I have just read an insightful piece by Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian concerning the rolling crisis over paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. She traces the way each denial and defence has collapsed: it is a few bad apples; it is an Anglo-Irish problem; it is no worse than in society in general. Instead, it is systemic in the church and far worse than in society outside the church. In the end she argues that the priesthood, bolstered, defended and centralised in Rome, is a fundamental problem, and that for two reasons: a) it is assumed that a man changes ‘through the grace of God’ when he becomes a priest and can resist his usual sexual urges; b) he becomes a figure of enormous authority and trust for the faithful and even the not-so-faithful. In other words, what has bred and fostered a culture of paedophilia is a system of unchecked authority and deference. I would add a third: the need for the show to stay on the road. Those of a Reformed background call this ‘churchiolotry’, embodied in the RC doctrine of ‘no salvation outside the church’ (and indeed in Radox’s argument that ‘true’ theology comes only from the church). But I have found it in any and every church. Talk to someone whose identity is determined by the church, who has committed his or her life to the church, and you will find that the church is the prime object of faith and devotion. Once that happens you begin to hide its mistakes and injustices and enhance its status in the world. That is precisely what seems to have happened on the matter of paedophilia. If a church, any church, can achieve global dominance then it is worth any cost.

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