War on Kinds disguises one against kids

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A familiar voice here, Feinmann commented on International Megan’s Law faces challenge recently: “…parents who physically abuse their kids are exempted from the additional punishments meted out post-prison to sex offenders…”  In a guest blog today, he drills into US and UK stats to probe what he sees as a war against children, and postulates that witch-hunting Kind people is a diversionary tactic. The author wishes to acknowledge the work of “A”, also a regular and highly valued Heretic TOC contributor, in locating many of the numerous links. 

Now exiled after an English childhood, a university education, and a successful career in technology, Feinmann was married before family health issues led to him experiencing the responsibility of life as a single dad to two sons, now in their twenties. Attracted to both prepubescent boys and girls, he has had traumatic encounters with mental health professionals and the law, doing tough prison time. Professionally retired, he remains highly active as a field researcher working on the conservation of endangered species. He has contributed to the Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction and to Ipce on the topic of civil commitment.

 

WAR ON KIDS IN THE ANGLOSPHERE’S ROTTEN CORE

“We in the United States should be all the more thankful for the freedom and religious tolerance we enjoy. And we should always remember the lessons learned from the Holocaust, in hopes we stay vigilant against such inhumanity now and in the future”  – United States congressman Charlie Dent.

“But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country” – Hermann Wilhelm Goering, founder of The Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

DATA

The war on children in the United States (population: 320,000,000)

US Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

In 2012 and 2013, state agencies reported an estimated 1,640 and 1,520 children, respectively, who died as a result of abuse and neglect. Looking at it another way: on average, four children are dying across the US every day over that two-year period from abuse and neglect. However, studies also indicated significant under-counting of child maltreatment fatalities by state agencies, by 50% or more. When one factors in deaths from circumcision plus under-counting, the US figures rival global rates of death resulting from child abuse and neglect.

  • In 2012, more than 70% of the victims were two years of age or younger and more than 80% of the victims were not yet old enough for kindergarten.
  • In 2013: 46.5% of the victims were less than one year old, 34.5% were between one and three years old, and a further 11.7% were aged between four and seven years old.
  • In 2012, around 80% of child abuse or neglect fatalities involved parents acting alone or with another parent. 2013 witnessed a similar figure of nearly 79%.

US Child Maltreatment and Protective Service Referrals

In 2012, state agencies reported an estimated 686,000 victims of child maltreatment.

Yearly, referrals to state child protective services involve 6,300,000 children; around 3,000,000 of those children are subject to an investigated report.

US Circumcision Fatalities

In 2010 in the US, approximately 1,000,000 baby boys were born, and in that year, 56% of them were circumcised.

An estimated 117 neonatal infants die annually whilst undergoing circumcision surgery in the US. “However, the number of boys who died from those surgeries has not been reported or estimated in any credible way. Some reasons include record-keeping practices, indifference, and concerns about liability. Death certificates typically do not list circumcision as the immediate or leading cause of death and rarely list circumcision as an underlying cause. Incomplete and inaccurate death certificates for children are a common phenomenon. Thus, many circumcision-related deaths are more often reported as surgical mishap, infection, haemorrhage, cardiac arrest, stroke, reaction to anaesthesia, or even parental neglect. Greater numbers of male infant fatalities may be accounted for by circumcision-related deaths.”

Teenage Pregnancy

In 2002, 56 out of every 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19 in the US gave birth, topping the list of births among teenagers in twenty-eight of the world’s wealthiest nations. At the other end of the scale, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Sweden, had a rate of less than 7 births per 1000 teenagers. In 2006, a third of teenage pregnancies in the US were subsequently aborted. Among females aged 14 or younger, pregnancy rates in 2010 exceeded 3 out of every 1000.

The war on children in the United Kingdom (population: 64,000,000)

UK Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

In 2012, the rate of child deaths due to assault and undetermined intent (violent death or injury) to be: in Scotland 5.1 per million, in Northern Ireland 4.5 per million, and in England and Wales 3.6 per million. These statistics yield 44 fatalities for the UK in that year. The NSPCC stresses that the statistics do not reflect the full number of child deaths where abuse or neglect is suspected as a factor without saying why, but it does say that the data excludes deaths of children aged 14 and 15.

