Compare and contrast

Sep 17, 2017 by

by Fr Ed Tomlinson:

I have zero tolerance where child abuse, in any form, is concerned. As a father it makes my blood boil. So let me state clearly; I deplore sexual abuse and have no desire to make apology for offenders or protectors. Where crimes were/are committed the judicial system must be used for it is shameful when the issue is not dealt with appropriately by institutions and individuals.

It is well documented, and profoundly sad, that the church has historically failed in this regard. Many crimes reported today, and an obvious failure to deal with them effectively, stem from the 1960s- 1980’s- in the wake of a sexual revolution but before modern safe-guarding practices were put in place. A time, to be fair, when most institutions chose to look the other way or trust in woefully ineffective therapy to deal with the problem. We might consider how the BBC handled its staff including Jimmy Saville. Or how politicians, including Harriet Harman, lobbied for pedophile groups.

Statistics suggest the problem was societal and not linked to just one institution; the church. Secular care homes had/have no better record than religious ones. Teachers tend to abuse at a higher rate than clergy and indeed all professions with access to children are targetted. And whilst Hollywood may delight in tales of wicked nuns running evil Irish laundries, survivors state that whilst they were bleak places indeed- so were all work houses and similar institutions of that day. And today the most likely person to abuse a child is not a cleric but a family member or trusted friend. Yet still the church tends to be singled out for demonisation. Why is this? Why does the church get more heat for abuse from the media than celebrities like Roman Polanski?

It makes for a conundrum. How to speak out about press impartiality without minimising, in any way, the suffering of victims? What to do when there is truth in what is reported -and yet the reporting is being done, not to help victims, but for the delight of giving the church a good kicking? To explain let us examine the very different way in which the BBC reports on the grim issue of child abuse when the church is involved and when it is not. The difference in tone being so seismic as to be revelatory.

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