Friday 28 February 2014

Links between paedophilia and gay rights

Channel 4's Mini Pops: we had to wait ten years for permission from radical feminists to vomit


I have read and listened with frustration to the extraordinary ahistorical non-debate about the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in the 1970s. Let me be clear from the outset that I have never supported PIE, being one among many radical feminists who were beginning to recognise child sexual abuse in the 1970s. But we knew so little then about its scale, and were debating sexologists and others who argued it was not necessarily harmful; this was not just a discourse of abusers, it was articulated in the Kinsey Reports and by a range of respected academics.

[From The Guardian. Professor Liz Kelly is co-chair of the UK-based End Violence Against Women Coalition and is director of the Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University.]

Kelly argues -in essence- that we shouldn't blame Harman because a) we didn't know about paedophilia until well into the eighties and b) it was feminists like Harman wot stopped it.

An immediate thought here is whether this 'didn't know, guv' works for priest abusers as well as the bishops who let them carry on? Can we just ignore all abuse in the Catholic Church until the late eighties because radical feminists hadn't finished their debate with sociologists until then? 

But putting this aside, this is not the history as others have recorded it. Veronique Mottier (not exactly a right wing Catholic loon as her CV shows) says this (in Sexuality, p107):

Gay rights' organizations' alliances with paedophile activism around the age of consent issue, or more generally on the grounds of solidarity with other sexual minorities, have melted away since the early 1980s. In large part this was the result of campaigns from the Christian Right such as the US conservative activist Anita Bryant's self-proclaimed 'crusade' against 'the threat of homosexual recruitment of our children', entitled Save Our Children, which portrayed all gays -and gay men in particular -as potential child molesters and triggered the start of organized opposition to gay rights organizations in the US from the late 1970s. While the Dutch gay rights organization COC had declared in the early 1970s that gay liberation would never be complete without the sexual liberation of children and paedophiles, by the mid-1990s the great majority of gay rights organizations had distanced themselves explicitly from paedophile advocacy...

The NCCL/PIE issue is highlighting two things. First, there is a 1984-like attempt to re-write recent history or at least to forget it. Gay rights/paedophile rights/sexual rights were all bound up in a libertarian free for all, where the sole narrative was liberation from the Judaeo-Christian taboos on sex. Sex was good. Sex had been repressed. The solution was to get rid of the repression. Consent wasn't a particularly important aspect of that sexual revolution: freedom from guilt was. And if young women (or boys) needed a little shove in order to get with the revolution, then there were plenty of people (usually men) who were willing to do that.

Second, at a deeper level, we have here a slice -a stratum- of the archaeology of the construction of normal sex. What it is to be sexual -heterosexual, homosexual, normal etc etc- has changed under our very eyes. We pretend that the lines between the normal heterosexual who is only attracted to mature women and the pervert who is attracted to girls are given by nature as brute fact (rather than nature as moral goal): if we can just unrepress ourselves, the normal will be fine. (And we conveniently forget Pliny who married a fourteen year old when he was nearly forty or Victorian obsessions with children.) And we pretend that the normal, the good male homosexual is only interested in mature men and forget that, only a few years ago, the sexual initiation of children was being publicly advocated by gay rights' groups.

Mottier again (p105):

In France, various public petitions of the late 1970s called on Parliament to abolish age of consent laws; in particular, a 1977 petition calling for the decriminalization of all consenting relations between adults and minors was signed by prominent public intellectuals including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and France's most prominent child psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto. Paedophile advocacy groups thus operated in a context in which cultural ideas about children's sexuality were being redefined more generally...

That narrative of release from repression has been replaced by one of consent. (See my previous post.) Frankly, this is as flimsy as the earlier attempt at changing traditional sexual mores: consent is as essentially inadequate a basis for a morality as release, and it's one that (unlike the earlier one of release) doesn't make clear why we should indulge in sex. (Hence, perhaps, the tendency of the modern young not to.)

One of the few people clearly to come out of this well is Roger Scruton:

In a Times piece in September 1983 he wrote: "Paedophiles must be prevented from 'coming out'. Every attempt to display their vice as a legitimate 'alternative' to conventional morality must be, not refuted, but silenced."

