I am not a particularly militant atheist - I rather like English parish churches and early Renaissance religious art, and so on - but I do have an anti-clerical streak.
And it is this anti-clerical streak I have been trying to hold in check whilst following the unfolding horrors of the Catholic Church's child sex abuse scandal.
I would find it very easy to dismiss the whole Catholic Church as a sophisticated child sex abuse ring.
It has a set of plausible techniques in getting its members to be close to children, winning the trust of parents, and - afterwards - in keeping the silence of children.
It then has an array of means for protecting the perpetrators, ranging from a culture of evasion and deniability, to having safe houses and effective legal immunity.
In addition, the Catholic Church has centuries of well-practised defences to those who question what is going on, without anyone ever taking actual responsibility for their actions.
Yes, it would be very easy to write about this in an anti-clerical way, and at considerable length; but I will not write more than this, as it would probably owe more to my prejudices than anything else.
But there are questions which are fair and appropriate to ask.
Why are the perpetrators - alleged or otherwise - just not dealt with by the secular criminal authorities?
Why do we still seem to have this bizarre medieval duality of secular law and "canon law"?
(And don't start me on "canon law".)
Adults abusing children - without the paraphernalia and sophistry of the Catholic Church - remains simply that: adults abusing children.
In my view, the police should walk straight in, and deal with those involved as normal criminal suspects.
And they should do so regardless of the elaborate make-believe world which makes it possible for the adults to think they can get away with it.
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