There is nothing funny about the disturbing story of Mick Philpott, the father convicted of killing six of his children by setting fire to his home.
But when I read the Daily Mail’s investigative offerings today, which seem to suggest that Philpott’s Catholic upbringing informed his repugnant attitude to fatherhood and marriage, I wondered if it was an attempt at a joke.
“Philpott was born into a sprawling Roman Catholic family, where multiple marriages and large numbers of offspring were the norm,” it reads.
It is fair to say that Catholics, (especially in the 1950s and early 1960s) are renowned for raising big families and here Catholicism’s relevance to this story abruptly ends.
It does not demand a genius to spot the moral difference between fathering eight children by one woman and fathering 17 children by multiple women. And a few more minutes of research would rapidly clarify which model of parenthood the Catholic Church promotes.
It is laughable to suggest that “multiple marriages” are “the norm” for Catholics. Furthermore, the Church is not very keen on the ruthless pursuit of sex and money, especially when it threatens the welfare of children.
As human beings we naturally want to make sense of the tragedies we report and read. Society wants to understand why we commit evil acts in order to ensure that they never occur again.
The horror of this story lies both in its grubby web of human complexities but also its cold simplicity. And so a debate rages today regarding who is to blame for this tragedy. Some say Mick Philpott, some say the welfare state and some blame a multitude of people and processes. But let’s get one thing straight: Mick Philpott’s Catholic upbringing is certainly not the culprit.