Over a similar period, the Department for Education reports 3,857 child death reviews completed; of these 806 deaths were identified as having modifiable factors, with 65% of these categorised as: deliberately inflicted injury, abuse or neglect. This yields a figure of 523. This statistic also includes 17 and 18 year-olds.

UK Child Maltreatment and Protective Service Referrals

The author could find no government-sourced UK-specific data on child maltreatment, and no UK-specific data on referrals to child-protection agencies. However, the NSPCC stated that over 50,000 children had been identified as needing protection from abuse, but that for every one of these children, another eight are suffering abuse. This suggests 450,000 children in total annually, are suffering abuse in the UK, a similar rate to US figures. A 2003 report by UNICEF says the following: “… survey data are inclined to produce higher figures for child maltreatment than are established from official statistics. One example from the UK has survey data estimating 389 cases each year of serious physical maltreatment per 100,000 children … as compared to official data records of 70 reported cases of physical maltreatment per 100,000 children per year.” Extrapolating the UNICEF survey figure above yields nearly 250,000 children suffering serious physical maltreatment across the UK.

Circumcision

The author could find no recent UK-specific data on either the number of circumcisions on infants, nor neonatal infant fatalities as a result of circumcision surgery. In 2009 in just one hospital alone in Birmingham, 105 boys were treated in the Accident and Emergency department, for complications arising from circumcision procedure. Two years later, 11 baby boys aged 0-1 years old were admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit of this hospital with life-threatening complications directly caused by circumcision.

Teenage Pregnancy

In 2002, 30 out of every 1000 girls aged between 15 and 19 in the UK gave birth, topping the list of births among teenagers in Europe, and placing them second in an equivalent list of twenty-eight of the world’s wealthiest nations. The UK has the highest teenage birth rate and the highest abortion rate in Western Europe. At the other end of the scale, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Sweden, had a rate of less than 7 births per 1000 teenagers. By 2006, the UK had five times the rate of teenage births than that recorded in The Netherlands. Although the UK claims to have done much better recently, rates remain among the highest in Europe.

OBSERVATIONS

Child abuse and neglect fatalities: comparisons, perpetrators, causes, effects

The 2012 fatality rate of US children detailed in the Data section above is in stark contrast to the equivalent figure for Japan in the same year; although suicide-murders are excluded, the figure is in the order of a factor of 10 smaller. Depending on what figure is considered, the 2012 child fatality rate for the UK is between two times and ten times the Japan total.

“There is no single profile of a perpetrator of fatal child abuse, although certain characteristics reappear in many studies. Frequently, the perpetrator is a young adult in his or her mid-20s, without a high school diploma, living at or below the poverty level, depressed, and who may have difficulty coping with stressful situations. Fathers and mothers’ boyfriends are most often the perpetrators in abuse deaths; mothers are more often at fault in neglect fatalities.” – Children’s Bureau.

In other words, this is a systemic failure at least as much as an individual failure.

At 25%, Romania topped a 2012 league table listing the child poverty levels of 35 developed countries, but the US was a close second at 23%.

Child abuse spikes during recession, and: “In a population-based cohort of middle-aged men and women, childhood physical abuse predicted worse mental and physical health decades after the abuse. These effects were attenuated by age, sex, family background, and childhood adversities, but not eliminated.”

Genital mutilation: myths, ignorance and a violation of human rights

“A British doctor, Douglas Gairdner, who reviewed the issue in 1949 found that scientific understanding of the foreskin was woefully inadequate; little research had ever been done on its normal development, including the time it takes for the foreskin to fully separate from the head of the penis and become retractable. This was remarkable, since one of the most common indications for circumcision since the late 19th Century had been ‘phimosis’, or the abnormal adhesion of the foreskin to the underlying glans. Doctors in both America and Britain believed that the foreskin was normally – that is, in healthy infants – separate from the glans at birth; when it was not, circumcision was indicated. But Gairdner discovered that no one had bothered to find out what happened to the foreskin when it was left alone. Contrary to common wisdom, Gairdner found that boys differed widely in the time it took for the foreskin to naturally separate from the glans – anywhere from birth to three years. Circumcision as a treatment for so-called ‘adherent prepuce’ before this time was therefore unnecessary. The National Health Service agreed, and in the years following the circumcision rate in Britain fell, from about 33% in 1948 to less than 10% today, with most of those being done for religious reasons.” –  Matthew Tontonoz.

