Page 6, 21st June 1963

21st June 1963
Page 6
Page 6, 21st June 1963 — THE LESSONS OF THE PR OFUMO AFFAIR
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THE LESSONS OF THE PR OFUMO AFFAIR

By HUGH KAY

I REMEMBER the shock of the day, at the age of 10, when I watched a policeman enter a public lavatory. It seemed all wrong. Policemen, I felt, ought not to need to!

Graddally, one learned that policemen, priests and parents, like anyone else, not only had to obey "calls of nature" but were even subject to the more earthy temptations. It was their proneness that seemed to threaten one's security, quite apart from any specific failure.

There is a comforting sense of the absolute in deceiving oneself that Church and national leaders. in some respects at least. can do no wrong. The word "unthinkable" soothes us as we try to prolong the illusion throughout our adult lives,

This explains. too. the hypocrisy of the eleventh commandment, One thinks of a famous playwright and actor, a sexual pervert, who died some years ago. The weeping women at the crematorium knew the truth. but had swept it under the carpet. The same women would have been the first to howl execrations had that unhappy man stood in the dock at the Old Bailey, as many a time he should.

It is not surprising, therefore, that. in at the height of the Profumo scandal. commentators recalled Macaulay's aphorism that there is nothing more ridiculous than the sight of the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality.

We were like a lot of duped children, horribly let down by the revelation that Profumo. and perhaps some Of his colleagues, were not, after all, like Adam before the Fall.

This much must be said to preserve our sense of balance. to remind ourselves that. in lashing corrupt leaders. we may well he lashing ourselves in disgust at the rottenness and corruption of modern British life. for which we all bear some of the blame. But the fact remains that we are entitled to look for leadership at the top, and the innate decency of the British people, sleeping but not dead. has risen in anger at their leaders' failure to supply it.

Leadership

Modern theories of ChurchState separation cannot cancel out the State's duty, as outlined in Immortale Dei, to serve the nation's spiritual needs.

Moral leadership is part of that' duty, and the personal integrity of a Minister of the Crown is inherent in such leadership. Sexual error. as well as lying, is inconsistent with it.

Untenable distinctions between private and public moralityfor which some of us denounced the Griffin committee on homosexualityhave blurred the truth that society shakes when its humblest member falls, even in priva te,

True. in some cases, the common good may not he served by the intervention of the arm of the law, but that is another matter.

The real lesson of the Profumo scandal goes beyond the inherent horror of the case itself. While recognising the personal Christianity or some of the 'Tory leaders, we rightly ask why it has not more specifically penetrated the sphere of political action.

Alt parties, of course. are guilty of this dualism. All men tend to live with a foot in each of two worlds. It is also true that. had the Tories summoned us to renewal of the spirit at the hustings, they would have suffered the fate of the Bishops who slated Abse's Bill.

Most of us here were underprivileged until after the second world war. There is nothing essentially wrong in "you've never

had it so good". St. Vincent de Pelll found it hopeless to talk the life of the spirit to men with empty bellies. We are entitled to some bread and circuses, and poverty is no guarantee of chastity and truth.

Conviction

But what this country has needed for a long time is, nevertheless. a Churchillian call to blood, sweat and tears in the spiritual order. Political leaders. concerned as they are with the daily details of every citizen's personal life, cannot divorce their spiritual conviction for their social acts. And justice must be done explicitly, not just by implication.

The fact, therefore that Macmillan did not condone Profumu's lie does not relieve him of the wider indictment. But let us not lose sight of our own share of the blame.

Britain is gravely discredited abroad. She has become one of the most irreligious countries in the West. This permissive age— the age of liberal humanism—has taken its toll of that natural virtue of which this country was once rightly proud.

The absolutes have gone. Principles and objective standards have gone. Even Catholics are proud to write in papers and reviews dedicated to the comfort of the vicious and the ridicule of Christianity, to the pharisaism of the I eft that hurls the Church of 'silence to the wolves while re serving its synthetic moral fury for dictatorships of the Right.

Authority

The whole notion of authority has been undermined, not least by Catholics who, under the pretence of leading us into the freedom of the children of Clod. conceal their repugnance for the virtue of obedience, and the crucifixion it sometimes demands.

They will retort by saying that their opponents conceal their gutlessness. their fear of taking hold decisions for themselves, under a slimy appeal to obedience; that the excessive use of authority has rendered young Catholics less fit to stand on their own feet in moral issues-hence the high rate of leakage and crime among the Catholic community. There is truth in this. Part of the Vatican Council raison detre was a search for a proper integration of obedience and initiative in the Church's life. As Professor Cameron has put it so well, the Church must emerge as a fellowship, not a power structure. Hut when all is said and done, this has become a nation of people allergic to the definitions of authority because it is unable to make up its mind at all, a condition inherent in a permissive society. It has become more important to be satirical and clever than to be constructive and right; and decision as such is suspect. This is the mess that liberalism has landed tie in. And now. among young people, there are signs of a disgusted reaction—in favour of neo-Fascism.

It has been said that you cannot impose Christian standards of conduct on a people who have largely rejected Christianity, Mr. Butler was really at a loss when faced with this problem on tele vision last Sunday.

The answer is to be found in Pacer in terris. An honest examination of human nature as it really is by Christians and good non-Christians working together must reveal common ground, on which the attitudes of the two groups can become consistent, if not congruent.

How are we Catholics to give a lead in this parlous situation, where the Profumo scandal is simply a symptom of a national malaise?

I have said before that the answer is to bring the sceptic into a living encounter with Christianty in action.

Sacrifice

Our society will start being cleansed when the average Catholic is prepared to sacrifice time and energy in the service of the hopeless and hapless of all creeds and none.

He must he prepared to see the image of Christ struggling for assertion in the teenage blackmailer manoeuvring in the haunts of the "queers" with a rosary for a talisman in his pocket: in the physically repugnant pensioner living alone in squalor and pain: in the deadly dull neighbour whose hidden desperation matters far more than his sneers: in the unbeliever whose honesty and virtue put us to shame.

A few shillings a week extra from every Catholic earning a decent screw could have helped the families of the unemployed throughout the country last Christmas to live decently while the breadwinners search for jobs. Yet. though every kind of non-Catholic voice sounded the call for help. the Catholic community remained strangely silent.

It will be time to throw stones when we Catholics have learned to dirty our hands.




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