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What was that about his Catholicism again?

William Oddie, the Catholic writer for the Catholic Herald who writes about Catholic concerns, is very irate. It seems a popular celebrity recently died, and the newspapers were fulsome in their obituaries, praising his charitable works and his lifelong generosity, but almost none of them mentioned that he was a devout Catholic who attended Mass several times a week, and that he even had a papal knighthood.

But why not mention that an important part of his life was attending daily Mass? There’s a deep dedication in the life of a man who gives away 90 per cent of everything he earns and so tirelessly does all the other things he did. You’d think that an obituarist would want to ask a simple question: where did all that come from? It’s almost as though they couldn’t bear to accept that the answer was his Catholicism: even that Catholicism itself could ever be the source of actual human goodness.

There must be an anti-Catholic conspiracy in the media!

Unfortunately, the celebrity was Jimmy Savile, the fellow who was revealed to have been raping children for decades, “one of the most prolific sex offenders” in Britain.

I have to ask a simple question: where did all that come from? It’s almost as though Oddie couldn’t bear to accept that the answer was his Catholicism: even that Catholicism itself could ever be the source of actual human evil.

And say, doesn’t the careful omission of his religious background therefore represent a pro-Catholic bias in the media?

Comments

  1. fantysq (a Radical Feminist and a Militant Atheist) says

    Well, that article IS from 2011. Right now Catholics probably wouldn’t want Jimmy Savile anywhere near their religion.

  2. Beatrice says

    So… the media doesn’t make the obvious step of connecting Savile’s crimes with his religion, basically doing Catholicism a favour, and yet this fool is complaining?
    *facepalm*

  3. Beatrice says

    Oh, that’s an article from 2011. Ignore my previous comment.
    *looks sternly at PZ*
    Date, man. Check the date. /no, I couldn’t have checked the date on the article myself before commenting, because… Because.

  4. lesliegriffiths says

    He’s taken an absolute posthumous pasting in the UK and triggered a widespread investigation into sexual abuse amongst celebrities. It may be worth emailing Mr Oddie asking for his opinion now.

    But I think there is a valid point here. He did a lot of work for charity – and Catholics want to claim that was down to his Catholicism – but he also sexually abused hundreds (Yes HUNDREDS) of young men and woman – but apparently, though, that can’t be put down to his Catholicism.

  5. Pteryxx says

    from heliobates’ link at #2:

    When Jimmy Savile died, I reproached his obituarists for their cover-up of his faith. Now I have to ask: what was he thinking of during daily Mass?

    Was he simply torn between good and evil? Or was it worse: did he do good so that evil might come of it?

    By William Oddie on Monday, 15 October 2012

    Seconding Beatrice: PZ, check the dates.

    Not that Oddie manages to get much further in the follow-up:

    I remain confused about all this. Which was it: was he simply and damnably an evil man, who did good in order that the opportunity for evil might come from it? I pray that that was not the source of all the undoubted good he really did do; I really hope that he was a man torn between good and evil whose faith in the end brought him true penitence. I note that most of the cases now emerging date back to the 70s and earlier: does that mean that towards the end of his life he had changed his behaviour? I simply don’t know. Does anyone?

    *sigh* Oddie needs to 1) read and 2) read for comprehension.

    • The allegations span 54 years. The earliest reported incident was in 1955 in Manchester. The last took place in 2009.

    source

  6. Ogvorbis says

    If his altruism and charity is directly the result of the Catholic Church, then wouldn’t all Catholics be just as giving? And how does one explain Buddhists, or Baptists, or Jews, or Unitarians, or atheists who are altruistic and charitable? Are they just really Catholics and just don’t know it?

    (and my mind just went to “You’re a Catholic the moment Dad came!” (all hail Monty Python!))

  7. says

    I do not know what all this fuss is about, when I was 7 Jim fixed it for me to milk a cow whilst blindfolded and apart from getting covered in cream I had a great time.

  8. revjimbob says

    robjudge
    Someone mailed that story into a radio discussion on Savile and it got read out live on air as a bona-fide comment. The radio station issued an apology.

  9. Ogvorbis says

    I really hope that he was a man torn between good and evil whose faith in the end brought him true penitence.

    I am sick of this shit.

    Penitence? You ask if the man was penitent?

    Doesn’t penance and forgiveness come through confession, good works, and an act of faith (take thee Hail Mary’s and don’t do it again!)? For Savile to have been truly penitent, wouldn’t he have had to confess to the hundreds of rapes, each and every one? So, Oddie, are you telling us that he told his confessor about every rape and the confessor did not find some way to warn the authorities? or warn the organizations that there may be a problem? Fuck the sanctity of the confessional. How about the sanctity of humanity?