It is clearly part of virtue to know when something is outrageous and to react immediately and with incredulity at its advocacy. Finding it immediately and incontestably disgusting is the appropriate reaction to the desire to have sex with children: conservatives get that and progressives don't. If -as the libertarians proclaim- that disgust is simply the result of repressing the temptations that other societies encourage, I would like to say so much the better for us and so much the worse for other societies. But, of course, I can't. I had to wait for Liz Kelly, radical feminists and distinguished academics to let me know their views on that. Only right wing nutters like Scruton and Anita Bryant went with their guts and got it right first time.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Paedophilia and child euthanasia

Please use your own imagination for what a Google image search for 'Death and Sex' might produce....

So, on the one hand, we have the current brouhaha over the involvement of the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Paedophile Information Exchange, and on the other, we have the introduction of child euthanasia in Belgium.

Both cases reveal something of the difficulties reliance on consent hits when it comes across the big issues of life such as sex and death, and when it moves away from fully rational, completely informed adults as agents. Consent is a rather fiddly notion that only makes sense against a background of freedom. Which doesn't really help very much as freedom itself is an extraordinarily difficult notion...

In common-or-garden situations, consent is a socially constructed practice which is intended to slow things down at a time of a big decision. So, in the case of double glazing purchases, there are the formalities of documentation and cooling off periods etc, not so much to check in any deep philosophical sense whether we really really want some of those new PVC units, but to exclude some of the more obvious external tricks: rushing someone into a decision, lying to them, pretending they said yes when they really said maybe etc... The point here is that a reasonable person, in full possession of the facts, might want double glazing: it's a perfectly good and reasonable aim, and in constructing a social process of consent, we're just excluding some obvious abuses rather than exploring the depths of that consent. Which is quite a good thing, because it's not at all clear what the depths of freedom might involve here. (Is it possible, for example, to purchase double glazing with full autonomy unless you've read Marcuse on false needs?)

Since the 1960s, a dominant strand in thinking about sex is that intercourse is just a (really) pleasant feeling. Society has repressed sex and progress consists in liberating ourselves to enjoy this physical pleasure without regret. Someone who doesn't want free sex is really still in thrall to a (primarily religious) taboo. Increasingly, a similar picture is being accepted of euthanasia. A good death consists simply in slipping away without pain. Anyone who rejects the possibility of euthanasia is really still in thrall to a (primarily religious) taboo.

The child euthanasia law in Belgium is based on the importance of ensuring that children can access a great good (pain free death) and is therefore not terribly concerned about the depths of consent: like double glazing, it's only concerned to exclude some gross external abuse without troubling itself overmuch with what freedom in its depths might mean for an infant. As nice Dr Riddington puts it:

As a doctor, I am thankful that progress is being made to address the anguish of people, children included, who find themselves in utterly intolerable situations. 

So it's not really surprising, is it, when children are being deprived of an obvious good like guilt free sex, that progressives think it rather a good idea to get rid of those nasty (primarily religious) taboos which get in the way? In fact, I'm only surprised that they seem to have gone rather silent on this one, having abandoned their previous enthusiasm:

...paedophile interest groups emerged from the 1970s in numerous countries...In 1979, a petition to the Dutch Parliament calling for the legalization of consensual sexual relationships between children and adults was supported by the NVSH [Dutch Sexual Reform Organization], feminist organizations, and the COC, the oldest still-existing gay rights orgainization in the world...Around the same time, the Protestant Foundation for Sex Education (PSVG) distributed tens of thousands of copies of an information booklet with the title Paedophilia to Dutch elementary schools (1979-81).

[Not from some barking mad religious text, but Veronique Mottier's Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction, which gives other examples of 'progressive' campaigning for paedophilia round the world.]

If you think that painless death is a simple good, then why worry too much about consent? If you think sex is a simple pleasurable good, then why worry too much about consent? Come on, let the kids have some fun: it's only death and sex after all.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Robocop and the resistance of the natural

The message of the original Robocop was apparently described by its producer as ' "fascism for liberals" Рa politically liberal film done in the most violent way possible'. [Here.] Certainly, the director, Paul Verhoeven, has a habit of slipping in subversive political messages in what, superficially, appear to be typically gung-ho right wing movies. (I suppose it's most obvious in Starship Troopers where the ostensible message of 'let's go nuke the enemy' is undermined by its hyperbole.) Watching the remake, I couldn't help wondering whether it would be better described as 'liberalism for conservatives' -slipping in a profoundly conservative message under the whizz and bang of 'fighting against the man'. The director of the new version, José Padilha, has apparently emphasized the political aspect of the film, so let's push that a little and see how far it will go.

