Sunday, 27 July 2008

A moral crusader

From today's News of the World:

Ronaldo dived with his boots on: ONE of Cristiano Ronaldo's team of holiday conquests last night came off the bench to reveal how he bedded her —but kept his orthopaedic BOOT on all the time.

Striking Niki Ghazian confessed that the rampant Man United star even broke off from their passionate romp several times to put ICE PACKS on his injured ankle. "I'd be lying if I said the boot didn't get in the way," said the swimwear model. It was, nevertheless, "the most amazing night ever."

The same august journal of record also carries an article by the Most Rev and Right Hon the Lord Carey of Clifton, formerly His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey. But of course. News of the World readers are no doubt fascinated to hear his take on the ordination of women as bishops, or (more likely) the latest developments in the long-running row about gay clergy. Perhaps Carey has some tips on who to watch at the Lambeth conference, or some thoughts on Middle East peace. All subjects one might associate with a distinguished former prelate. But no. Carey is giving us his thoughts about Max Mosley.

Carey declares that the News of the World was absolutely right to expose Mosley's predilection for sadomasochistic sex games to public gaze, and - in a tone strikingly similar to that used by the newspaper's editor in his own defence - laments that Thursday's decision by Mr Justice Eady will give carte blanche to depraved perverts everywhere. As he puts it,


A dangerous precedent has been set this week in the victory of Max Mosley over the press. The first major victim is Free Speech itself. Without public debate or democratic scrutiny the courts have created a wholly new privacy law. In itself that's bad enough.


I say "as he puts it". But so similar stylistically (not to mention in terms of sentiment) is Carey's piece to the Screws' own take on the incident that it wouldn't altogether astonish me to learn that one of their journalists had ghost-written the article. This is - as Eady's judgement and Woman E's interview both revealed - a practice not entirely unknown in those parts. Still, give him the benefit of the doubt. Carey was always a much more tabloid archbishop than his successor You wouldn't have caught him giving a long-winded lecture about the implications of Sharia law; indeed, after Rowan Williams did so, Carey was happy to stick the knife into the archdruid's already well perforated back. In the News of the World, as it happens.

So why is Carey quite so insistent on the "public's right to know" scandalous details of people's private lives?

Well, as "a Christian leader", Carey of Clifton is "deeply sad that public morality is the second victim of this legal judgement". Henceforth, he declares, "unspeakable and indecent behaviour, whether in public or in private" is no longer considered "significant". Note to Carey: this ruling was about privacy. "Unspeakable behaviour" in public would scarcely be covered by it. Had Mosley been flogging one of the women on the race-track at Silverstone he might have found it a bit harder winning his case.

Carey then goes on to make the "direct link" between private morality and behaviour in public office. "If a politician, a judge, a bishop or any public figure cannot keep their promises to wife, husband, etc, how can they be trusted to honour pledges to their constituencies and people they serve?" Ah, that old chestnut. Not exactly an original thinker, our Dr Carey. The fact that this line has been trotted out every time a politician has been caught with his trousers down - and is the usual defence of newspapers like the Screws whenever they "expose" affairs or other private peccadilloes - doesn't make it true, however. Quite the reverse, I suspect. Bill Clinton screwed around in private and was popular all over the world. George W. Bush has never been unfaithful to Laura, I assume, but has that made his conduct of foreign policy one iota less disastrous? Lloyd George was a great prime minister despite his adulteries - the same might have been said of several of his 19th century predecessors. Gladstone had undoubted masochist tendencies, and his after hours work "rescuing" prostitutes, while no doubt noble, would have been gleefully exposed by today's tabloids and the scandal would have finished him. Tony Blair may not have cheated on his wife, but he was less than scrupulous when it came to telling the truth to the electorate. I could go on.

