Monday, 30 November 2009

The crime of inaction

Vittorio Bufacchi has written an excellent piece The Crime of Inaction on the Guardian website about the paedophile scandal in the Catholic Church in Ireland. Here are some key points.
While all cases of child sex abuse are devastating, there is something about this story that is particularly disturbing. When children are systematically sexually abused for a period of decades by men wearing the collar, the perpetrators of violence are not only the deviant priests serving in parishes and religious orders. Violence is also done by those working at all levels in the Catholic church, both in Ireland and outside, who knew that these abuses were taking place and did nothing to stop this crime, or to bring the paedophiles to justice.
In an institution as rigid and hierarchical as the Catholic church, it is hard to believe that the cover-up stopped within Ireland. Sexual abuse cases involving cover-ups have also been reported in England, France, Australia and the United States.
If there is one lesson that must be learned from this report, it is that violence can be done in many ways: either by way of a direct action, or by an inaction. Paedophilia is unquestionably one of the most sickening forms of direct violence; but knowing that children are being sexually abused and doing nothing about it, therefore forbearing to prevent the crime, is arguably an even greater evil.
I can't fix the whole world, but I can try and improve my own small corner of it. That is why I will not rest until I get full cooperation from the Abbot of Ealing concerning past abuse at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School, safeguards against any repetition of this abuse, and proper apologies and support for the past victims of abuse.

But I can't do it alone. So if you wish to help achieve this and have any kind of support you feel able to offer or any kind of influence you might be able to bring to bear, please contact me by email.



    Email the Abbot? Yes.
    Contact Mr West with an offer of help? Yes.
    Write to the papers? Yes.
    Add my name to this blog? Yes.

    Become personally more responsible? Yes.
    All positive ideas and my heart says ‘yes’. But after 57 years of ‘playing the game’, of being awestruck in the presence of priests, nuns, monks, in fact, anyone and anything connected with the Church – I’m just too scared, or should that be scarred?, to put my head above the parapet.

    This is, I know, the result of what we like to call ‘a good Catholic education’ but which my heart now knows was just ‘brainwashing’. What am I, and those like me, to do? Is there something like an AA for Catholics? A C A?

    My God…I can already see the flames of hell, in just posing the question!

  2. I do sympathise - I really do.

    But I would like to ask you a question or two. Was Fr Pearce doing God's work when he abused those children?

    I sincerely hope that you would answer "no" to that question. If that is so, then he has forfeited the right to the kind of respect and deference you are speaking of, and you are doing good in the world in helping to bring an end to such actions.

    Then I would like to ask if Abbot Martin was doing God's work in allowing the school's and the Abbey's child protection procedures to remain so sloppy that people like Fr Pearce can operate?

    Again, I would hope that you would answer "no" to that. If so, then Abbot Martin also has forfeited the right to the respect normally due to his position, since he has committed the crime of inaction in the face of evil.

    If the church is claiming the right of priests to have authority irrespective of their own actions, then it is preaching a form of moral absolutism, where it claims that certain actions are right or wrong irrespective of the consequences here on earth. As far as I am concerned, moral absolutism is one of the most pernicious evils ever to get lodged into human minds, since it can be used to excuse any action no matter how dire its consequences.

    Just ask yourself whether God is likely to offer a reward in heaven for an action which a person knows will have (or at least is likely to have) bad consequences here on earth? If you think he is not, then Fr Pearce and even the Abbot are not in good shape.

  3. Yes. I understand those arguments very well. I am talking about our human weakness which, as the Church long ago realised, is the very cement it can make best use of.

    It's use is what you call 'moral absolutism' and, whatever its status in the 'Kingdom of Heaven', it works extremely well here on earth. That's the point of my heading..You Are Either Or...and the nature of the brainwashing to which I, as a 'good' Catholic, have been subjected from about the age of three-and-a-half!!

    This 'cement of goodness' is, of course, not spiritual but social, political. We're each been knit into a carefully devised pattern and stepping out of line is far from easy. Your sympathy, however, is welcome Mr West!