The surface of Robocop is political in a straightforward way: society is busy turning human beings into drones. Bad. But that essentially liberal message doesn't survive much of a probing.   There are few absolute villains in the film, but many broken reeds. Populism comes in for a drubbing. The ranting media, personified by Samuel L Jackson, demands law and order and isn't terribly worried about the details. Public opinion swings backwards and forwards depending on the last big story. Politicians generally just follow the mood. Science, personified by the doctor/engineer Gary Oldman, compromises its humane instincts under corporate and personal pressure.

What is reliable is Robocop's traditional family (his wife's emotional attachment to him and his relationship with his child is one of the key aspects of his salvation) and biology (much emphasis is placed on the way his (surviving organic) body keeps rebalancing his dopamine levels to restore his emotional life when the corporation tries to turn him into a mindless drone).

Add to this some subtle details -the villain's office is decorated with Francis Bacon's Oresteia trilogy (above) -images symbolic of the breakdown of the family (Orestes) and the body  (Bacon's usual butcher's eye view of the world); the film ends with the Clash's version of 'I Fought the Law and the Law Won' (not the Detroit police department which is exposed as a nest of corruption, but the Moral Law embodied in Robocop)- and you have a paean to traditional family life and the natural law as reservoirs of resistance to the vagueries of politics, popular opinion, the media and big business and, in particular, their delusion that you can remake people and society according to a perfect plan.

Thursday 13 February 2014

On reading Walter Scott...

                                                    All in the best possible taste.

As most Scots, I shall be spending the months leading up to the Independence referendum reading Sir Walter Scott. (Certainly the novels and may branch out.)

I'm only about half a dozen in so far, so I reserve final judgment. Having read a scattering of them before, I've found that a concerted effort pays off: you need to get into his rhythm and popping in and out over a number of years doesn't make this easy.

My main reasons for even attempting this are fairly straightforward. Scott is one of the seminal figures of European culture and, in particular, romanticism. He is clearly one of the central figures of Scottish literary culture. He offers an imaginative engagement with the past, particularly Scotland's past, when we are told, by our nation's new clerisy, that our past is merely a 'dark place'. Moreover, now that all that is worthwhile in Anglicanism has been received into the Catholic Church as part of the Ordinariate's patrimony, it is probably worthwhile grappling with Scott as part of that Episcopalian tradition which itself grappled with the Catholic heritage of the Middle Ages.

Anyway, apart from that broader concern to engage imaginatively with the past, a couple of more specific issues have quickly emerged from starting on the novels. First, there is Scott's multiplying of perspectives: fictitious introductions, notes pointing his divergence from historical accuracy, Lowlanders looking at Highlanders etc. A key aspect of this is what A N Wilson notes as Scott's double perspective:

Two voices seem to be heard: that of an eighteenth-century Tory rationalist, and that of a timeless lover of romance, marvels and chivalry. 

In addition -again noted by Wilson- there is the emphasis on the possibility of the life of private virtue, in particular, within the household, as opposed to the life of the state, but without abandoning an involvement in that public life: there is due respect here paid to the family, civil society and the state, but without the modern tendency, all too prominent in modern Scotland, to reduce everything to the state.

If I were sticking on my cultural nationalist bonnet, it's hard to resist the initial thought that, through the lack of an education in Scottish history and culture (let alone religious history and culture) in our schools, we have raised up a generation that, even though laying claim to a national identity, cares little about the historical specifics of that identity: modern nationalism as a creature of the emaciation of culture rather than as a reaction to that emaciation. (And we might entertain similar thoughts about the rest of the UK and, indeed, the Catholic Church: is the failure to engage adequately with the past the single greatest cultural failing of our age?)

More, no doubt, in due course...

Monday 10 February 2014

Message from Scotland for Marriage

A message from the organization, Scotland for Marriage:

Sadly, the Scottish Parliament passed the Marriage & Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill yesterday.

MSPs voted 105 to 18 in favour of the Bill at Stage 3.

