In his letter to the Irish Catholic church, Pope Benedict mentioned the corrosive values of secularisation and moral relativism within the context of the clerical scandals.
And in some respects, the tendencies were within the Church itself. I have just been reviewing some of the research that I did on the writings of moral theologians in Irish publications during the 1970s and 1980s.
It is interesting to note the sources that, by the 1980s, were coming to influence Catholic theological essayists. Freud, D H Lawrence, Carl Rogers, Erikson and Adorno were among the frequent authorities cited.
Some priests were publishing influential material in journals calling for a new progressiveness towards sexuality. By the early 1980s they were writing that we should not identify morality in terms of sex, that there should be fewer prohibitions and more uncensored dialogue about sexuality. Sexual sins were not the be-all and the end-all, and we should be more open and liberal about the self-acceptance of the person, and not judge his sexuality. Some of these writings were kindly and compassionate, but in retrospect we must ask whether advocating more “selfacceptance” and fewer prohibitions might have allowed some paedophiles to imagine they were more entitled to let down their guard. Though, clearly, this was never the authors’ intention.
And Professor Patricia Casey, psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, has also been turning over the pages of past research, leafing through the psychiatric journals from the 1950s to the 1980s. Professor Casey found that some therapists were quite influenced by the views of Alfred Kinsey, who had suggested back in the 1950s that sexual relations between children and adults were “not necessarily harmful”; it was “only society’s attitude that caused the harm”.
Examining the psychiatric textbooks of the 1970s and 1980s Professor Casey was astonished to note how little paedophilia seemed to elicit comment. In child studies, a main focus was on what used to be called “baby-battering” – physical violence to young babies – and how to treat such “baby-batterers”. David Booth, who has experience of psychiatry in Britain, says that in the 1970s and 1980s “therapy” was seen almost as a miracle cure for personality disorders; he thus concludes that Cardinal Brady acted within the proper parameters of his time in sending paedophiles for therapeutic treatment. Whereas today paedophiles are known to be very difficult to treat.
Indeed, if we had stuck to the Church’s original view of Freud and Freudianism – that it tended to “excuse” sins, instead of repenting and atoning for wrongdoing – some of these grisly situations would not have been perpetuated.
Actually, I remember a point in the later 1970s when there was a propaedophile “liberation” lobby. It was called the Paedophile Information Exchange and it argued publicly for a lifting of the prohibitions (or “prejudices”) against paedophiles.
Mary Whitehouse, that doughty campaigner against pornography, took up the cudgels against the PIE – as is described in her autobiography A Most Dangerous Woman – and was laughed at by liberals for her “reactionary” attitudes.
In 1978 I was living in Bloomsbury in central London when the PIE held a rally in one of local meeting halls once so beloved of Bertrand Russell and the Bloomsbury group.
Members of PIE had affiliated themselves to the National Council for Civil Liberties and some in the NCCL supported the cause. To the surprise of many, however, this particular PIE meeting was stormed by a group of working-class grannies who denounced the idea of paedophile relations as “wicked” and “evil”. There was a fierce hullabaloo, and the PIE withdrew.
Liberals were appalled at the fracas, but the battling grannies gradually gained public support. (And later, militant feminists began to support Mrs Whitehouse on both pornography and paedophilia.) Valerie Riches, founder of The Responsible Society, also campaigned against PIE, and was one of the strongest voices against that particular “liberation” movement, which was within an ace of being accepted.
How enchanting that Samantha and David Cameron are expecting a new baby in September. Just in nice time to have settled into 10 Downing Street (er, probably!) The Blairs seem to have started a trend when their fourth child Leo was born during their residence there: he was the first baby in 10 Downing Street for 150 years.
Gordon and Sarah Brown have their two young boys – their youngest child, Fraser, having been born in Downing Street in 2006.
Previously, Lord Salisbury had been the last PM who was also father of a very young family – he had eight children. Although a dyed-in-the-wool old Tory in some respects, he was an unusually permissive parent, allowing his children to run free wherever possible.