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The Spanish case is shocking: but we cruelly remove children from ‘undesirable’ families too

If we are going to adopt morally superior attitudes, we had better be sure we are actually morally superior

By on Wednesday, 19 October 2011

There are some things I often just don’t want to write about (though I know I have to) when they come up: the most obvious one being stories to do with clerical sex abuse (particularly when I know that they are untrue or exaggerated and have to be rebutted or put into some broader context). I know that if I do write about them without just joining in the general execration, I will be accused of attempting to “make excuses” for whatever it is that has happened: that I will minimise the crime because I am a bigoted apologist for the Church, whatever priests or nuns have actually done.

So let me begin by saying that it is inexcusable if true (and I have no doubt that it is) that in Spain not only under General Franco but for many years afterwards, doctors, and nuns who were nurses, were involved in informing mothers that their newborn children had died, and that they and Catholic priests were involved in “selling” these children of Left-wing parents to “Right-wing” (i.e. non-Communist) Catholic parents. Under Franco this was done for ideological reasons: he really thought that Left-wing attitudes could be bred out of Spanish culture in this way. Today, it seems like a mad and cruel as well as a politically inept and stupid thing to have done. And of course it WAS stupid and of course it WAS mad and cruel: but it was a madness and cruelty bred from and perpetuating a madness and cruelty that Franco did not himself engender. If you know nothing of Spanish history read the following; as far as I can ascertain, this is a dispassionate and true account:

The Red Terror in Spain (Spanish: Terror Rojo en España) is the name given by historians to various acts committed “by sections of nearly all the leftist groups” such as the killing of tens of thousands of people (including 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy, the vast majority in the summer of 1936 in the wake of the military rising), as well as attacks on landowners, industrialists, and politicians, and the desecration and burning of monasteries and churches. A process of political polarisation had characterised the Spanish Second Republic – party divisions became increasingly embittered and questions of religious identity came to assume a major political significance.

Some estimates of the Red Terror range from 38,000 to 72,344 lives.

There is no doubt at all that Spain was for much of the twentieth century a deeply traumatised country. Mostly, today, it is generally assumed by the bien pensants that the trauma was caused mostly by the Franco regime: it is those who fought for the republican side, like George Orwell, who represent the historically politically virtuous. Few Catholics in this country today can be found to defend the Franco regime (and I certainly don’t intend to). But in the thirties, it was very different. When I was editor of this newspaper, I ran a regular column with extracts from the Herald from some decades before. This involved going back to the thirties and forties: and I was astonished as well as shocked to discover that the Herald firmly and consistently supported the Franco regime. But why was I so surprised? There is nothing quite so silly as to impose today’s political virtues and attitudes on the past, which is, you will remember, a foreign country: they do things differently there—and the corollary of that is that so, quite likely, would we have done. That doesn’t, I repeat, excuse it. But maybe it will make us less certain of our own superior rectitude.

In Spain, though, there is still a puzzle; and this will be a continuing trauma for the Spanish Church well into the future. For, even after Franco’s death this shocking practice continued in democratic Spain. There are real questions to be asked now: who in the Church knew that this was going on? And when did they know it? And why was nothing done, not only by the Church (did the bishops know?) but also by the government (for it appears that the authorities were not unaware of it)?

Most important of all: how could the idea of what the BBC’s Katya Adler calls “The practice of removing children from parents deemed ‘undesirable’ and placing them with ‘approved’ families” ever have become sanctioned, even in Franco’s Spain, let alone facilitated by the Catholic Church, or at least by some of its clergy and religious? Of course, such a thing could never happen here. Could it? Well, the fact is that as I wrote on Friday, something not unlike it DOES happen here. It is no better and no worse than what has happened in Spain. It is the same: the criteria of familial desirability are different, but the principle is identical: it is precisely “the practice of removing children from parents deemed ‘undesirable’ and placing them with ‘approved’ families”. Here, from the Christian Voice website (its current print edition has a lengthy report on forced adoption in this country) are just two brief paragraphs, which convey an infinity of heartbreak. They represent not an exceptional story, but a common occurrence

Sam, 23, had her baby Angela removed from her in 2009 when Social Services concluded she was psychologically damaged and therefore unfit to be a mother. Social workers have also threatened to remove any future children Sam bears. However, independent psychologists who analysed Angela have said she is fine.