In the US: “Excepting its use as a religious rite, circumcision is done essentially for cosmetic reasons, much like ear piercing in females or for the emotional concern of parents – reasons that lack scientific validity.” Self-evidently, the child whose genitals are destined to be mutilated has no choice in the matter, and accordingly the surgery is a violation of the child’s human rights, as declared by: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association believes that circumcision should be discouraged through a public education campaign. The German Paediatric Association also takes a stand against circumcision: “The debate over ritual circumcision shows fundamentalist characteristics. The proponents of circumcision trivialise this form of bodily harm, which can also lead to lifelong physical and emotional injuries and repeatedly accuse the advocates of child welfare with anti-Semitism. However, we must be allowed as advocates of child welfare, to question thousand year old religious rites and customs, which permanently impair the physical integrity of an underage person or child who is incapable of consent, and in the 21st century, based on new findings, stimulate people to think about them, asking whether or not it would be also possible for boys to be educated in the religious tradition of their parents without needing to have their foreskins removed.”

The NSPCC have set up a helpline for female genital mutilation but not for male genital mutilation. “The attitude of Western societies to oppose to female genital mutilation, but not to condemn male circumcision, suggests a double standard of the acceptance and implies (racial) discrimination of circumcised Jewish and Moslem boys, by not trying to protect them against useless pain as is the case with girls and non-circumcised boys.” – Jacqueline Smith.

If you have the stomach for it, many circumcision surgery accident, complication, and atrocity horror stories are related here.

Teenage Pregnancy: risks to the girl’s well-being and main causes

“Teenagers who keep their baby are twice as likely to end up living in poverty, than those who delay motherhood. The eightfold difference in birth rates can be partly explained, the report says, by the move away from traditional family values in some countries to what the researchers call a ‘socio-sexual transformation’, where sexual imagery permeates all aspects of life, and where teenagers are under greater pressure to experiment with sex. But the report adds that equally important is how countries prepare their young people to cope with modern life. Some countries, such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, and France, have travelled far down the road from traditional values, but they have also made successful efforts to prepare their young people to cope with a more sexualized society. By comparison, the US and the UK are secretive and embarrassed about contraceptive services. After interviewing young people about sexual services, the UK government’s Social Exclusion Unit concluded: ‘The universal message received from young people is that the sex and relationship education they receive falls far short of what they would like to equip them for managing relations as they grow into adulthood’. By tackling teenage births, governments have the chance to reduce poverty and its ‘perpetuation from one generation to the next’, says the report.” – The BMJ.

“We conclude that the health hazard associated with school-age pregnancy is predominantly pre-maturity, and is increased only in middle school-aged mothers, that is: 11 to 15 year olds. We suggest that middle school pregnancy, particularly for inner-city teenagers, should be a special focus for pregnancy prevention and intervention.” – AJOG.

The highest teenage pregnancy rates in 2010 occurred in the following US states: Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Texas. The location of these States coincides to a striking degree with the heartland of the bible-belt, and to the heartland of abstinence-only-until-marriage education. “Mississippi does not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico, which has the second highest teen birth rate, does not require sex education and has no requirements on what should be included when it is taught.” ThinkProgress, provides a link to a full state-by-state policy rundown. The pregnancy rates of children of 14 years old and younger in Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Texas, were ranked in the top 10 of all US state-rates, with Mississippi leading the table with 6 pregnancies per 1000, nearly double the nation’s average.

