It is easy to become sanctimonious about paedophiles especially when they are religious ministers. Top politicians, senior business people, commanding military officers, erudite teachers, who are all in positions of immense personal responsibility for those in their charge, can be venal, sometimes wicked, too. Religious human beings are no less liable to temptation. Some of them will fall. Scale is important, but we all know that if the other fellow drives over the speed limit we may do so too. ‘Everyone is doing it’ is no justification but we often use it as an excuse.
The horror of disrupting the sex understanding of a child even for a day let alone for the whole of its life, maybe irreparably, is one of the nightmares all parents have as they let their children see that the world is not the sort of fairytale they might like it to be. The discovery of sexual identity, natural as the hormones start their disruptive journey, is disturbing even if there are no outside pressures to conform to what is currently society’s norms or laws. The true norms are not shibboleths but paths to happiness. We are all mixtures of sexuality even when we don’t want to admit it.
The distressing spectacle of an ageing, abdicated Pope apparently trying to justify his church’s outrageous behaviour by blaming the times in which we live, is all the more worrying for those of faith whose mission in life is to seek the truth and live according to their discoveries. The faithful do not anticipate perfection but they do expect example, humility and acceptance of wrong. All sins may be forgiven but it is hard for rational beings to believe that sins denied are.
Of course, the former Pope is right. Post WWII times have been turbulent. When I was born pianos had to have their legs covered because the concept of leg display as sinful applied even to musical instruments. We should rejoice that such idiocy has passed. But showing a well-turned ankle, even a human one, is not a sexual revolution. It is a statement of common sense, of an aspect of the appreciation of life that makes us mature not guilty. The idea that understanding our humanity is a wicked leap into sexual excess is neither logical nor acceptable.
Most upsetting of all is the realisation that men and women of great scholarly learning are devoting their declining years to trying to justify irresponsible behaviour – their own and their colleagues. An institution that in its time has done great good, that is founded on practice none of us would deny – even if we cannot believe the faith supposedly endorsing it – is a sadness that many people will suffer. Humans don’t need Popes or religions to tell them to seek truth. They thirst for it naturally.
From unacceptable extremes of religious fervour intended to purge sin from societie, to self-congratulatory apologia for having been victimised by the successful discovery of reason, those responsible for guiding the behaviour of a specie experiencing such fundamental changes need to reexamine their purposes and the ways in which they pursue them. Institutions become self-serving over time. It is the job of their leaders to prevent that happening, to throw open the windows for fresh air and new thoughts.
Above all, it is time for the individual to speak out firmly, bravely, against all misguided oppression. Whether that is your boss at work, your political representative or your spiritual mentor, your voice is the one that matters. Your behaviour is what will determine the survival of the specie or not. Your choice of lifestyle will qualify that of your neighbour. Your care is what makes others succeed.
Ask not ‘whose fault’ but ‘whose future’.