[Sam said] “I had to put her into the social worker’s car and she started screaming. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. They just made crystal-ball predictions without giving me a chance. I wanted another assessment but they refused.”

There is more: but that tells the story, not just of Sam but of many other mothers too. So before you attack those in the Spanish Church who covertly (and profoundly wrongly) did what we do openly (so that none of us have any right to speak against them unless we are prepared to condemn also what happens with the open sanction of the political system we ourselves mostly support) it is best, rather, coolly to consider the roots of these abuses—their ultimate origins in human nature and in the traumas and perplexities of society and human history.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Without knowing the details of the social services case you mention it is impossible to know the precise reasons for the removal. But their brief is to prevent harm to the infant. What on earth has this to do with the cases in Spain? Why should anyone, including catholics, pause before condemning the practices in Spain. The criteria in Spain was the some moral test of the mother. Perhaps after instantly criticising this catastrophe for many thousands of people, the catholic hierarchy might examine their own morals and how they lead to such disgusting acts.

  • http://twitter.com/sanabituranima Sanabitur Anima Mea

    Good article overall, but surely every journalist should know to NEVER CITE WIKIPEDIA AS A SOURCE.

  • Recusant

    Franco was a horrid little turd, but he did pull Spain out of the appalling downward spiral it had been in since 1898 (at least). His brutality cauterised the insanity of that country, driven by left wing intellectuals who disliked the people of Spain and their customs. And while it is understandable that the Church in Spain should support the enemy of the Republicans, who denied freedom of worship and butchered so many religious, it is still deeply shaming that they got close enough to act like this. More self inflicted wounds for the Church in Europe.

  • Nat_ons

    The hypocrisy of the natural yet exaggerated horror is itself horrific. Eugenics, for this is what we are speaking of here – in its social engineering expression – was a common if under reported, under investigated, and under opposed ‘truth’ of libertine, marxian and fascist societies. China is but the – still often ignored – last great bastion of this once prevailing drive to improve health by reducing the surplus population; striking at the hapless and helpless and hopeless was as it remains the easiest target, not least the undeserving poor, the socially unacceptable, but above all the medically-deemed incapable have had the heaviest burden of all official policy.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/background_briefings/international/290661.stm

    As anyone with even a passing knowledge of Chesterton can readily indicate, this sad state was not merely foreseen it was already unfolding all but a century ago. His worthy jeremiad in Eugenics was not written against the use of papist reaction in Franco’s Spain or the Stalinist / Nazi experimentation with human welfare, but within the British Empire – as mildly advanced by its Mother of Parliaments. Misuse of adoption is simply an easily visible symptom of a far deeper moral malaise (and thus easily accessed and presented by intrepid journalists who do not want to challenge any current forms of moral self-satisfaction); the abortions, sterilisations, medical experiments and, yes, the legal destructions of life or lives that these policies can permit may be the liberality of self-expression (my choice) or the bland exercise of amoral office (the rule of law).

    The rich can still buy their pet babies and cast them aside, as they might will, if they do not meet with expectation or usefulness and the State can just as easily adjust adoption law to suit a political agenda – no amount of journalistic humbug against it will alter the basic ethic at work: power. In today’s less trusting Western society obeying the State happily and unquestioningly might seem as though it ought to be impossible, in fact it is rife; the State dresses up its choice immorality as the will of the people, the freedom of choice, the right of the individual. Who would oppose something considered as Mother, Apple Pie and More of It; will any politician stake his career, let alone his eternal life, on setting his face against making wrong a right and calling right ‘wrong’, if calling it so is the popular thing; is not such a politician’s dressing up of the tyranny of popular will as ‘the right of man’ also the final resort of a morally bankrupt politics (not least in group politics opposed to rule of objective moral reasoning)?

    Nat.

    PS: Let this, and the whole Catholic Child Abuse perspective (whether wholesome or vile), inform those church leaders who might like to become bewitched by the prospect of doing something/ anything to pander – thoughtlessly or swiftly – to Big Society politics. After all, a too eager power grab by past hierarchies – in taking up the all too real slack in State/ private welfare and charity – left an inheritance of arms-length church-run borstals, poor law ‘containment’ orphanages and the transporting of non-privileged children to the supposed glowing future of a distant, sun-lit land of carefree promise. That was eugenic social experimentation that governments merrily abandoned, conveniently loosing much of the damning documentation en route, and happy to see journalists, celebrities et al pin the blame on those dreadful, life-hating, Romish devils (amid jeering howls, a well primed pre-set venom, and the KKK-style sealed mindsets of our libertine glitterati) ..

