My blog about World Youth Day earlier this week received a mixed postbag. Some poured scorn on the event, others’ testified that their lives had been changed for the better by attending it. Like Pope Benedict, who has asked for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to be made available to the young people coming to Madrid and who himself plans to listen to Confessions when he is there, I continue to be hopeful of the good fruits that will come from WYD – reminding myself that hope is a supernatural virtue.
However, I am much less hopeful about the society I live in. Watching and reading the news this week I felt aghast and, like countless other people, I asked the question, “What is this country coming to?” Yet though very depressed at the scenes of anarchy on our streets, I am not surprised by them. More experienced journalists than myself – for example, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail, Janet Daley of the Daily Telegraph and William Oddie nearer to home – have all been warning of the moral breakdown of our society for years. This is the result.
Everyone in the media has a different explanation for the roots of the recent riots in London and elsewhere. Actually, as Christians know, it is very simple. It is encapsulated in a quotation from a French cleric, Cardinal Pie, cited by Catholic broadcaster Michael Voris that I read this morning on The Vortex: “When Christianity is no longer the soul of public life, of public power, of public institutions, then Jesus Christ deals with this country in the manner he is there dealt with. He continues to give His grace and blessings to the individuals who serve Him, but He abandons the institutions, the powers which do not serve Him. And the institutions, the kings, the nations become like shifting sand in the desert; they fall away like the autumn leaves which are gone with the wind.”
If this sounds like an Old Testament prophetic warning, it is meant to. The lawlessness, violence and disrespect for property and authority that we have witnessed this week in our supposedly civilised country arises because most people have abandoned the Christian faith that once underpinned our laws and institutions, the behaviour expected in our schools and in family life.
On the Today programme last week, the teacher Katharine Birbalsingh said that if parents will no longer teach their children right and wrong, the schools will have to do it. This is a counsel of desperation. Journalist Allison Pearson in the Telegraph wrote accurately of the “divorce, dysfunction and dadlessness” that lies behind so much of youthful aggression and misbehaviour. Sir Paul Coleridge, senior family judge, has repeatedly stated the unfashionable truth that divorce is wrecking the lives of British children.
At the weekend I was looking after my six-year-old granddaughter and three-year-old grandson. From another room I heard the six-year-old say to her brother as politely as she could under the circumstances, “Please stop hitting me.” Running in to confront him I asked why he was behaving like this. “Because she won’t play my game!” he replied in an aggrieved voice. I made it clear there would be no treats that day if he didn’t apologise immediately. He did so reluctantly and civilised life was resumed. My point is that if his parents, his grandparents and his older siblings did not patiently and often correct him, this little chap could easily develop within a few years into one of the raging, anti-social and uncontrolled young men seen on our TV screens earlier this week.
Responsibility for children’s behaviour lies at home; neither the schools nor the state can repair what parents have failed to do. During the riots the acting police commissioner appealed to parents to find out where their children were. But where were the parents?