The key civil liberty protections we were supporting were also voted down by an overwhelming majority of MSPs.

Clearly, this result is a huge disappointment to all of us who have campaigned in defence of traditional marriage and in favour of safeguards for civil liberty.

It has not been for lack of effort on our part. Over the last two years we have:

been active in all 73 Holyrood constituencies, with hundreds of volunteers in our network
run a fringe event at the SNP conference
distributed over 500,000 items of literature
held 90 meetings throughout the country attended by thousands of people
secured media coverage of our concerns in national and local press
kept you informed of developments
prompted you to contact your MSPs when appropriate.
We believe that we – and you – did everything we could in defence of marriage. Unfortunately, neither the Government nor most MSPs were listening.

The redefinition of marriage will have serious consequences for Scotland, particularly for people who believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

That’s why our campaign will continue. We want to:

defend the innocent victims this legislation will create
hold the Government to the assurances they have given that civil liberties will not be infringed
continue to be a calm but firm voice for marriage in the media
resist further erosions of marriage.
That’s what we want to do. But after two years of tough campaigning, our resources are spent. Please, if you want us to be able to carry on, join with us today by making a donation. Please give £25, £50 or £100, or whatever you can afford, and help us support and defend real marriage.

Your donations are secure and confidential.



The Scotland for Marriage team


Donations can be made here.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Some initial thoughts on the end of marriage

Not much point, really, in moping overmuch about the inevitable vote yesterday in the Scottish Parliament which saw same sex 'marriage' introduced by 105-18 votes with none of the proposed amendments adding protection for dissenting views adopted. (In fairness to the proponents of the Bill, this was generally on the grounds that such protections already existed. We shall see.) Please pray for the eighteen who had the guts to stick out against the 'equal marriage' bandwagon: perhaps those who will doubtless be calling them all the names under the sun will remember that, but for the existence of such people in the SNP, Labour and Conservative parties, practising Catholics would find themselves as unable to support these parties as they are the lunatic fringe constituted by the Greens and the Lib-Dems.

So this particular struggle is over. Perhaps the only comfort is that, as Matt Walsh points out,  the real rot in marriage as an institution set in long ago: what we saw yesterday is the burial, not the death. Perhaps the main question now is how to preserve the Catholic family against a culture which, in its economy and its legislation, at best, does nothing to support it and, at worst, does much to undermine it. But that's for the future...

For the moment, watching Waldemar Januszczak's final programme on the Rococo (series on i-player here until 11 Feb) cheered me up a little, but also prompted some immediate reflections. During the programme, Januszczak visited the island of Santo Stefano which preserved the ruins of a prison based on Bentham's panopticon design. (Other surviving panopticons (here).) This prompted me to reflect on the difference between Bentham's utilitarianism and Mill's.

There are many differences between Bentham and Mill, but the panopticon suggests two in particular. First, there is the emphasis on ideal structure in Bentham: for him, there is the possibility of an ideal social arrangement which will maximize utility in a planned way. Mill on the other hand, promotes the idea of an agonistic culture where it is in the clash of 'experiments in living' that leads to human progress. Secondly, there is the deliberate stripping away of privacy in the panopticon: prisoners will act well because they are always in public view. Mill, on the other hand, resolves at least some of the tensions in the public space that result from agonism by constructing a private space where experiments can be carried on out of others' gaze and safe from their offence.

Nothing in modern Scottish political culture suggests much in the way of acknowledgment of the importance of Mill's two amendments to Bentham. Too much is politicized: our main writers translate the exploration of the private into Tartan Noir, the personal transformed into police (polis?) procedure; the institution of the private realm of the family is translated merely into a public party for love (a previous post is relevant here). The myth of Scottish community has driven out the myth of the Scottish curmudgeon, guarding his personal space against others. Moreover, there is too much emphasis on consensus at the expense of the Caledonian anti-syzygy, the creative tension between extreme positions, and the native version of Mill's agonism.

Both these vices were visible in the Scottish Parliament debate and in the wider Scottish debate on same sex 'marriage'. Whilst the victors will doubtless be congratulating themselves on the victory of progress and a mature debate, others might well ponder the thinness of Scottish politics and culture and the implications of that thinness for the question of Independence.