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/10/21/catholicism-on-trial-christopher-hitchens-and-stephen-fry-attack-churchs-record-on-gay-rights/

  • theroadmaster

    Over the centuries, in nations where a dominant ideology/belief existed in tandem with an equally adamant opposition, draconian methods of population control were employed to either eliminate or force dissident elements to conform to the belief-system of the party in control.  Examples range from Tudor England where recusant Catholics were threatened by jail terms and death for not disavowing their Faith to the barbaric practices of the junta in the Argentina of the 70′s and 80′s who threw protesters out of planes to their deaths and snatched the children of suspected rebels and gave them to pro-regime families to adopt.  The Church at times during Her long history has unfortunately not been immune to unhealthy alliances with oppressive states in return for influencing the policies of the kings or governments in control.  Spain is a case in point although one could make a case for Franco’s brutal regime being the lesser of two evils.
    The population control methods advocated by the “reproductive rights” lobby today were promoted by prominent scientists and political figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who feared the the growth of so-called socially or ethnically inferior populations in their countries.  The insidious ideology behind the eugenics movement effected social policy in countries such as Sweden and the US up to and including the middle years of the 20th Century.  One would normally regard these countries as not being prime candidates for the implementation of such policies but once objectionable thought-systems are presented with a respectable face then we all best be on our guard.

  • Anonymous

    “something not unlike it DOES happen here. It is no better and no worse than what has happened in Spain.” 

    Dr Oddie, before you write anything more about the UK Social Services treatment of families and children, could you please visit the children’s services department of a local authority and spend some time seeing what really goes on?  Spend a day or two talking with Social Workers, get some insight into what they are dealing with, what they really think, what they are trying to achieve, what they are up against? Then instead of repeating what you read in the Daily Mail, what Christopher Booker writes about, what you read on Christian Voice website, tell us what you have seen with your own eyes and heard first hand.

    This is a serious suggestion. Why not do it?

  • W Oddie

    I disagree: be careful, certainly–but many wikipedia articles are reliable and well-researched: this one is. check what you use against other sources you can rely on: but I think the wikipedia phenomenon, though inconsistent, ought to be supported.

  • Anonymous

    I lived in Madrid for a considerable period of time, both during and after the Franco era. I spoke to many Spaniards in private, who lived in fear of Franco’s regime. He murdered and oppressed his own people for his own ideological and political ends.

    Franco was a cruel, despotic and evil dictator. The past may have been a different country, but there are absolute standards in all periods. Franco was brutally murdering political opponents well into the 1970′s. This cannot be excused by harking back to the pre-war Republic.

    The revelation of the stolen babies is shocking, but not surprising, and is another blow to the Catholic Church in Spain, who colluded in Franco’s evil at all levels during his regime. The fact that the were actively involved in this horror is unspeakable, and will futher alienate a dwindling Catholic population in Spain.

    The horrors of Francoism were evil by anyone’s standards at any time in history. The fact that Franco was a daily communicant, who slept with a relic of St Teresa of Avila at his bedside, simply exacerbates the situation.

    Let us not make excuses for Franco. Far from aiding the Catholic Church in Spain, he has dealt it a mortal blow, and this latest episode will push Catholicism further to the margins in his country.

  • Mcpruden

    If you read Jose Maria Gironella’s “The Cypresses Believe in God” trilogy, you will discover that the Communists did the same thing by shipping thousands of Spanish babies to Russia.  Therefore this business of stealing Spanish babies was done on both sides.

  • john grosvenor

    It seens to me that whether it is the sexual abuse of children by clergy, or child retailing in Spain, however disgusting these abuses are, one of the things that really pushes our church to the margins is the fact that there rarely seems to be any meaningful punishment. The holy see just sometimes dosen’t see that it not enough to just say sorry and pay out money. The sick people commiting these crimes should recieve propper punishment, if not the only sensible thing to do is keep your kids away.

  • Peter Construction

    Type your comment here.Absolutely correct mr grosvenor, thus far comments seem to be comparing what happens to other branches of society. At least when these people are caught they face some form of punishment.  It is not enough to forgive these sick people, especially if the forgiver once moved them around to avoid the justice.