THE WAR ON MINOR-ATTRACTED INDIVIDUALS

Dystopian hypocrisy of UK law and US law

The COPINE scale in the UK was devised in order to classify   “indecent images” of children, also known as child pornography. Originally intended for used by psychologists, it has been adopted for law enforcement purposes, and has provided the starting point from which the categories now used in sentencing guidelines were developed. The minimum scale of 1 equates with non-erotic and non-sexualised pictures showing children in their underwear, swimming costumes from either commercial sources or family albums. The maximum scale of 10 equates with sadistic pictures showing a child being tied, bound, beaten, whipped or otherwise subject to something that implies pain. ‘Production’ and ‘distribution’ of such images in the latter case can attract a prison sentence of up to ten years in the UK,  and saw Thomas Reedy  in the US jailed for 1,335 years – although, very fortunately for him, this was reduced to a mere 180 years on appeal! And yet, the internet is awash with videos graphically communicating images of pain being inflicted on screaming infants as their genitals are mutilated. The US and UK law is wilfully blind to the production and distribution of these horrific child abuse images, images that merit a ranking of typology level 10 on the COPINE scale.

The Brit Milah ceremony can be conducted legally in the UK by a mohel, or circumciser and foreskin remover. The ceremony involves the following procedure: the mohel takes the penis of the boy in his hand, cuts around the prepuce, takes the mutilated boy’s penis in his mouth, sucks off the foreskin, and spits out the amputated flap along with a mouthful of blood and saliva. When an adult has been convicted of rape, including oral rape, he may expect as much as life imprisonment as punishment. When an adult commits cruelty to a child and where the child is particularly vulnerable, the crime attracts 10 years imprisonment. When a mohel does both these things simultaneously, he is praised by all those around him, including the boy’s own parents. The facilitators and perpetrators of this potentially lethal child circumcision abuse appear to be immune from prosecution under UK law and under US law.

The first four typology levels of the COPINE scale are as follows:

1 – Indicative: in which the context or organisation of pictures by the collector indicates inappropriateness. This category is mentioned above.

2 – Nudist: pictures of naked or semi-naked children in appropriate nudist settings, and from legitimate sources.

3 – Erotica: surreptitiously taken photographs of children in play areas or other safe environments showing either underwear or varying degrees of nakedness.

4 – Posing: deliberately posed pictures of children fully clothed, partially clothed or naked.

In the UK, and across Europe, naturism is legal and often family-oriented. There are also many freely accessible naturist beaches where members of the public of all ages can be naked, publicly, and watch others enjoying being naked, including children. There are websites promoting naturism online with images of naked children, although even these may be judged illegal in the UK now. There are galleries in every country containing works of art: sculpture, paintings and photographs that display naked children. Fashion magazines contain sexualised, desirable, erotic, posed images of children coining headlines such as: “Pedocouture: In Vogue magazine, 6-year-olds are sex vixens”. In the latter two cases, members of the public pay a fee to see these ‘obscene’ images, images that effortlessly meet the ‘damning’ criteria detailed in COPINE typology levels 1 to 4 above, categorising child sexual abuse images, known also as child pornography. But in all these cases, the law is wilfully blind to such public displays of child nudity, and so they fail to attract prosecution under UK law.

CONCLUSIONS

An unequivocal message emerges from the often hard-to-come-by child-harm and child-fatality data: UK and US governments are failing to protect and empower society’s youngest people. The following points are germane:

  • High child poverty levels are a primary driver for high levels of child abuse and neglect.
  • Under-reporting of child deaths in the UK where abuse or neglect is suspected to be a factor, the lack of data reporting of child maltreatment and of referrals to child protection agencies (or any other agency), conspire to suggest the deliberate burial of damning news by UK government agencies.
  • Absence of data of neonatal infant fatalities due to circumcision in the UK, and under-reporting of same in the US, appeases pro-circumcision lobbies but guarantees the continued maiming and slaughter of hundreds of ‘disposable’ baby boys via a barbaric procedure that contravenes all applicable international human rights directives.
  • Denying the right to access and enjoy sexuality by imposing 17th Century Puritanism on children and denying them adequate sex education in schools, but all the while selling hedonistic lifestyles via the media, creates a toxic recipe for underage pregnancy.