    Additionally, if, as Oddie hopes, he was penitent, is he up in heaven laughing it up with the Trinity and the Heavenly Host while his victims are in their own personal hell here on earth (the only one of those two that actually, y’know, exists?)? Why would Oddie hope that this man gained penance and salvation? To reward him for his crimes?

    ‘Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.’ Seen that on bumper stickers. Had Christians toss that up on my old blog. Did Savile ask any of his victims to forgive him? Did he ask any of his victims to absolve him of his sins? What a fucking racket. Rape children and god forgives you. Don’t go to church, or go to the wrong church, you’re in hell forever.

    And people wonder why I am not only an atheist, but an anti-religion atheist.

  10. says

    I know, it was hilarious. Trying to blame a mans evil on a particular religion is stupid as there are evil men of all faiths and persuasions, blaming the Catholic church for creating an environment in which such evil men can hide is right and just.

  11. Nepenthe says

    And that, friends, is what we call an own goal.

    I can’t decide whether the date on the piece makes it more or less poignant.

  12. says

    I don’t understand the fuss about the date: Oddie’s hardly likely to say nice things *after* it came out. What happened is that the article sets up a testable hypothesis: that Savile’s morality was shaped by his religion.

    OK. He’s a vile pedophile. So … is there anything to suggest that Catholicism appealed to him because of that? Doctrines of redemption and forgiveness: check; the fact his religion *for the whole of Savile’s long life* forgave pedophiles: check. Savile was knighted by the last Pope. Do you think he saw that as a sign God approved or disapproved?

    And many who abuse children were themselves abused as children. We’ll never know, but isn’t it entirely possible Savile became a pedophile because he was abused by his priest? That it’s not some abstract theological point, but absolutely straightforward joining of dots. That the church is directly responsible and *without it, he wouldn’t have been a pedophile*. Yes, it is possible. Luckily, the Church has launched a full investigation into how it might have been complicit in Savile’s crimes and … wait, no, no it hasn’t done a single thing.

    Oddie is the one saying Savile’s religion shaped him. His Catholicism clearly didn’t stop Savile, it didn’t give him the strength to control himself. It’s clear that all that hanging around hospitals was *to* get access to kids (and corpses, a pretty common rumor runs), not out of some charitable urge to balance out his evil.

    So the question is, ‘did Savile’s Catholicism’ *enable* his pedophile? Or, to only slightly rephrase: ‘Does the Catholic Church enable pedophiles?’ Well, to coin a phrase, is the Pope Catholic?

    If you think the world’s biased against Catholics, tot up the number of dawn police raids on BBC staff who knew Savile and the number of raids on his religious pals.

  13. says

    Don’t you think it’s the nature of religion that it hides and encourages sins? Anytime you have a system built on allegedly divine fiat instead of truth you are inviting abuse. The list of religious who got “permission from God” to sexually assault is long, and the Bible doesn’t even think it’s an issue unless it’s a married woman or a virgin girl.

  14. says

    Surely any faith system that allows one to commit any atrocity as long as you apologise afterwards is inherently evil to start with.

  15. Ogvorbis says

    Surely any faith system that allows one to commit any atrocity as long as you apologise afterwards is inherently evil to start with.

    But to be forgiven, he would have had to confess his sins.

    So either he thought he was above the rules of the RCC, or the RCC willingly aided and abetted a serial child rapist. Which do you think more likely?

  16. Beatrice says

    Ogvorbis,

    So either he thought he was above the rules of the RCC, or the RCC willingly aided and abetted a serial child rapist. Which do you think more likely?

    That’s a tough one.

  17. says

    Yeah, it’s the “No True Christian Scotsman” again:
    Do good: result of Christianity
    Do evil: human failure.
    I’m under the impression that god fixed his own deck with an indefinete supply of “get out of jail free” cards.

  18. says

    well if we accept that the catholic church is evil from the outset then what more is there to say other than to accept it and work towards it’s elimination so that the world can progress

  19. says

    Ogvorbis
    So either he thought he was above the rules of the RCC, or the RCC willingly aided and abetted a serial child rapist. Which do you think more likely?

    Think I’m gonna go with option 2, as the RCC has a known history of aiding and abetting serial child rapists.

  20. Nepenthe says

    @Ogvorbis

    I was under the impression that the priest hearing confession is obligated to keep mum about whatever horrors his parishoners reveal to him in the booth. If this is true, then it’s perfectly possible that he did confess.