  • Stephen Hand

    Thanks for this. An important contribution.

  • Anonymous

    Social services have a VERY hard job. Understaffed, under-paid and overworked – the punishment for doing a job to try and make the world a better and safer place.

    They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. 
    Either they don’t remove children, and we get cases like baby P, or they do remove children into care and are accused of breaking up families. 

    If we care about social services both protecting children, and families, and making where possible the RIGHT DECISIONS, then we need to put our TAX DOLLARS where our mouths are, and fund the service properly. 

  • Brian A Cook

    Thank you for the comment.  I’ve tried to say on Catholic forums that Francoism is the elephant in the room of the Church in Spain.  I’ve tried to draw the common-sense conclusion that Francoism repulsed people from Catholicism.  I’ve almost always been smeared as a communist stooge.  I vaguely recall seeing an isolated story in which a bishop openly considered issuing an apology for the local church being in the tank for Franco.  Sadly, that story went nowhere as far as I know. 

  • David Lindsay

    BBC Two’s overlong piece of what was essentially human interest rather than current affairs baldly referred to Franco and his regime as “Fascist” even though he was never so much as a member of the Falange, he never attended the whole of any of its conferences, and even his allies in that were thoroughly disliked and distrusted by the full-blown Fascists in things like the Fuerza Nueva.

    So what, you may say? His was still rather an unpleasant system and manner of government. Indeed it was. But just as the practices under discussion, if it could be so described, were depicted as if they had been utterly unknown in Britain in the same period and had been motivated by nothing other than sheer callousness, so Franco’s opponents were astonishingly referred to only as “the Antifascists”. Really?

    The Spanish Civil War was fought between those who entirely predictably went on to back the Axis while officially neutral, and those who wanted to turn Spain into a satellite of, initially, a de facto member of the Axis, as Spain would also have been if the Republicans had won. Indeed, she would have been so even more than she was under Franco, since the Soviet Army actually fought alongside that of Nazi Germany, notably staging a joint victory parade through the streets of Brest-Litovsk. If Hitler had also had such a relationship with a Soviet-dominated Spain, then he would probably never have reneged on the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and therefore might very well have won the War.

    The Spanish Civil War has always split Old Labour into its constituent subcultures. It did at the time. The Hard Left is as ardently pro-Republican as ever, because of its myopia, even now, about Stalinism, because of its anti-Catholicism, because of the general overrating of Orwell and because it oddly supposes that he was one of its own. Meanwhile, Catholics, at least if pushed or if they know anything at all about it (as almost no younger Spaniards do, either), will still back the Falangists, whose ostensible Catholicism was a perversion defined by its reaction against other things, although there have been worse such before, at the same time, and since. No one else will have much, if any, view on the matter. But we need to face facts. Even if Franco was no Hitler, neither side deserves our historical sympathy. Franco, as much as anything else, maintained, and occasionally tried to press, a territorial claim to staunchly Catholic and staunchly British Gibraltar.

    Since Soviet archives were opened up, all sorts of information has come to light. The entire Republican cause was Comintern-directed, and the Soviet intervention was in no sense parasitic as has traditionally been supposed or asserted. For example, far from being commanded by a Canadian volunteer, the International Brigade was in fact commanded by Manfred Stern, a Soviet Commissar. But then, there never was an anti-Soviet Left in Spain in the 1930s; that myth has been astonishingly long-lasting considering its complete and utter baselessness. Take, for example, Francisco Largo Cabellero, Socialist Party Leader and Popular Front Prime Minister. Entirely typically of his party, he defined it as a revolutionary force wholly distinct from British Labour or the French Socialists, and differing “only in words” from the Communists. The Socialist Party’s 10-point programme of 1934 was wholly Leninist in form and substance, calling, among other things, for the replacement of the Army and the Civil Guard with a workers’ militia, and for the dissolution of the religious orders and the expropriation of their property. One could go on, and on, and on.

    Stalin only loosened his grip once the Civil War was clearly lost, long after the Republicans themselves had given up what little commitment to democracy that they might ever have had. So the best that can be said about the Spanish Civil War is that the not-quite-so-bad bad guys won. If the even-worse bad guys (the Republicans) had won, then Spain would actually have fought with the Axis just as the Soviet Union did, the Nazi-Soviet Pact would probably never have collapsed, and Hitler might therefore very well have won the War.