A further unequivocal message to emerge is how the war on paedophiles is being used to cover up systemic government failures in preventing the primary causes of child abuse and neglect:

  • The unholy trinity of media, governments and law-makers foment child-sexual-abuse hysteria and fear by conducting a witch-hunt on scapegoat ‘paedophiles’ in the delusory belief that the war being waged by society, mostly by the child’s legal guardians on its own children, will not be noticed. This diversionary tactic is employed to cover up the appalling record of welfare agencies tasked with detecting and preventing widespread child abuse and neglect in the family home.
  • A devastating consequence of the male-stranger-danger mantra being trumpeted by media-led governments from every hilltop is that it unravels the fabric that binds communities together, simply because men can no longer be trusted (ironic perhaps when women are just as capable of child sexual abuse). Diminishing male teacher numbers in primary schools testifies to the damage already inflicted; youngsters, particularly boys, suffer as a result due to lack of role models. A further example of the lunacy of male-stranger-danger propaganda is airline seating sex discrimination.
  • Permitting individuals to mutilate and then suck the freshly-maimed genitals of infants, but simultaneously prosecuting, imprisoning, civilly-committing, scarlet-lettering, techno-tethering, and ostracising ‘irredeemable pervert paedophiles’ for life for having in their possession images of naked children, demonstrates that sexual crime trumps violent crime, and that Fascist hypocrisy worms its way maggot-like and unchecked through the rotten core of Anglosphere Children’s charities are equally culpable in this wilful hypocrisy and discrimination.

 

Skateboarding as metaphor for social shifts

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Heretic TOC welcomes Peter Herman as a guest blogger today.
Peter is an occasional contributor to the NAMBLA website,
and has been a member and supporter since shortly
after the organization’s founding. He has also been
one of the editors of the NAMBLA Bulletin.

In the late 1960s in the US, child abuse briefly captured everyone’s attention. It was not sexual abuse if that is what you were thinking. It was physical abuse of children. And, no, neither was it the seat of the pants spankings that were a generally accepted form of discipline at the time. It was the broken bones and other traumas for which children were regularly brought to emergency rooms. The covering stories were that the child had accidentally fallen down stairs, run into an obstacle or experienced some other catastrophe while playing. These fictions never added up, and trauma doctors at last became aware that most of these cases stemmed from parental battering. Soon, the headlines became fewer, and little more was heard about these horrific abuses of children. Until… , bear with me…

At about the same time, boys, mostly, were experimenting with skateboards. But the fad then disappeared for a time. As we all know, skateboards eventually came back and are now more popular than ever. The fading and re-emergence of this phenomenon had to do with an important change. The early skateboards were just that: repurposed metal skate wheels affixed to unresponsive boards. When new materials and responsive suspensions developed, skateboarding became an exhilarating sport. Where am I going with this.

Shock about child abuse also came back, and the headlines today never seem to stop. What happened? There now was a new twist — sex. As with skateboarding, a catalyst emerged to change the dynamics in society’s perceptions. Where skateboarding became popular due to technological innovations, child sexual abuse became a public fascination following two major social shifts — the growing empowerment of gays simultaneous with that of women. The Stonewall rebellion in the US and the Pill (itself a catalyst freeing women from the womb) were the pivotal ingredients. Gay advances prompted a backlash in the form of protecting children from the perceived recruitment menace. Women, who had felt the tyranny of male domination, were eager to protect their children from sometimes real but mostly imagined sexual predation (almost exclusively by men). This protectiveness extended to boys as well, to the point that even eleven-year-old boys are sometime seen following their mothers into public toilets. The male child molester bogeyman grew ever more sinister in the public imagination.

It is ironic that today’s liberated women have forgotten that for nearly 500 years many were also the victims of similarly heinous characterization. In the nearly 500 years of witch prosecutions in the West, it was overwhelmingly women who were tried, punished and, more often than not, executed. Women were seen as weak, less intelligent and more susceptible to sin and evil acts. Male lust was projected onto them portraying women as evil temptresses who would have no compunction consorting with the Devil. As with the emergence of the evil pedophile, here too a catalyst can be identified — the printing press. This invention that could spread enlightenment could also spread misinformation and fear.

Early on, witchcraft was seen as simply superstition and did not provoke the fear and loathing that came later. A printed manual, the Malleus Maleficarum published in 1487, could circulate easily and act as the catalyst that transformed a superstition into a great evil. Over five hundred years later not much has changed other than the speed with which misinformation spreads. Our modern day equivalent, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is a fanciful, thoroughly unscientific compilation of mental afflictions. Sadly, it is but one example of unscientific thought that permeates much of psychology today.