  21. Ogvorbis says

    Nepenthe:

    A confessional is considered sacrosanct. However, priests do have ways of letting important information get to people who can use it without violating the confessional trust. There are always ways.

  22. slowdjinn says

    Ogvorbis:

    So, Oddie, are you telling us that he told his confessor about every rape and the confessor did not find some way to warn the authorities? or warn the organizations that there may be a problem? Fuck the sanctity of the confessional. How about the sanctity of humanity?

    QFT – any religion that prefers a penitent evil-doer to a righteous infidel is (IMO) evil by definition.

    Oddie

    Which was it: was he simply and damnably an evil man, who did good in order that the opportunity for evil might come from it?

    Looks like it. He allegedly threatened to withdraw his ‘charitable’ support from the hospitals for which he raised funds in order to avoid being investigated.

  23. Gregory Greenwood says

    From heliobate’s link @ 2;

    What was going through his mind as he sat there, having slipped quietly into the back of Leeds cathedral, during those daily Masses? Was he praying for strength to resist his sexual compulsion? What did he tell his confessor? A psychologist, asked this question in one of the endless series of radio discussions about this horrible story last week, replied “probably he told him nothing: these people have an almost endless capacity to convince themselves that they have done nothing wrong”.

    Even if Saville had told his ‘confessor’ the truth of his penchant for child rape (and there is no reason to assume he didn’t) then he would probably have been told to do a few Hail Mary’s and ‘pray for the strength to resist’ before receiving entirely empty and meaningless ‘absolution’ for his crimes. It is very doubtful that the priest in question would have done the only thing that might have actully helped and reported Saville to the police – ‘the sanctity of the confessional’ is a well worn excuse for any number of crimes of omission on the part of the church.

    I remain confused about all this. Which was it: was he simply and damnably an evil man, who did good in order that the opportunity for evil might come from it? I pray that that was not the source of all the undoubted good he really did do; I really hope that he was a man torn between good and evil whose faith in the end brought him true penitence. I note that most of the cases now emerging date back to the 70s and earlier: does that mean that towards the end of his life he had changed his behaviour? I simply don’t know. Does anyone?

    Catholicism offers a get out of fictional hell free card for child rape so long as you seek ‘penitence’ (or at least claim to), but if you don’t believe in their sociopathic god because there is no evidence, or if the victim of a rape aborts the pregnancy forced upon them against their will by their rapist, then they gleefully declare that you will go straight to eternal hellfire. That is the catholic ideal of allegedly divine ‘justice’ for you.

    I usually go on for much longer than this: this time, though, I am simply reduced to silence. Thank God we are told not to judge others lest we ourselves come under judgment for it. This time I have no confident conclusions, I have nothing to say: only questions.

    Judge not lest ye be judged? If you can’t tell that what Saville did was a long series of the most unambiguous acts of evil (there really is no wriggle room when it comes to several decades of raping children), then there is something very seriously wrong with your sense of ethics. I also notice that catholics are not shy when it comes to judging gay people as abominations to their mythical god, or decrying atheists as evil nazis-in-waiting, or declaring that women who have abortions are ‘child murderers’. It seems that the whole ‘judge not’ bit is not consistently applied, and only comes into play when catholic bigots want to excuse one of their own for doing something that even their atrophied sense of right and wrong knows cannot be white-washed.

    Which one of the sacraments covers gross hypocrisy and enabling paedophillia again?

  24. madknitter says

    I am beginning to think that “Catholic” is semantically equal to “Pedophile”.

  25. says

    I think a good bit of the problem is the fantasy that sincere-sounding prayers can actually cure pedophilia. If he did confess I’m sure he sounded like God was blessing him and that it would never happen again.

  26. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Anyone know if the so-called “sanctity of the confessional” applies after the death of the individual “penitent”? Even if not, are there any of Savile’s confessors with the moral courage to reveal whether he did confess any of his crimes to them?

    The comments to the article heliobates@2 links to are, as one might expect, vile.

    As for Oddie, he fails to note that the silence about Savile’s Catholicism was just as marked after his crimes became public knowledge as before – the only connection in which I’ve seen it mentioned is that he’d been awarded, along with many secular honours, a “Papal knighthood”. As Oddie says, quoting his own earlier article (he didn’t change the last word; I did):

    You’d think that an obituarist would want to ask a simple question: where did all that come from? It’s almost as though they couldn’t bear to accept that the answer was his Catholicism: even that Catholicism itself could ever be the source of actual human goodness evil

    Oddie also asks if the fact that the majority of reports of Savile’s sex crimes came from the 1970s and 1980s means he changed his behaviour toward the end of his life. In fact the last reported assault took place in 2006. No doubt Savile’s stamina had fallen from his “prime” by then, as he was 79; but there is no evidence whatever of any moral improvement, and he remained happy to use his wealth and influence to silence his victims.