    Before watching the BBC Two effort, I listened to a Radio Four programme on the physical abuse of children in Britain’s madrassas, where corporal punishment is still legal, as in theory it would be in Sunday schools, for example. The usual suspects will not know what to say about this, since they want the cane back in state schools, the birch back for thieves and thugs, the return of policemen giving clips round the ear to unruly youths, and so on. But Auntie knows what to say, of course: “Muslims might end up as bad as the Catholic Church.” Sometimes, I really do wonder why I bother.

  • David Armitage

    The good doctor should never let facts get in the way of a good rant. Precise statistics are available for placements, fostering and adoptions in the UK and Northern Ireland. He seems to be building up to something, but taking one single case with no other foundation than hearsay and making it a paradigm for the family welfare activities of social services and the judiciary should tax the credulity of CH readers. We do NOT do openly what the Spanish church did covertly, nor for that matter the Portuguese and Irish.  Not to mention connivance in Latin American dictatorships, most notoriously Chile, under Pinochet, and Argentina. It is still notoriously possible for couples to buy their way through procedures in many economically weak countries, most notably after disasters, manmade and natural, have struck. Notoriously many Catholic agencies have pulled out of assessing prospective adopters due to institutional disagreement with legislation passed in 2009. Family welfare can be improved.  Is it too much to expect CH to encourage than than give space to biased ignorant attacks?

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Who are the usual suspects?

  • Kaliprabhu

    So in other words, we expunge all criticism of the Catholic church by insisiting that all potential crticis criticize absolutely every other wrong in society FIRST. What a clever and dishonest strategy…

  • Leomgary

    Personally I think that the Doctors, Nurses, Priests and Religious Sisters peformed a great act of charity in taking these children from their parents. Think about it, if they had been brought up by these athiests,marxists, feminsits then they would have been taught from birth (as I was) to hate God and his Church, as it was it they were brought up by unswervingly devout Catholics who tried to instill theTheological virtues in their Children.

    As for Franco himself,  we Catholics have nothing to be ashamed about him, I can’t think of many 20th century heads of State (Blessed Karl of Austria was another) who started the day by going to Mass, who did their best to preserve the rightfull place of honour the Church should have in society and defended her against her enemies.

    If I had lived 80 odd years ago, I would have traveled to Spain to fight for Generalissimo  Francisco Franco

  • Brian A Cook

    I have to be brutally honest.  That’s the sort of whitewashing that repulses many human beings from Mother Church.

  • Polypubs

    This article highlights an important misconception- viz. confusing the Catholic Church with a global corporation. No doubt, if some employees of Toyota operating in some country are guilty of endangering customer safety, then the integrity of the whole organization is impugned and the head of Toyota has to take personal responsibility.
    The Catholic Church, however, simply isn’t a giant corporation. It isn’t selling a visible product or hedonic service. Historically and legally, there have always been many constraints on its capacity to purge itself or change its ‘business model’, or whatever the fashionable jargon is, in the manner that a corporation or a government (whose power is far more untrammelled) can do.
    The more fundamental problem the article addresses- to which I don’t have the answer- is whether a parent has an absolute right to a child. The Nation State says no. It may not say no explicitly. It may say yes but mean no and do all sorts of underhand things to ensure that it is what it means and not what it says that will determine the outcome. Of course, the Church, along with everything else not of the State, becomes to some extent complicit or pays a smaller or greater price.
    The Virgin Mary may have been appointed Captain General of Franco’s forces but power rested with that Colonial General who applied the methods he had mastered fighting the Moors to securing his hold on power back at home.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Wonderful exposition of Poe’s Law

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    There is no constraint on the catholic church heavily criticising and expelling those responsible. There is no constraint on your leader issuing such a statement. 

    And much as the author of the above and yourself would like to divert the discussion away from your church’s action to the way that other’s treat children, it still remains an abhorrent and obscene act.

    In fact, from the lack of heavy criticism (not total, I’m glad to say), it brings into question the morals of an organisation that can condone such acts. 

