order to take seriously the suffering of the children, we must resist the traditional theology of the priesthood. (Non sequitur.)

The editorial's key line is that the Rosminian superiors, and others like them, were 'blinded by the lesser evil', ie the evil of the priest's sin. This is, well, prima facie evidence of cognitive dissonance.

The superiors didn't think that the crime of priestly abusers was so serious that they never got round to thinking about the victims. That just doesn't make any sense. As we all know, and people of that generation are happy to remind us, these crimes were not regarded as terribly serious at all. The reason the priests were moved to another school or parish and so forth was that it was regarded as an embarassing peccadillo, like getting drunk and offending the Lord Mayor's wife. Being forward-looking people, the Rosminian superiors of the 1950s refused to take sexual sin seriously: just like The Tablet today.

See also my posts about The Tablet on clericalism (they published a letter of mine) and on how progressive ideas about sexuality were imposed on priests, religious and catholic teachers by systematic re-education in the 1960s.

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