  27. jacksprocket says

    “Even if Saville had told his ‘confessor’ the truth of his penchant for child rape (and there is no reason to assume he didn’t) then he would probably have been told to do a few Hail Mary’s and ‘pray for the strength to resist’”

    A decent priest (there are many such) would have refused absolution unless the sinner confessed his crime to the police. Though given the complicity of the justice system in this case, I doubt if it would have made much difference.

    But this focus on Savile is well off the point. He’s dead- all these revelations don’t hurt him. The big question is:

    Who is living who has the power to conceal his (or, I suppose, her) offences against humanity?

  28. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    But this focus on Savile is well off the point. He’s dead- all these revelations don’t hurt him. – jacksprocket

    It’s not off the point at all. First, being believed is likely to help many of his victims. Second, there were clearly serious institutional failings – which may amount in some cases to crimes, and in many to actionable negligence – in the Catholic Church, the BBC, a number of hospitals, a number of police forces, and the Crown Prosecution Service.

  29. anubisprime says

    The Catholic Church has refused to revoke his papal knighthood…
    His only crime was in getting caught posthumously…a situation the Catholic church empathises with and envies!

  30. teejaykay says

    I’d like to join the “check the dates” club, but strangely enough the whole shebang is even more shocking after reading the comments — #2 hit me even harder than the first link. I’m somewhat offended by Oddie’s apologist tone and… well, let’s just say it sounds like he’s trying to save face. Or religion, as it were.

    Dimwit as he is, by my reckoning. (Oops, word usually connected with religion. Smite me! Oh… wait…!)

  31. Gregory Greenwood says

    jacksprocket @ 34;

    A decent priest (there are many such) would have refused absolution unless the sinner confessed his crime to the police.

    ‘Many such’, and yet their church remains rotted with bigotry and corruption to its core. Maybe you are overestimating the moral calibre of those drawn to the priesthood. I would not be surprised in the least to find that Saville confessed all to a priest, and nothing further was done. He was a influential and popular man afterall, and the church has ever been prepared to apply different standards to the rich and powerful.

    Though given the complicity of the justice system in this case, I doubt if it would have made much difference.

    True enough – several complaints were made at various points, and yet none were actioned.

    But this focus on Savile is well off the point. He’s dead- all these revelations don’t hurt him.

    Destroying the myth of Saville the ‘man of charity’ is essential if his victims are to believed as Nick Gotts points out. Just look at the comments on that article – there are plenty of people out there eager to believe that all of the people who have come forward as Saville’s victims are actually liars trying to score compensation from the BBC. Or alternatively should have come forward before and didn’t because they – the victims – have something to hide or were somehow responsible for what happened to them, a position the catholic church has much sympathy for, given its attempts to blame the clerical child rape scandal on ‘seductive children’ in the past.

    Nick Gotts’ second point is if anything even more important – the sheer level of complaceny and failure, at so many levels of society, that allowed a predator like Saville to rape so many children over such a long period of time with effective impunity also cannot simply be ignored. Reform is desperately needed, or it is only a matter of time before another Saville comes along.

  32. Moggie says

    As far as the “seal of the confession” is concerned, as I understand it there are some offences where the priest has to pass it up the line, to his bishop or the Vatican. But I think these are mostly sins against the church. So, raping kids: no big deal, just repent. Desecrating the Eucharist: hoo boy, big trouble, forgiving that is above your priest’s pay grade. I suppose that means that PZ is worse than Jimmy Savile, in Catholic eyes.

  33. modeller says

    One thing overlooked here is that Saville may have been performing the charitable works in order to gain a degree of financial control over several organisations (including children’s’ hospitals. Allegations include abuse at 13 hospitals). With such control he was able to visit children’s’ wards whenever he wanted, to the extent that he could take children from the wards for periods of time. He even obtained a permanent room at Great Ormond Street hospital for this and had his own keys into Broadmoor Hospital (a mental hospital).

    In other words, he used charity to gain control of and access to the most vulnerable.

    Bit like the Catholic church.

  34. says

    Dates don’t matter here. What caught my interest was that Oddie, apparently before the revelations emerged, could tie Savile’s behavior to his Catholic morality. It amused me that his words had acquired a new meaning with the disclosure of his criminal activity.