  • Polypubs

    ‘There is no constraint on the catholic church heavily criticising and expelling those responsible. There is no constraint on your leader issuing such a statement. ‘
    Quite true, but if and only if, the Catholic Church is neither Christian, nor Apostolic nor remotely Holy as opposed to Holier than Thou.
    Still, wiser heads than mine have certainly taken criticism such as yours on board and in any case, the big wigs at Head Office are always casting about for some new stick to beat middle management with. But that’s another way of undermining subsidiarity, historicity as a source of identity and, so to speak, a locavarian eucharist.

    I am old enough to remember an older type of customary morality based on a sort of Manichean Cartesianism. So long as head and heart unctuously praised the Lord by magnifying the terrors of the damned, the lower half of the body could get on with the dirty business of life. 

  • Robert

    So some Spanish Communists and com-symps, who by definition were anti-family, were deprived by a Spanish Catholic government of the chance to raise offspring as spiritually dysfunctional as themselves. And we Catholics are supposed to feel ashamed about that? We’re supposed to find it shocking? I don’t. The whole anti-Franco agitprop campaign – of which the latest brouhaha is merely the latest example – reminds me of the Australian hysteria surrounding Aborigines’ ‘Stolen Generations’, who were, as a matter of simple fact, the Rescued Generations.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    ‘Quite true, but if and only if, the Catholic Church is neither Christian, nor Apostolic nor remotely Holy as opposed to Holier than Thou.’

    If you think that being christian precludes you from totally condemning the practice of stealing children from their parents you have an extremely difficult problem. 

    Quite what your relationships to the disciples have to bear in this case is unclear to say the least. Did the disciples encourage stealing children?

    The holier than thou jibe is quite consistent with most of the people who have posted comments in support of your church. Nobody who criticises the actions that occurred in Spain would hesitate from criticising those actions elsewhere.

    ‘I am old enough to remember an older type of customary morality based on a sort of Manichean Cartesianism. So long as head and heart unctuously praised the Lord by magnifying the terrors of the damned, the lower half of the body could get on with the dirty business of life. ‘

    Your morals are judged on what they are, not on their derivation. As to your assertion that your leaders are considering the criticism, that is obviously true and of no consequence. It’s what they do about the actions of their nuns and priests in Spain that is the pertinent question.

    It is very understandable that catholics feel persecuted, perhaps after case after case of abhorrent behaviour, they might feel that perhaps it’s justified. If your morals lead you to actions such as these and then to justify the laggardly action of your leaders in condemning such actions, you might feel they are not so superior to the morals of others as you claim.

  • Brian A Cook

    Let me be blunt.  The whitewashing must stop. 

  • Robert

    “The whitewashing must stop” indeed? Tell that to the present-day Spanish Reds, Brian A Cook, of whose 1930s predecessors you appear to be so fond. Let me be blunt: read some serious historiography about Spain (of which the late Warren Carroll provided so eloquent an example), rather than trusting in pagan mass-media cant. If Franco had lost in 1939, you’d be speaking Russian.

    I just wonder when, or if, my fellow English-speaking Catholics are ever going to acquire some backbone.

  • Cjkeeffe

    it always amazes me how qucikly we accept anything against spain. The author writes thus “So let me begin by saying that it is inexcusable if true (and I have no doubt that it is) …” But where is the evidence to prove this? It seems that the Black Legend is alive and while. Pity its a catholic press that is fanfareing it. Given the BBCs hostility to all tings Catholic (except dissent) why am I to believe what tehy say.
    Last week a British polic e force was crticised for not acting to protect a woman murder after reporting domestic abuse, yet time and tiem again the only critisms we hear are against the Church. yet the same church is teh biggest provider of health care, social care and education on the world.

  • Polypubs

    ‘If you think that being christian precludes you from totally condemning the practice of stealing children from their parents you have an extremely difficult problem. ‘You have hit the nail on the head. I do have this very difficult problem, not because I’m Christian but because I’m human.  On the one hand, morality of a Kantian sort- based on impartiality- does intuitively seem to be the sort of thing I need to take on board to be happier with myself- have a better ethos, so to speak- but, the moment I let my actions be dictated by a deontological algorithm I feel I cease to be human, and what’s worse, end up doing, or endorsing,  very foolish and harmful things.
    Yes, there is a commandment not to steal and the injunction that the hearts of fathers should be turned to their children and children to their fathers. There is also the Rabbinic principle that to break one commandment is to break them all, and- indeed- all this just seems so obvious or intuitively right… But, we know that at least one halachah is halacha vein morin kein- i.e. such that, if known, it can not be the basis of the action it otherwise commands- and thus all halacha are equally defeasible. 
    This creates an aporia, which- for ordinary Joes like me- Christ can fill. The Church offers a participation mystique which some people, not all certainly, find really useful. If it were not dogma that even a sinful priest can serve the host, then- no question- there would be a huge scandal, in the sense of ‘a stumbling block to faith’. But, actually, the truth is the reverse is the case. Not so much in England, because the Catholic Church has little power- but elsewhere it endears itself to the fex urbis precisely by its purple engorgement and scarlet sins.
    Incidentally, Catholics, like everybody else, don’t actually need plain speakers like you to feel horribly persecuted and discriminated against and singled out for genocide by a sinister conspiracy of everybody else.
    The tragedy is that the Big Wigs in the Church are men of your stamp. Morality as pietas? Better the catacombs!

