Friday 1 March 2013

Cardinal O'Brien is not a child abuser

Brendan O'Neill, secular atheist, delivers another classic blog post.

This time he's defending Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien and attacking the manner of his departure.  In fact here's the post:

What did Cardinal Keith O'Brien do that was so bad? He is alleged to have made inappropriate advances to young men when he was a teacher of priests in the 1980s. But it is not a crime to make sexual advances to men over the age of 18. It is not child abuse (despite the best efforts of the press to lump O'Brien together with paedophile priests). Nor is what he is alleged to have done perverted in any way. It can at best be described as stupid – and if everyone in Britain who has ever done something stupid was thrown out of their jobs, the nation would grind to a halt.

Ah, but O'Brien's alleged behaviour makes him a hypocrite, say his exposers in the liberal press as they desperately scrabble about for a PC justification for why they are depicting adult gay interaction as something sinister and sordid. Perhaps it does make him a hypocrite, given his current stance on homosexuality. But perhaps not. We know nothing of Cardinal O'Brien's inner spiritual life. For all we know he may have spent the past 30-plus years repenting for that "inappropriate" behaviour in the Eighties, before deciding that, on balance, he thinks that homosexuality is wrong and wicked. People change. People regret. Would we say St Paul was a hypocrite for criticising those who attacked Christians even though he spent his early life doing the same thing?

Now, what do we know about the allegations against O'Brien? We know they are being made by anonymous individuals, which makes it impossible for O'Brien to defend himself. In normal justice scenarios, it is paramount that the accused knows whom he is being accused by so that he can prepare his defence. We know the allegations are unsubstantiated, and will remain so for as long as the accusers are anonymous. They therefore linger in that limbo between rumour and truth. We know the allegations were leaked by someone – perhaps one of the accusers or perhaps someone in the upper echelons of the church – to the press, which immediately politicised them, allowing them to be used for the ideological end of getting one over on the Catholic hierarchy. Thus did O'Brien find himself being subjected not only to anonymous accusations but also to a showtrial with a bigger agenda. We know the allegations have been cynically mashed together with recent paedophile scandals, with the Mirror showing Cardinal O'Brien next to "his friend" Jimmy Savile and the New York Times talking about O'Brien's behaviour in the same breath as the Catholic Church's "paedophilia and other forms of sexual abuse". And so innuendo attaches itself to the allegations against O'Brien; he's effectively accused, not only of making foolish sexual advances, but of being one of Them: a perverted priest, a Catholic weirdo, an abuser of innocent souls.

In short, a man has been ousted from his job on the basis of anonymous claims that found their way into the press and were then blown out of proportion by people with an axe to grind. There is far more immorality in that than there was in O'Brien's original alleged behaviour. In my view, Catholics have nothing to be ashamed of in this scandal; their cardinal erred 30 years ago – big deal. The people who should feel ashamed are us secularist democrats, who have allowed, or even partaken in, a fact-lite, innuendo-heavy assault on an individual and his reputation, which is unbecoming of civilised public discourse and better suited to the era of Inquisition. Worst of all, we have allowed reporters to depict gay interaction between adult men as being akin to paedophilia and priestly abuse of children, which is really insulting to homosexuals.

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