  35. says

    Moggie:

    So, raping kids: no big deal, just repent. Desecrating the Eucharist: hoo boy, big trouble, forgiving that is above your priest’s pay grade.

    Oh, you don’t need to desecrate the host, all you have to do is touch the damn thing. This is why, when I was 8 years old, I spent a desperate night in tears over burning in hell forever, because I had been choking on Jesus that day in church and decided to shove my finger down my throat to dislodge it. That constituted a mortal sin. There’s no getting out of those, whereas rape is merely a venial sin, totally forgivable and all that.

  36. stevenbrown says

    @Caine, Fleur du mal +

    On the bright side at least you can’t make it any worse right? May as well go out and have fun since you’re already going to hell forever.

    And people can actually take that ‘moral’ system as something to live their lives by?

  37. rogerfirth says

    A confessional is considered sacrosanct. However, priests do have ways of letting important information get to people who can use it without violating the confessional trust. There are always ways.

    For grades 1 through 8 I went to the catholic school associated with my parents’ church. As a class, we went through all the rituals, confession being one of them.

    I always found it all to be a total waste of time, but I had to go through the motions. During countless “penance” masses where my entire class would go, we’d all approach the altar one by one to confess. For years I used the same old “I lied to my parents” bullshit line when it was my turn. One time I decided to mix it up and I confessed to killing our neighbor’s dog. (Our neighbors never had a dog.) The priest seemed a little upset when I told him that. But I kept a straight face and sat back down.

    When I got home from school that day my Mom told me the school called, they told her about the dog and demanded that she punish me. When I explained to her that there was no dog — I was tired of the stupid confessions and I was just messing with the priest, she grounded me.

    Confessional sacrosanct my ass.

  38. says

    Steven:

    On the bright side at least you can’t make it any worse right? May as well go out and have fun since you’re already going to hell forever.

    That happened when I was 8 years old. I’m now 55. I stopped believing in god a long time ago! :D At the time, I was caught in a terrible dilemma, because I had two choices: dislodge the host, go to hell. If I sat and quietly choked to death, that would be suicide, also a mortal sin, so go to hell. In the end, my decision was “the hell with all of it!”

    And people can actually take that ‘moral’ system as something to live their lives by?

    Millions of people do.

  39. crowepps says

    ” Thank God we are told not to judge others lest we ourselves come under judgment for it. ”

    As it turns out, it would have been very wise of him to remember this before writing his judgment that the media collectively were anti-Catholic bigots.

  40. Beatrice says

    I think that the sanctity of the confessional depends at least a little bit on the laws of the country.
    Our laws were recently amended, so that the priest can (according to secular law) or rather has (thanks to the canon law) to keep quiet about any past crimes (child abuse used to be excluded, but now they included it again *spits*) based on the sanctity of the confessional, but he is required report it if someone tells him they are planning to commit a crime.

  41. says

    Whoops – how embarrassing. That Savile blog post by Oddie now tops the list of today’s most popular stories on the Catholic Herald’s web site.

    BTW: the Savile scandal has completely falsified Oddie’s original whine. Despite being a Brit who used to watch Savile’s TV shows as a kid and reading a large number of articles about Savile over the previous few months, I still had no idea he was a practicing Catholic.

  42. johnlee says

    Even more irony here. Some mention has been made about the date the Mr. Oddie made his original article (November 7th 2010), and the date of his follow-up (15th October). I followed Heliobate’s link (see comment #2), made a mildly snarky comment about him being hoisted by his own petard, and almost immediately afterwards comments on the article were no longer allowed.
    Pure coincidence, of course.

  43. David Marjanović says

    If his altruism and charity is directly the result of the Catholic Church, then wouldn’t all Catholics be just as giving?

    Nuh-uh! Only those who go to Mass every day!

    Oh, you don’t need to desecrate the host, all you have to do is touch the damn thing. This is why, when I was 8 years old, I spent a desperate night in tears over burning in hell forever, because I had been choking on Jesus that day in church and decided to shove my finger down my throat to dislodge it. That constituted a mortal sin.

    Past tense. The 2nd Vatican Council changed that.

  44. anubisprime says

    tacitus @ 48

    I still had no idea he was a practicing Catholic.

    Hard core apparently!
    Not quite Opus Dei, but it has been suggested he was in cahoots with them at some level.
    And one does not receive a papal knighthood in Europe without Opus Dei having an opinion.

  45. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    And one does not receive a papal knighthood in Europe without Opus Dei having an opinion.

    Apparenly Upid Stay approved of him.