Skateboarding may seem a trivial way of illustrating major social shifts, and history is certainly much more complex than what a short essay can convey. Nevertheless the pivotal points (i.e. catalysts) identified in the above examples cannot be denied.

History by numbers from Sir Diarmaid

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In response to Silence and shame at the Sheldonian, Clovernews commented:

…it seems to me that Church teaching was historically more about the preservation of the virtues of unmarried girls rather than ‘child sexual abuse’ as such. Those challenged to quote anything about the matter from the Bible usually fall back on the one about people having millstones hung around their neck and thrown into the sea if they ‘offend one of these little ones’ [Luke 17:2] – clearly ‘offend’ can mean anything you want it to, especially after 2000 years, and in any case scholars think that passage refers to recent converts to Christ’s teachings rather than children. (See Mark 9:42 and Matthew 18:6.)

I replied to this, but forgot to mention that MacCulloch justifies his contention that the church has always recognised and abhorred child abuse not by reference to the Bible or to specific doctrinal pronouncements but by giving a historical example of “child abuse” in the church in the 17th century which the church recognised as such. Specifically, he points to a study by Karen Liebreich, Fallen Order: A History (London, Atlantic, 2004).

The clerical order in question was the Order of the Clerics Regular of the Pious Schools, known as the Piarists, which was given formal papal recognition as an order after its founder, Joseph Calasanz, had spent a quarter-century building up a network of free schools for poor children. But by 1629, according to MacCullouch, scandal arose over the sexual abuse of boys by one Father Sefano Cherubini at a Piarist school in Naples. Calasanz (who would eventually be declared a saint) covered up for Cherubini, but the scandals continued and Cherubini, from a powerful family, eventually gained control of the order, and contrived the arrest of the aging founder by the Inquisition. By 1643, with the support of the Inquisition, Cherubini was promoted Universal Superior of the Order. This led to a “chorus of outrage” from conscientious Piarists across Europe, but the response of Pope Innocent X was simply to dissolve the order in 1646.

So, in MacCulloch’s telling, we have Cherubini as a really rotten apple in the barrel; there is a classic cover-up, much the same as in the scandals of recent times; and then, finally, drastic action from the top.

All very clear and simple. Except that the story is quite dizzyingly spun by MacCulloch, so I’m not sure we can trust a thing he says. For instance, with the seeming intention of making sure the “paedo” comes out as the bad guy, MacCulloch concentrates not on any terrible sexual abuse (it may have been horribly coercive, but perhaps not) but on Cherubini’s unscrupulous use of the Inquisition. However, in a Guardian review of Liebreich’s book, we learn that the guilty party in grassing up the founder was someone quite different:

There is nasty Mario Sozzi, who shopped his enemies to the Inquisition, and was struck down by a kind of leprosy. His treatment involved being wrapped naked in the still pulsating body of a recently slaughtered ox. Sozzi died anyway – but his colleagues enjoyed eating the ox.

Also, was the alleged sexual abuse the real reason the Piarist Order was dissolved? What MacCulloch does not tell us is that the Piarists in Florence embraced the teaching of Galileo that the Earth moves around the Sun – a doctrine which could easily have cost Galileo his life when the Inquisition put him on trial over it. This dangerous connection with Galileo was alone sufficient to put the future of the order in doubt. And there was more. The Piarists were opposed by the increasingly powerful Jesuits. And Pope Innocent even had a personal reason to put the knife in: Calasanz had once slighted his sister-in-law. But what really brought about the order’s downfall, according to Liebreich, was not sex but a lack of sufficiently powerful backers.

Of this complex swirl of difficulties for the Piarists we hear absolutely nothing from MacCulloch. Instead, in his account, the downfall of the order had to be attributed entirely to a sex scandal perpetrated by a pantomime villain of a paedo and his co-conspirators. This is simplistic trash. It is History by Numbers, designed not to paint a rich and subtle picture of 17th century history, but to colour in, luridly and crudely, a pattern dictated by 21st century obsessions.

