it odd that the most perceptive article on the media storm over clerical sex
abuse comes from a British magazine staffed by ex-Trotskyite pro-abortion
libertarians? Writing in
Spiked, editor Brendan O’Neill
says that the hysteria “is a reaction informed more
by prejudice and illiberalism than by anything resembling a principled
secularism, and one which also threatens to harm individuals, families, society
and liberty”.

is an avowed atheist, but says that the horrific abuse has to be taken in
context of times past and that the media frenzy in the context of times
present. In fact, he argues, abuse in Ireland “whose image as a
craic-loving nation has been replaced by the far-worse idea that it was
actually a nation of priest rape, incidents
of sexual abuse by priests were fairly rare.”

it might be unfashionable to say the
following but it is true nonetheless: very, very small numbers of children in the
care or teaching of the Catholic Church in Europe in recent decades were
sexually abused, but very, very many of them actually received a decent
standard of education.

then, explains the hysteria? O’Neill postulates two reasons: “the backward cult of victimhood and the
dominant ‘new atheist’ prejudice against any institution with strong beliefs.”

victimhood, O’Neill means the contemporary trend to define oneself by passively
suffered misfortunes rather than by active assertion. “In Ireland, for example,
the state has explicitly invited its citizens to redefine themselves as victims
of authority rather than as active agents capable of moving on and making

makes the rather startling claim that the sudden rise in sex abuse allegations
from the 1960s in Ireland is due to the fact that people of that era had
suffered long-term unemployment, poor health and other misfortunes for which
they needed to blame someone.

In a grotesquely convenient marriage, the
state redefined social problems as consequences of Catholic abuse and the
individual redefined himself as a sufferer from low self-esteem who did not
bear full responsibility for the course of his adult life. In such a
climate, not only are incidents of abuse by priests more likely to surface, but
they are also more likely to be heavily politicised, turned from undoubtedly
distressing and possibly criminal acts into modern-day examples of evil capable
of distorting society itself. Thus did the contemporary cult of victimhood
ensure that Catholic abuse was blown out of proportion.

second reason was the explosive rise of the new atheism. Richard Dawkins and
his sympathisers discovered that the lurid revelations were an easy way to
prove that religion itself is an abuse. In fact, as O’Neill points out, Dawkins
appears to believe that sex abuse is small beer compared to the abuse of
teaching a child to believe in God.

‘Odious as the physical abuse of children
by priests undoubtedly is, [says
] I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental
abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place’.

O’Neill concludes that serious secular
humanists should have no truck with the current campaign of scare-mongering:

you think of the Catholic Church, you should be concerned about today’s
abuse-obsession. Events of the (sometimes distant) past which nobody can change
are being used to justify dangerous trends in the present. A new kind of
society is being solidified on the back of exposing abusive priests, one in
which scaremongering supersedes facts, where people redefine themselves as
permanently damaged victims, where freedom of thought is problematised, and
where parents are considered suspect for not adhering to the superior values of
the atheistic elite. Seriously, radical humanists should fight back against

Spiked is one of my favourite magazines and I have contributed to it in the past.
Links to some of my articles are here
and here
and here.