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Very pretty and scans well but still avoids criticising these abhorrent acts. If you are puzzled by your morals then examine them for consistency. I cannot claim that my morals are totally consistent, I cannot even claim I can prove they are the best that mankind can produce, but at least I know they possibly have faults and can take them out and look at them. You however ignore any faults in your morals by just giving responsibility to something that can never be held responsible. And almost as an aside, I’m advocating and judging your morals from a teleological viewpoint, if you follow another person’s rule list slavishly then you are certainly in the deontology camp.

    I can easily see how the lowest in wealth and education of society are attracted to a cult. It’s been done many times and the catholic church is very experienced in its own techniques. Must be a little disconcerting when that population is raised in wealth and education, much harder to attract with flummery. But I much prefer the full text, fex urbis lex orbis, after all it is attributed to one of yours. You see, now they don’t need you at all, you need them.As to whether you need external criticism, then I’m afraid you do. The catholic church’s record in cleaning it’s own stables is pretty poor. You see, I’m interested in results, not motives. And if you feel persecuted, I’m not particularly surprised but I assure you, I’m not advocating genocide and I’m not part of a sinister conspiracy. I’m criticising you because you are wrong.

  • Brian A Cook

    Did I praise communists?  No.  Did I deny that Christians were martyred?  No.  Sometimes the “pagan mass-media cant” is correct.  I could say more, but I’ll leave it at that. 

  • Polypubs

    I’m not a theologian and am very much aware that the sort of ad captum vulgi arguments the laity employ are likely to contravene dogma, still, it seems to me that if you are speaking from (as you say) a teleological point of view, then it is difficult to see why morals need to be consistent. Teleology for the Church cashes out as Eschatology. My understanding is that the type of actions and beliefs which, according to Church teaching, allow us to hope for Paradise are not dependent on consistency in morals. Examining one’s conscience, as part of the sacrament of confession is a different matter. So long as one has free choice of confessor, clearly there is great elasticity, at least for the fex urbis- the poor in backward villages may indeed be morally paralysed by the priest while being subject to the droit de siegnieur of the sneering, moustachioed, landowner- but in the Inner Cities, word soon goes round as to whom to see depending on the degree of obloquy associated with one’s means of livelihood.
    Perhaps, you are a Consequentialist who also believes that only pure means can guarantee pure ends- in that case it is quite reasonable for you to criticize the Church from the outside because it is natural to assume that your fundamental belief about the world is one other people share. My own feeling is that the clever clever fast-tracked sort of people within the Church Establishment share your view.
    My point is this risks alienating the fex urbis. You say, they don’t need you guys any more. That is probably true- they can replace the concept of the poor with a statistically defined underpriviliged class and bid for State funds like any other NGO. I suppose, what you mean when you say ‘you still need them’ is that they still have a lot of patronage and, in view of the present credentialist crisis, the poor are obliged to continue to ‘kiss the ring’. 
    Still, even the Bishops really have abandoned teleology, that is eschatology, for a sort of posturing consequentialism and media byte wringing of hands, they are still better than the Televangelists.

  • Martin Robb

    Where to begin? Read Paul Preston’s revealing biography of Franco. A cruel, cold man, heading a cruel, repressive regime. Nothing Catholic or Christian about it. It wasn’t just marxists and communists who were victims of Franco’s post-war terror: anyone suspected of ‘liberal’ views was likely to be rounded up or have their children taken away. Thousands were imprisoned, and Franco signed the death warrants of hundreds of men and women with a cruel lack of human feeling.