A footnote worth recording briefly is that the Piarists were later resurrected. They apparently did a rather good job of teaching the poor really useful stuff: mercantile arithmetic, such as how to calculate the interest on loans, and exchange rate mechanisms. Calasanz hoped these skills would help the pupils find jobs in banks, warehouses, counting houses and other trades. And if that sounds a bit dull, well, be it also known that among the schools’ later pupils were such totally non-dull figures as Mozart, Goya, Haydn and Victor Hugo, so perhaps the Piarists were doing something right.

Another footnote: Heretic TOC emailed MacCulloch yesterday, inviting him to read Prof. Igor Primoratz on the ethics of paedophilia, plus Jon Henley’s recent Guardian article Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light, in a bid to encourage a less absolutist stance on his part against non-coercive “child abuse”. The email concluded:

If, however, you are content to be just another strident voice in the unedifying cacophony of hate-speak that passes for current public debate on this matter, just carry on as normal! Be as cowardly and mediocre as you wish! The high esteem in which you are held will suffer not one whit, quite the opposite!

Sir Diarmaid did at least deign to reply, this morning, albeit in brief and uncompromising terms. He said simply, “Thanks for your mail.  We will have to agree to differ on this”. Oh, well, one can only try. Full marks to him, at least, for keeping his cool.

Silence and shame at the Sheldonian

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Is silence in the face of great wrongs always shameful? If so, Heretic TOC should plead guilty. By that demanding standard I should have howled the house down at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford last week. I should have “caused a scene”, “demonstrated”, hurled thunderous, passionate execrations, pointing an accusing finger at the stage, and at one man who occupied it: Sir Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch, University of Oxford Professor of the History of the Church, winner of numerous prizes for his many books, presenter of the “landmark” BBC TV series A History of Christianity.

Ironically, he was there to talk about shame and I, along with hundreds of others, to listen. The occasion was an exploration of the topic “Shame : A Force for Good or Bad?” as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. MacCulloch was a panelist along with crime writer Ruth Rendell and an American historian, Deborah Cohen, who has a new book out, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day. It was an excellent discussion, well worthy of the Sheldonian, a splendid Wren-designed auditorium completed in 1668, sitting right at the heart of Oxford University near the Bodleian Library.

The date was 21 March. MacCulloch, the most formidably sharp and interesting of the three distinguished speakers, reminded his audience that on this same date in 1556, in this same city, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been burnt at the stake as a heretic. Cranmer had earlier recanted the Protestant “heresies” of which he had been accused in the reign of the Catholic queen, Mary. This desertion of his faith failed to save his skin. Ashamed of his weakness, Cranmer reasserted his faith in a sermon on the very day of his execution, when he had been expected to proclaim publicly the error of his ways. Then, famously, as he was being burnt, he thrust first into the fire “the unworthy hand” with which he had signed his earlier recantation. Shame, suggested MacCulloch, had in this instance been a noble force, memorably bringing out the best in Cranmer, redeeming, and more than redeeming, his ordinary human frailty.

We all feel ashamed when we fall short of our own standards, and it is surely right that we should be spurred by that shame to do better. Some might call this guilty conscience, a private matter, and argue that true shame is very different, a public affair: people are shamed into action, or into changing their ways, through community pressure. That too can be a good thing when we can all agree a common standard of good behavior, in a family, or a village; but is much trickier in large, complex, pluralistic societies such as our own. In societies like ours, paradoxically, it may be shameful to take the easy way out by falling in with the dictates of majority opinion when we have reason to believe the majority are wrong.

MacCulloch acknowledges this. In his latest book, Silence: A Christian History, he unsurprisingly sees a positive role for contemplative and prayerful silence; but he also tackles the more negative, shameful, aspects of keeping shtum, especially the failure of Christians in the past to speak out against egregious abuses. He focuses on three examples, of which these are two: slavery, and the Nazi holocaust against the Jews. So far so good. But you can see where this is going, can’t you? Yes, inevitably, his third example of negative Christian silence, in his book and in the Sheldonian discussion, is the covering up of clerical “child abuse”. This silence, bizarrely, he considers worse than the other two. Why? Because child abuse has always been against the teaching of the church, unlike either slavery or anti-semitism: the Bible depicted slavery as part of the God-given natural order of human affairs, and condemned the Jews as killers of Christ. Child abuse was therefore more shameful because it alone fell short of the church’s own standards at the time.

