Monday, 14 October 2013

What Is Behind Selective Condemnation of Child Abuse?

Child abuse is an unforgivable crime no matter who commits it. Covering up such a crime is unforgivable regardless of which organisation does so.  In recent years we've learned that the cover up of paedophilia runs through just about every institution entrusted with the care of society, from state-run care homes, political institutions, the Catholic church - and other churches, schools and families.
All this is obvious.
But there are some who'd use the horrific crime of child abuse for some perverted political end or to gain some sick sectarian advantage. There are some who, in the context of Northern Ireland’s and Scotland’s sectarian divisions, are keen to bring the Catholic church to book when it comes to that institution’s record of child abuse and cover up. That record is undeniably shameful.
However, many of these same people are not as keen to explore the instances of child abuse and cover up in state-run institutions. Why not? There is no difference in the gravity of the crime wherever it takes place. So why the selective focus of some? If abhorrence of paedophilia was the sole motivation for their concern, then surely they would devote as much time to shining the spotlight on all institutions? Because, if not, then something other than moral concern is at the root of their “outrage.”
Could it be anti-Catholic sectarianism that motivates some to focus exclusively on the inexcusable abuse of children which took place within the Catholic church?  It seems to some the very fact that the abusers were Catholics is reason enough to focus only on that institution’s dreadful record.
However, in actual fact, the defining feature of systematic institutional child abuse is not the religion of the perpetrators but the power they have over children. That is why the scale of abuse of children within the Catholic church is, sadly, matched at least by the scale of abuse within care home systems, whether religious or secular, around the world.
One such care home of course was the Kincora home in Belfast, run by a Loyalist (William McGrath) who systematically raped boys in his care. The cover-up involved police, secret services and others. Indeed, when one of McGrath’s co-rapists of children at Kincora, Loyalist paramilitary John McKeague, threatened to name others in this paedophile ring (which allegedly included security force figures) he was conveniently killed by the INLA, the men involved themselves suggested to be doing, consciously or unconsciously, someone else’s dirty work.
Some in Northern Ireland and Scotland who are quick to criticise, rightly, the Catholic church’s record on child abuse refuse to turn that same critical eye on institutions whose existence does not offend them as much. Is such abuse less condemnable in their eyes because it wasn't carried out by Catholics? This beggars the question what kind of people would use such a dreadful issue for cheap political or sectarian advantage? Certainly not objective thinkers, liberal people or anyone who actually cared about the crime of child abuse, wherever it takes place, and whoever carries it out.

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