Sunday, 15 March 2015

Give Away Lines (1): Theresa May on Child Sexual Abuse

Quoted in a BBC News headline, the Home Secretary Theresa May's original words come from an article in The Telegraph : Theresa May: Child abuse in the UK runs far deeper than you know. (The article, by the way, is a useful read for what it suggests about an appropriate language to use with regard to sexual abuse of children.)
We already know the trail will lead into our schools and hospitals, our churches, our youth clubs and many other institutions that should have been places of safety but instead became the setting for the most appalling abuse. However, what the country doesn’t yet appreciate is the true scale of that abuse. And that is understandable. I have only learnt about the extent and breadth of the problem since I first announced an overarching inquiry into whether public bodies and other non-state institutions had failed in their duty of care towards children. ....
In my discussions with older victims and survivors and their representatives, I began to realise how abuse is woven, covertly, into the fabric of our society.  
Of the institutions referred to in Theresa May's articles, I suspect that some are already "there" in terms of recognising where the trail will lead. The Catholic Church, for example, has already been rocked for many years by the scandal of the abuse of children by clergy. In addressing that issue, the Church in England and Wales already has in place a regime that takes harsher action in response to a report of an allegation against clergy or employees than would be taken in comparable circumstances for other professionals working with children.

What I find interesting in Theresa May's article are the following words:
....I began to realise how abuse is woven, covertly, into the fabric of our society.
The inquiry into how institutions failed in this regard aims to undo the "weave" of the abuse that has occurred, and to lead to institutions and individuals being held to account. But, after having undone that "weave", is there not a work to be done with regard to the remaining "fabric"?  Institutions and society are not co-terminous, and so, if Theresa May is right in what she says, there is a need for a searching look at the fabric of society, too, to see whether or not there are aspects of the fabric that allow abuse to be woven through it. And that is inescapably a question about what constitutes the shared morality of our society.

Pope Benedict XVI recognised this need for a renewal to accompany action on abuse of children in his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, where n.14 gives outlines of a programme of renewal in the Church in Ireland that were to go alongside the expectation of decisive action by ecclesiastical authorities. And, speaking in Westminster Hall in 2010, he indicated the part that religion can play "to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles".

Whilst Theresa May's words are horrifying in their implications about the extent of abuse, do they not also have a "give away" character to them in asking a challenging question of our society that she might not have intended?

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