2 November 2014

Rewriting the Past

David Hope, emeritus Archbishop of York and Primate of England, with whom I overlapped at Staggers, beside whom I washed up many a soapy dish in the seminary kitchens, has felt obliged to resign episcopal ministry because of a dead paedophile Dean of Manchester.

David is a fine man and a fine bishop.

Like many other good men, in the past he behaved in the way in which one was then expected to behave. Now these good men are judged by different, and self-righteous, standards which contrive to be splendidly wise after the event.

I deeply resent this entire modern appetite for restructuring the past. For example: scratching out of the record the conviction of Alan Turing for indecency.

And the issuing of ridiculous 'apologies' with regard to 'injustices' done in the distant past.

The Past cannot be altered. It happened; and it happened the way it did because it was different from the Present. But of course, as George Orwell pointed out in his 1984, it is a tremendous temptation to tyrants to think that they can refashion the Past. How can they be less than omnipotent? And how dare the Past be different?

An age which murders the unborn on an industrial scale which Hitler would have admired has quite enough of its own enormities to apologise for.

Instead, conscious only of our own infallibility, with fullest confidence in the bizarre codes of morality which we have so recently invented for ourselves, we swagger around in the Past wagging our forefinger, putting everybody right on everything.

What a necessary dogma the Day of Judgement is.


Joshua said...

Given the filth and wickedness of that deceased Dean, and the way the Establishment protected him and allowed him to get away with the abuse of many boys Down Under and back Home, I for one wish the Archbishop referred to was was arraigned for trial given his negligence or worse, rather than resigning in a merely symbolic manner that achieves precisely nothing.

The day when divers bishops of different sorts are all thrown in the slammer for winking at clerical crimes cannot come too soon.

As for that Dean, if he's not burning in Hell he's been very lucky.

Patrick Sheridan said...

I don't believe in rights for homosexuals.

Gatepost productions said...

Whilst past events are specific to the times in which they occurred, it should be remembered that politicians can, and frequently do, rewrite history.

If past 'indiscretions' are placed beyond a line drawn in the sands-of-time, how should we view War Crimes etc?

Don Camillo SSC said...

I do not believe that bishops and other superiors who are now being condemned for negligence and worse were more than naive and over-trusting. If even police and prosecution authorities failed to find evidence that would stand up in court at that time, why should legal amateurs be expected to do better?

Reader said...

Fr Hunwicke omits to mention that the Past itself is not a monolith: that there were individuals then who did in fact denounce certain conventional behaviors. In any case, the sexual abuse of children has always been a crime, even in England, I suspect. What can Father mean by referring to "different . . . standards"? Besides we are only speaking of a few decades ago, not centuries or millenia! Clerical sexual abuse of minors would count as a great crime in the 5th century as well as the 20th.

Anonymous said...

Uh, abhorrence at the rape of a child does not constitute a newly invented bizarre code of morality. Any rational person, when informed of credible accusations of the rape of a child by someone he has authority over, reaches immediately for the phone to call the police. To do otherwise is to cover up a crime and a horrific sin.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Certainly past ages condemned the rape of children. And theft. And Murder. And, in these respects, the New Morality does continue the Old Moralities (although one should add that, according to Situation Ethics, there would be situations in which, to justify a preferred end, rape of children, theft, and murder would be justified). The New Morality which I intend to excoriate is that according to which Abortion is not always an evil and 'homophobia' is. I thought that line of reasoning was fairly obvious in my piece.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Reader: I think the matter is more complex than you suggest. Society's concerns change with the times. Post Wolfenden, which removed the penalties for buggery, there was a great deal of sympathy for those who were seen to have been persecuted under the previous law. That sympathy was often mistakenly extended to those indulging in paedophilia and those having sex with underage adolescents. Take Oscar Wilde for example - how old were the rent boys he was accused of using? His repentance for his sins is airbrushed out of the story. Post Wolfenden, as we now know, reporting matters to the police usually resulted in no action being taken. And if it did get to the magistrates extraordinary lenience was shown in the worst of cases. So why should anyone have bothered to go to the police? Paedophilia was seen as merely an illness easily curable by treatment which it was not. Magistrates were often satisfied with an agreement to have treatment when prison would have been more appropriate. Bishops were inclined to show "mercy" when often there was no real repentance. We are seeing that same kind of misguided "mercy" being touted around to-day in respect of other sins! Blindness to sin exists in every age - it is just that the sins vary.

Now of course Society's attitudes have change and there has been a reaction - an over-reaction in many cases.

Stephen Barber said...

I also have warm memories of David Hope, as vicar of All Saints Margaret Street. However, if you read the report on Robert Waddington, you find that David failed to follow the policy which he had endorsed as Archbishop, failed to consult his safeguarding adviser or go to the police. Instead he put the allegations direct to Waddington, thereby destroying any opportunity the police might have had to investigate the matter properly, let himself be deceived about Waddington's state of health and showed himself more concerned about Waddington's state of mind than that of the men he had abused as boys.

Figulus said...

“Any rational person, when informed of credible accusations of the rape of a child by someone he has authority over, reaches immediately for the phone to call the police.”

I am not familiar with English law, but here in the U.S., hearsay is not admissable in court, and police do not act on it. Anyone hearing of a crime and not calling the police is not guilty of a coverup. These days, of course, he is guilty of nothing other than failing to cover up his own rear end. When the media are pushing their two-minute hates, that failure to cover up can be a quite a source of unwanted attention. The objects of such attention have my fullest sympathy.