"Public morality" - which Carey absurdly thinks is damaged by this result - has nothing to do with what people in prominent positions get up to in their bedrooms (or indeed their dungeons). It is the way they behave in their official capacity: not taking bribes, for example, or treating the people they deal with in an even-handed and considerate manner. Max Mosley's private morality might be deeply questionable, or it might not - he clearly has no qualms about it, though his wife may think differently. But it was emphatically private morality. It had no bearing whatever on his ability to do his job, which by all accounts he performed very well. At least, it didn't until the News of the World decided to expose it for all the world to see. Which they did purely in order to sell papers. Anyone who seriously believes their motivation had anything whatever to do with the well-being of motorsport (or Mosley's marriage) is an inhabitant of the planet Saturn. Or possibly a retired archbishop.

There are, perhaps, some jobs where different rules apply. If a bishop, or even a local vicar, were caught having an extramarital affair he might well have to go. But then preaching about personal morality is part of a bishop's job. Carey is perfectly entitled to think that S&M orgies are immoral, and a sign of a depraved and decadent personality. What is less understandable is why he thinks public morality is improved when millions of people, some of whom might be blissfully unaware that such perversions even exist, get to read about it, or are even moved take up the News of the World's offer to download the video (now taken down but still available here). In demanding such open exposure of vice, Carey shows himself as part of a long tradition of prurient puritans, getting off on the very depravity they seek to ban.

But he isn't finished yet. He finds "deplorable" Mosley's claim that what consenting adults get up to behind closed door is "private and harmless":

This is a bleak, deeply-flawed "anything goes" philosophy. It is also dangerous and socially undermining, devoid of the basic, decent moral standards that form the very fabric of our society.


Yet he finds himself quite happy to write in the same paper that does more than any other to undermine "decent moral standards" and panders week after week to the worst instincts of its readers. And, strangest of all, he finds Max Mosley's attempt to prevent newspapers filling their pages with tales of deviant sex the most pressing issue for a distinguished former archbishop to be thinking and writing about. Perhaps he just needs the money.

5 comments:

valdemar said...

What did you say about hypocrisy making civilization possible? Not sure if that would apply here.

I think not giving religious leaders the oxygen of publicity is the key here. Perhaps in future bishops', cardinals' and imams' words could be spoken by an actor? I nominate Dale Winton, Christopher Biggins or Graham Norton. Except for Dr Carey - he should be voiced by Kenneth Cranham or David Warner to get that menacing villain effect.

David said...

Amen

passer by said...

Quite agree, except for the Lloyd George bit. and the Iraqis Ive meet are very thankful GWB got rid of Saddam. BUT

Is not the role of the state to enforce a contract? If the state is aware that a legal contract is being broken, should it not act? is not marriage a contract?

Legal Positivism which this judgment is, is akin to moral relativism, is that really a route we wish to base our society on?

Now as a sinner, I dont wish to force my better than thou moral idealism on anyone, but I dont see how the law can function without a greater moral framework, it turns itself into stone, human being are born with a language and moral instinct, if the law does not account for this "natural law" then it undermines itself.

Some great posts on the MM sage btw!!

BBrow said...

The ex arch-bish talking bollocks again.

Remember seeing him on Question Time a few months ago. He said he wanted to see religious leaders from other faiths appointed to the House of Lords and the audience applauded it.

The topic then turned to Iran and the audience turned frosty and critical.

I found it quite ironic they that applauded the appointment of unelected religious fanatics as legislators in the UK but then condemed the Iran system of government!

Anonymous said...

There is very little clear Biblical teaching on HOW male/female sexual relationships might be conducted.

Adultery/cheating on one's spouse is a 'no, no', but other than that it does seem to be a matter for one's own judgement. And Christian teaching is pretty good in pointing out that one should avoid destroying others' innocence on the basis of one's own issues, (read Paul's letter to the Roman church in 'chapter 14',) so what Carey is going on about seems to be more about the predelictions and accepted tastes of another era/generation than anything that is fundamentally at issue. After all, 60 years ago and less, loads of Christians wouldn't go to the cinema or have televisions, but they do now, don't they?

Somehow I doubt if those great wise monogamists, and men after 'God's own heart', Moses, Solomon and David were solely into the missionary position with the lights out