Well, imagine, fellow heretics, how I felt upon hearing this tosh. Apart from forgetting that the Catholic church certainly did at one time openly support real child abuse by using castrated choirboys (first authorized by Pope Sixtus V in 1589), this offensive nonsense also carries an implicit value judgment that giving a child an orgasm in necessarily worse than the chaining, whipping, beating, starving, terrifying, torturing, working to death, and outright mass murder – of children as well as adults – that characterized Nazi and slaving atrocities. Surely, I had to get up and say something? Usually, I am not shy on such occasions: I can and do raise questions from the floor. But this, I confess, defeated me. I did not trust myself to be coherent. In a room full of churchy types who had come to listen to a very prestigious ecclesiastical historian, I was worried about coming across as a raving lunatic. A moderately skeptical question might have worked, but I was just too angry to find the words.

So I compromised. At the end of the talk I knew MacCulloch would be signing copies of his new book. Being the polite person I am – perhaps far too courteous on this occasion – I bought a copy and meekly stood in line waiting for him to sign it, so I would have the opportunity to speak to him. Actually, I held back until last, so others would not be kept waiting during the substantial harangue I had in mind.

Eventually, my turn came. He signed my copy, punctiliously putting in the date. “Must have the date, eh?”, he said cheerily, “Cranmer’s anniversary.”

“Thanks,” I began. “It was a good discussion. But you seem too sophisticated a person to have such an absolutist position on clerical abuse, so-called. What if you have a priest and an acolyte who love each other?  Shouldn’t the priest have the guts to defend his love? Wouldn’t it be shameful not to do so?”

“It’s abuse,” he replied, “and the church’s teaching is clear.”

“Look,” I said, with perhaps a hint of rising anger, “I have sexual feelings for children and I am not ashamed to say so publicly. If there’s a loving relationship, why should that be abuse? How can it be right to take an absolutist stance when there is love?”

“Well, I do pretty much feel we should be absolutist on this issue. I’ve thought about it a lot.”

“Not enough, clearly,” I snapped.

Silence.

“Well, you know now how I feel,” I added, awkwardly. “And now that you do know, would you nevertheless be prepared to inscribe my name along with your own?”

I handed him my business card: “Tom O’Carroll, Director, Dangerous Books Ltd”.

He dutifully wrote out my name in the book, above his own. But he said nothing. He did not inquire about Dangerous Books, nor ask anything about me. He just silently left the card lying on the table until I picked it up. It was as though he felt any further inquiry or discussion would be just as dangerous as my card implied. Of course, he was right.

What I should have told him was that he may have thought a lot about “child abuse” but perhaps studied too little, preferring to focus on clerical stuff rather than research papers in psychology: his book shows no sign of any such reading. But I was too angry for such niceties. Frankly, I just wanted to beat the complacent bastard around the head with his own book, so that I could leave him with the sound of Silence ringing in his ears.

I took my leave, still angry, but soon restored to good cheer in the company of an old friend. An Oxford man himself, he showed me his old college, St Peters, and the next day he took me for a long walk along the River Isis, past Port Meadow and the stretch of water where Lewis Carroll once shared a rowing boat with his little child friend Alice Liddell, his inspiration for Alice In Wonderland. Those idyllic days when a man and an unrelated child could keep each other’s company without scandal – despite nude photography – seemed very far off indeed.

One other discovery before I left Oxford: MacCulloch is openly gay. Suddenly the moral certainty and absolutism of this buttoned down academic, soberly conservative in suit and tie, fell into place as part of one of the defining cultural tropes of our times: the respectable homosexual, a figure whose success has largely been build on distancing himself from the “shameful” paedophile with whom he was once bracketed as a fellow “pervert” or “deviant”. MacCulloch styles his career in history as “devoted to showing up the emperors with no clothes: the smug, the pretentious, the imposters, the liars”. I can’t help wondering when he last looked into a mirror.

 

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