Monday 3 February 2014

Another scandal in the Scottish Catholic Church?

       Normal goings on in your local Catholic Church: clearly far too disgusting to be shown

Scottish readers of the Sunday Herald would have been greeted yesterday by a front page with the headline: 'Church rejects abused priest's plea for justice'. [Here. May require registration to view.]

I'm not sure many non-Catholics would have read much further or certainly in much detail. It's rather like reading about Syria: you know that atrocities go on; in reading an article, the details fall into the background while the sheer brute fact of another piece of inhumanity remains. Equally, you know that the Scottish Catholic Church is full of paedophile priests and and abusive and secretive bishops -and, lo and behold, here they are at it again. (The comments on the Herald site are, at the time of writing, uniformly thus.)

However, a closer read of the story does little to substantiate this sort of conclusion. Essentially, the story is about the removal of Father Patrick Lawson from a parish in Ayrshire and the failure of his appeal to Rome. (Much of the background -in a similar tone- is given in a Guardian article by the same journalist, Catherine Deveney.)

Now, here I am. I read the article. I know that there has been a history of sexual importuning in the Scottish Church. Father Lawson claims that he was sexually assaulted by another priest. The Church, he claims, has done little or nothing in the eighteen years since the assault. Neither, apparently, did the police despite his reporting of the incident.[Here.] (The priest in question, however, seems to have been removed from duties. The article makes a big deal about his being sent to a retirement home. But why not? Even elderly criminals have to live somewhere.) Lots of allegations. If I'm not a Catholic, I probably think that an allegation, reported from one side, is undoubtedly true. As a Catholic, I'm probably less sure, although a history of muddle and unsatisfactory resolution is not untypical in the case both of sexual assault in general and the Church in particular. So I'm probably inclined to believe the article here.

But then it's linked up with a) the removal from the parish and b) a general attack on the lack of 'transparent processes and procedures that suggest justice is valued'. The official grounds for removal are (apparently) 1) Father Lawson's ill health, 2) complaints about him from parishoners. The article makes absolutely no attempt to assess the complaints against Father Lawson, being content to point out that a petition from 200 parishoners in his favour has been received.

Now, I've lived through a number of this sort of intra-parish dispute. They are invariably utterly horrible and incredibly difficult to get at the truth. So I simply don't know what's going on here, neither (apparently) does Deveney and the only outside information we have is from the procedure under Canon Law -which has found in favour of the Bishop. But none of the dearth of information stops Deveney from asserting that the removal is really all about 'his stance over' the abusing priest. Perhaps, but Rome doesn't think so and Lawson is clearly extremely ill from cancer.

So what we really have is a story with very little in the way of hard fact. It is the sort of murky dispute that happens in employment and in the sort of intense personal relationship you get both between a parish and priest, and a priest and bishop. Father Lawson may have been appallingly treated. Or he may not. I simply don't know, and neither does any reader of the article. But the non-Catholics will think that they know the Babylonian Whore is at it again.

One theme running through the article is that 'civil justice' trumps 'church justice': 'Canon Law is a legal system created for a monarchy', says Tom Doyle, billed as a Canon lawyer (true, but an odd sort of Canon lawyer who thinks 'they ought to sell the Vatican to the Mormons or to Disney or something and go out and start all over again' [here]). Instead, Father Lawson is relying on an (civil) employment tribunal (which of course are well known for providing verdicts which all parties are completely satisfied with). The problem here is that being a priest isn't an employment: to apply the ethos of secular employment law to the priesthood makes as much sense as applying it to my teenager's refusal to do the washing up.

But none of this will matter to the normal reader of the Herald. The Church is like that, and here's another example of its being like that. I was struck by the analogy to the Amanda Knox case. Now, as an expert on the Italian justice system (I've watched Inspector Montalbano and the The Sopranos (who are a bit Italian)) and the case (I've got a rough idea from a couple of articles a few years ago), I know immediately that the Italian courts are not to be trusted (because Italians can't do the logical, rational stuff that we Northern Europeans can do) and that Knox is far too attractive to be a liar. And clearly, based on watching The Borgias and having imbibed the Kirk's traditional view of Catholics, Father Lawson is being shafted by a conspiracy of paedophile control freaks...

A final appeal to the Signatura is apparently under way. But why wait for that?