Archbishop reveals how his mind works

The Sunday Times carries an interview with the new Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. He manages to dig himself even deeper into the hole he began excavating for himself when he described abusive Irish priests as "courageous". "We shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all the good that they also did," he says. He seems blind to the fact - stressed in the report - that the systematic brutalisation and maltreatment of the children caged in Ireland's "industrial schools" went far beyond the actions of a minority of perverts. And this really takes one's breath away:

The vast majority of abuse in this country happens within the home. This does not mean that all homes are bad. Just one act of abuse is too many but it should be remembered that the priests who have abused are a tiny minority of the total number of priests and the abuse they have carried out is a tiny proportion of all abuse – less than a half of 1%.

I don't know if he has the figures to back this claim up. But this sort of special pleading is scarcely appropriate given the enormity of last week's revelations.

Then Dominic Lawson asks him whether celibate priests can "really understand the full complexity of human behaviour within relationships". Nichols tells him:

Experience also has its shutters. No two marriages are the same. Nobody experiences everything and there are other fields in which experts speak without having first-hand experience of, I don’t know, say . . . sadomasochism.

I find that answer disturbing on so many levels. Especially as Lawson then suggests that Nichols can't be considered a graduate of the university of life, and he protests, "I do live a human life from top to bottom".

Lawson thinks that Nichols is "the church’s most media-savvy operator". Poor church.


Anonymous said…
Nichols is being hailed as some kind of second coming over at Damian Thompson's blog. I do not know how this archbish compares with the previous one in regard to media wrangling, but from what I have seen, it is not a brilliant job. His criticising of secularism, and the evils it brings, on the day of the report on Irish priest abuse seemed most peculiar.
quisquose said…
Any Catholic criticising of secularism, and the evils it brings, whatever that is, seem peculiar full stop.

Have O'Connor and Nichols totally forgot all they learned in history lessons?
WeepingCross said…
God Almighty, it makes me want to beat my head against the wall. It's almost a direct lift from Father Ted:

"Say if there's two hundred million priests in the world, and five per cent of them are paedophiles, that's still only ten million"

I know because somebody bought me the book of the scripts for exorcising their house ...
WeepingCross said…
"Have O'Connor and Nichols totally forgot all they learned in history lessons?"

Actually that's a very apposite comment. The great virtue of history is that it teaches scepticism towards the phenomena of the moment. The history of religion gets little enough look-in in Anglican theological training, but in the RC observance it's almost absent. There's a tremendous sense of the past, but they don't actually know anything about it.
valdemar said…
I wonder if anyone knows of child abuse scandals in Latin America, the Philippines and Africa? I assume the state-curtailed and/or corrupt media in those areas would hesitate to expose abusive priests at this moment? But one day I suspect the facts from those very godly regions will give the lie to this over-used 'small minority' defence.
WeepingCross said…
I don't think it is a lie as such, in terms of the numbers involved in sexual abuse. Yes, boys were beaten at religious boarding schools, but then boys were beaten at all schools at one time. But the numbers involved aren't the point. The point is that it happened, and a Christian organisation's first instinct was to defend the institution and hide the truth. I don't think Abp Nichols gets that at all: his mentality seems still to be about defending the institution.
Heresiarch said…
It's a politician's instinct, really, or a bureaucrat's: try to spin your way out of it. I think I was right a few months ago when I wrote that the Roman Catholic Church was the quintessential modern institution, the template from which all other self-preserving, process-oriented, arse-covering and ideologically immobile bureaucracies have been drawn.
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately the "Times" repeats the misreporting of ++Nichols' speech.

Far from saying that abusive Irish priests are "courageous", he stated that they and their institutions would have to be courageous in facing up to their responsibilities. The tense is rather important, as it rather implies that he thinks that they haven't been in the past - or put another way that he thinks that they were cowards and should act courageously in the future.
valdemar said…
Good piece in the Irish Times, as noted by PZ Myers.

Like Myers, though, I don't believe the presence of very good people (which no sane person would dispute in the case of Catholicism) means an organisation is good for the world. I think that H is right about the tendency of a 'modern' organisation to preserve itself at any cost. All very Darwinian, really.

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