Saturday, May 30, 2009

Abuse - Religion and State

Thanks to fellow BU blogger Barnaby Capel-Dunn for the thought provoking comments on his Blog and by email on this recently reported tragedy, which caused me to reflect -

The Irish Ryan report into the appalling scandal of the abuse of children by Church
in which State was complicit, is a salutory reminder of the wisdom behind the phrase;
"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Never mind that some individual perpetrators had themselves suffered dreadful depredations and abuse thus perhaps explaining some of their individual malfeasance, what makes the subject matter of the Ryan report so much worse is the fact that the insititutions both state and religious were at best casting their blind eyes overall to what was going on.

At the heart of the scandal is the involvement together of the Irish Church and State. The latter simply passed the responsibility for care/education of the nation's waif and stray children to religious orders and then left the latter to get on with it.

Caesars' and Gods' laws are different and their coexistance is best when tense and seperate. The Catholic Church in Ireland was too close to the seat of secular power. In Northern Ireland I gather that there was far less abuse because the NI secular authorities were not dominated by the Church in the same way. As a result the state's inspections of schools etc in the North were more rigourous and effective.

The involvement of Established Church of England in the British Constitution is these days more a matter of form than of substance and the government itself is largely secular. The absence of any real religious dimension at the seat of secular government is frustrating for adherents of a particular religion who perceive
law makers to be riding roughshod over religious principles and freedoms, such as those relating to the previously hugely successful catholic adption agencies for example. However, well led religious groups can better from without, make an effective impact on the secular authorities, as witness the successful Catholic campaign against the proposed imposition of quota of non catholic pupils at catholic maintained schools.

When religion and state work hand in glove, extensive abuse of one kind or another caused by absolute power alas appears inevitable. It is true of course that abuse nof one kind or another - not neccessarily child abuse - take subjugation of women or public floggings - also occurs in secular states - one might even argue that that is one of the reasons we need religion - shades of Karl Marx perhaps.

On the other hand, Kermal Ataturk's legacy to modern day
Turkey for example though the seperation out of Islam, is that of a relatively civilised and prosperous state with the majority of its citizens thus able to practice their (mainly muslim) religion - far from perfect but at least open to further human freedoms. Compare Turkey's
comparative freedoms with their absences in states where the religious authorities and the secular ones act in concert. My perception is that abuse in religion run countries is far worse and more widespread than where secular and religious authorities work apart.

One conclusion I draw for the UK, is that the Catholic Bishops and Cardinals should politely decline to accept any offers of seats in the House of Lords

1 comment:

  1. What a very well-reasoned post, Jerry. I must confess, I had never thought of the problem in terms of, as it were, the separation of Church and State, apart from vaguely wondering what the situation was in Northern Ireland over the period in question, but on reflection I'm sure you're absolutely right.
    Very interesting your last point, too!

    How these terrible things happen is one thing and how and when (if ever) we come to terms with them afterwards is another. You mentioned Turkey: how difficult the Turks find it to "accept" the Amernian genocide. How difficult the French find it to admit to torture in Algeria, the Vatican to its attitude towards the Jews, the Americans to its treatment of the Indians and the Blacks, and so on and so forth.
    There seems to be no short cut, does there?


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