What a contrast. After 16 children are found to have been abused in Birmingham in recent years, half of them from care homes, 6 social workers are sacked for falling so far short of acceptable standards of care management. On the same day a Roman Catholic cardinal insists that priests who have abused children, but admitted the fact in the privacy of the confessional, are protected by sacramental absolution from being identified and made to face the consequences of their offences.
There can be no recovery of confidence in the Catholic Church until there is complete opennness about the magnitude of this wrongdoing leading to both an individual and communal church expression of profound remorse and plea for forgiveness. Significantly Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for just such a catharsis in Germany.
But in Britain – a country still characterised by the instinctive secrecy of its Establishment – the natural reaction is to close ranks to protect its own. Witness the response of the political class to the expenses scandal, of MI5 to overwhelming evidence of its collusion in torture, of the civil service in the face of every administrative debacle, and of the banks to every revelation of their unprincipled greed and selfishness. All societies and institutions need constant renewal: there has rarely been a greater need for it than in the demoralised, directionless, inward-turning and iconoclastic state of Britain today.