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Go to: Fr Kit Cunningham's paedophile past: heads should roll after the Rosminian order's disgraceful cover-up

JonathanWest's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by JonathanWest

Comment 2 by Richard Dawkins :

The remarkable thing about this article is that the author, Damian Thompson, is known as a militant Catholic apologist, and used to be Editor of the Catholic Herald.

The thing about Cunningham is that he knew everybody who was anybody in London Catholic circles, including most of the Catholic journalists on the national papers - Damian Thmpson included.

Until now, they have tried to explain away the problem - it was a few rotten apples, it was how some seminary has trained its priests, it's all the fault of the sexual liberation of the 1960s, its the homosexuals, it is celibacy.

And last of all, it happens somewhere else to other people's children.

But with Cunningham, for all these prominent people, suddenly it has all hit rather close to home. He married these people, he baptised their children. He was educated and ordained before the evil 1960s, he was heterosexual, and probably not celibate (he had a very close relationship with his housekeeper), so none of the traditional excuses work with him.

And that is making them feel profoundly uncomfortable. It might just possibly be a turning point, where the catholic church, in the UK at least, finally gets beyond fine words about child protection and starts getting serious about making sure it is implemented. I hope so.

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 16:18:29 UTC | #641749

Go to: Religious discrimination?

JonathanWest's Avatar Jump to comment 78 by JonathanWest

Could it be reasonably and humanely argued that it is simply cost-effective to select for further examination those people who (though usually innocent like most people selected for screening) are statistically more likely to be terrorists on the basis of the god they pray to?

In short, no.

For a longer explanation as to why, take look at Ben Goldacre's Datamining for terrorists would be lovely if it worked

Fri, 27 May 2011 12:23:58 UTC | #631500

Go to: Can you share your struggle with religious family members?

JonathanWest's Avatar Jump to comment 65 by JonathanWest


I wholly sympathise with your position. You're entirely justified in delaying your explanation of your atheism to your mother until you are through college and financially independent. She is buying control over what you say. She can't buy control over what you think.

You owe it to youself to tell her the truth about your lack of religious belief - eventually. But here is a distinction between honesty and foolhardiness. Telling her after the end of college will be honest. Telling her now would be foolhardy.

Tue, 17 May 2011 12:14:48 UTC | #627460

Go to: Can you share your struggle with religious family members?

JonathanWest's Avatar Jump to comment 63 by JonathanWest

MTMORIAH, you have heard some good ideas from the others. Perhaps more important than any of the individual ideas is the sense I hope you will get from them that you aren't alone. others have trod your path before you - or at least if not exactly the same path, then one very similar.

Now, I do have some criticism of some of the other comments, I think that a few comments are unnecessarily disparaging of your family. From your description, your family aren't bad people. They are doing their best for you according to their own understanding of what is best. The problem arises primarily out of the fact that your understanding of what is best for you has diverged from theirs, and they are finding it impossible to understand how they might be wrong.

The fact that they keep on about how they are concerned you are going to hell is an indication that they do still care about you, that they aren't simply giving up on you. You may find that the way in which they express this care is very irksome at the moment, but try to see past that.

Now, there is another very important thing that you are losing by embarking on your journey, and which your family still have. I think you will in the end gain far more as a result, but it is worth bringing this loss out into the open so that you can clearly understand what you are losing and why. This loss is of an uncomplicated moral approach to life, where the rules are all simple and all provided for you, and you don't have to think hard about how to apply the rules to individual situations. I'm not saying that this is a better approach to life, but it is easier, and you have chosen a harder (but I think ultimately rewarding) path, where you no longer accept that the ready-made rules are always applicable, and you have to seek more deeply for the truth, and work out your morals more from first principles.

Now, as to relationships with your family, I think it might be an idea to set some ground-rules for when you visit them. It would be good if you could get them to accept that it hurtful to you for them to be always going on about the dangers of hell and trying to re-convert you, and therefore that religious discussion is going to do nothing but alienate you further. In return, you can perhaps agree that on your visits home you won't criticise their religion or poke philosophical holes in it. They are of course free to continue to attend church whenever you visit, but in turn you are free not to go along with them.

In other words, you agree to set aside the irreconcilable differences, so that you can continue to enjoy being a family when you visit home.

Now, they may or may not be prepared to agree to these conditions. They may agree to them but keep bringing religion into the conversation in ways they promised not to. If this happens, then you don't make a big scene about it, you quietly but firmly point out that they agreed not to talk about that, and ask if the subject can be changed. If they persist, you can point out that breaking promises is unchristian behaviour.

On the other hand, they may not be prepared to accept these conditions. In that case, you may regretfully have to ration your visits home to whatever duration and frequency you find tolerable.

Sun, 15 May 2011 18:11:54 UTC | #627116

Go to: Meeting with the Head of school

JonathanWest's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by JonathanWest

Don't worry about the fact that you aren't changing the whole world. Few of us have the opportunity to do that. But we can each strive to make an improvement to our own local corner of it, and those small local changes do add up over time.

I suggest that you start out by making it clear that you and the head are on the same side, in that you both want the best possible education for the children at the school, including your daughter, and that you thoroughly approve of RE being part of the curriculum. That will reduce the degree of confrontation that might otherwise creep into the meeting.

The next thing I would suggest is that you next proceed by ascertaining facts. Ask the head roughly how much time is spent on RE, whether this is above or below the average for the borough or for Wales as a whole. And if (as it probably is) it is higher, by how much. And ask him if there are any particular aspects of the RE curriculum as taught at the school which he feels are particularly unique and beneficial. In essence, you are inviting him to run on and state his position to what hopefully by then he will be thinking of as a sympathetic audience. By now he will have convinced himself that you aren't trying to get him to change anything, but rather that you are merely seeking reassurance that all is well.

Then there is a key question, and the trick is to put this in the most neutral possible form of words. "What is the purpose of teaching this unusually large amount of RE in the school?"

The reason for making this question as open and neutral as possible is that you want to encourage him to come out with whatever his real reason is. If he indicates that he thinks people being strongly religious is good for society, or some such form of words, you can follow up by asking (again in the most mild and neutral possible way) "So would you regard your policy as a success if more of the children went to church on Sundays?"

If he answers in the affirmative, then you can again mildly but firmly state something to the effect of "I'm not sure that being a recruiting sergeant for the local churches is a valid purpose for a state school. Have you had any advice from the local authority regarding that curriculum objective? Have the governors been consulted about this?"

More generally, you can ask whether this amount of RE is the most effective use of so much teaching time, and ask when the curriculum was last reviewed to see whether the correct balance had been achieved. You can ask him to provide the relevant documentation to you.

This will not change very much, at least initially. What it will do is put the head on notice that he is being watched. If you are going to make any significant difference, then you are going to have to put effort into it in the longer term, by mobilising other parents, and perhaps by volunteering to be a parent governor.

One thing many parents worry about is whether by making a noise they will provoke the head or the teachers to treat their children worse in the school. You really have little or nothing to worry about on this score.

First, the simple fact is that it is the educated pushy middle-class parents who know how to agitate for the best for their children and they get it. It is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so if you make enough noise for long enough, they will start to take account of your requests if only to shut you up.

Second, in the extremely unlikely event that they do retaliate against your daughter, you will be able to make a complaint about serious professional misconduct on the part of the head. That could easily cost him his job. It is extremely hard to sack a teacher, but this is one of the few grounds on which it can be done.

Sat, 30 Apr 2011 15:23:22 UTC | #621083

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