Please don’t abuse abuse

Apr 29, 2021 by

by Martin Davie:

Back in the mid 1980s, when I was a Post Graduate student at Oxford, I attended a fascinating talk by John Wolffe, now a Professor at the Open University, on his doctoral research on anti-Catholicism in Britain in the middle years of the nineteenth century.[1] Among other things he introduced his audience on that occasion to a now largely forgotten sub-genre of Victorian literature, the anti-Catholic novel. He explained that books had been written with titles such as Griselda the demon nun in which naïve Victorian maidens were led astray by the Church of Rome and ended up in continental nunneries where they were subjected to various unspeakable horrors until they were eventually rescued by their brother/ father/rejected fiancé.

The point of such literature was to try to establish a link between Roman Catholic theology and moral error. Not only was Roman Catholicism doctrinally erroneous, the argument went, but its erroneous doctrines led its adherents towards the kind of immoral behaviour to which the novels refer.

I was reminded of this sad episode in British religious history by an article by Stephen Parsons which was published on the website Surviving Church on 11 April this year. The article is entitled ‘Towards humility? Anglican conservatives after Jonathan Fletcher.’ [2] and it follows the pattern of the Victorian literature I have just referred to by attempting to link theological error with immoral behaviour, in this case the abuse perpetrated by Jonathan Fletcher at Emmanuel Wimbledon.

There are two key sections in the article which contain the heart of Parsons’ argument.

The first declares:

Read here

See also: The use and misuse of power. David Banting reviews Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, the 2015 publication from Church House, in the light of recent revelations and insights.

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