  4. I agree with what Jonathan West writes and with what the person above has written. This whole business of Church and Religion seems to be one huge exercise in weakness masquerading as strength! Can't we just 'come clean' about our human condition? Maybe then what St James' calls 'religion, pure and undefiled' would have a chance.

  5. Oh dear! Many of us seem to be faced with an impasse or double-bind of some sort. On the one hand, we can’t get out, on the other, we can’t bear to stay in. The clergy are no help, of course, as they’re just as stuck with/in it all as we are. In fact, more so; some of them don't even realise they have a problem!

  6. Please, do come off it! No one can imagine clergy that dumb. They know ‘they have a problem’. Facing up to it is another matter. It’s human weakness again plus all that compensatory ‘cement’ that so easily castrates even the best of us.

  7. Indeed, Mr West, what about 'the crime' of brainwashing; perpetrated day-in-and-day-out at St Benedict's?

  8. If parents wish to send their children to that school, knowing they will get what they think of as a "good Catholic education", then that is their right. After all, I did send my own son there for a short time. If I had my time over again, and with the knowledge I now have, I might make a different decision. But I am not going to criticise people for making an honest decision based on the best knowledge they have available to them at the time.

    However, those parents who do send their children to the school deserve to know that their children are safe there. For that reason, the child protection policies and procedures have to be well-designed and effectively implemented. Failing to do so leaves them at risk from another Fr Pearce should one turn up.

    The Abbot has already demonstrated that the measures he put in place to keep Fr Pearce away from children decisively failed - he took action against Fr Pearce following the civil case, and yet the last of his victims was abused after the civil case and while he was under the Abbot's restrictions.

  9. As has already been said there are many issues that could be raised here and not doubt they all inter-relate. But right now Mr West and his blog have just ONE to deal with - the abuse of children over many years. That issue, for now, is more than enough.
    - R P

  10. Mr West and the contributors to this blog are doing sterling work. But, I fear, they are working in vain. The abbey will stick to its policy of ignoring calls made by individuals or blogs. This campaign needs clout. At the very least it needs a committee and the backing of other groups with similar aims. This can't be the only group of people worrying about these concerns.

  11. The full Charity Commission report on Ealing Abbey:

  12. Some excellent posts there Jonathan and all. I have only just caught up with this story - I'm no longer a Catholic and I live half way round the world from Ealing, but I grew up in the parish, my brothers went to the school (I remember they had a deep dislike of Fr David... maybe now I understand it) and my father taught there for many years. Can't add anything to your suggestions for action - I'm just baffled by what people were thinking (what Fr David was thinking too, continuing to abuse while under investigation).
    Dom Pearce was himself a boy at St Benedict's. He left intending to be a dentist - but my father, as careers advisor at the time, added to his notes the words "priest?" For years after my father's death this was adduced as an example of my dad's wonderful insight...

  13. What local MP, ANDY SLAUGHTER, has to say on this matter:

    '..the Charity Commision wrote to me with the findings of their Inquiry into St Benedict's Abbey in Ealing. The Gazette has reported on the scandal of Father David Pearce, a priest at the Abbey and former head of St Benedict's junior school, sentenced to eight years custody in October after almost 40 years of sexual abuse of young boys. In the most damning report I have ever read from the Commission, they concluded: 'the trustees failed to ensure that the restrictions imposed against [Fr Pearce] were properly implemented and we were extremely critical of the trustees in this regard'.
    The restrictions were those placed on Pearce after the High Court had found allegations of sexual abuse proven against him, but which allowed him to continue to abuse children. These appalling events are reminiscent of those recently exposed in the church in Ireland and the United States.
    What is now being called for and must be implemented is proper compensation for all victims and an independent and transparent inquiry into how Pearce was able to continue his criminal behaviour for so long.'

  14. Great! Let's see how the Abbey deal with the Commission. One thing's very clear the Commission's not going to be as easily side-stepped or ignored as the voices on this blog! I look forward to 2010!