TELEVISION REVIEW

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The Independent Culture
A therapist has studied sexual behaviour in the Catholic church for 30 years. What with the vow of celibacy, and pledging faith to a mother figure who also had to go without, you'd have thought that the topic could be mastered in 30 minutes. But no, Everyman needed 50 minutes to explain the anomaly. The Vatican, a worm that was never too nimble at turning, will probably take 50 years to rectify the problems it reported.

Sins of the Fathers (BBC1) estimated that out of 50,000 active Catholic priests in America, about half are also sexually active. And of those, a petrifying 3,000 are getting their frocks off, not with men or women, but with children, and getting away with it by threatening their victims with hell's wrath if they blow the whistle.

History teaches that Catholicism overcomes its public-relations disasters, but this, it was claimed, was the worst crisis since the fourth century. One tends to think that the Reformation drove the Vatican slightly further up shit's creek without a paddle, but that is not to belittle the seriousness of a late 20th-century disease from whose contagion the Church might have assumed itself immune. The sight of an adult recalling the moment of invasion, blinking in disbelief, stumbling over the words that tell of the deed, is a stock sequence of modern documentaries. However commonplace, it doesn't lose its power to appal, and takes on a fresh cargo of horror when the clothes under which the child is required to fumble are the robes of their father confessor.

There are few signs that the Church is seeking a cure, or even admitting its own sickness. Priests who warned of the problem 10 years ago were themselves accused of self-serving motives, and were denied advancement. Only the sheer volume of abuse, when accusations can no longer be counted as isolated, seem to land a culprit in the dock. One perpetrator was convicted on 46 separate charges of child molestation, when 45 fewer should have been enough to secure the same result. But another known-to-be was tossed from diocese to diocese like a hot potato.

With the arrogance that can only come from being the most popular faith on the planet, the Church offered a female victim no apology but a lot of money, in the misguided hope that it would both heal the scar and, more importantly, keep her quiet. There was one victim who agreed to be filmed but wouldn't talk, and no doubt others preferred to avoid even silent participation: opening mouths opens wounds. The participants retelling their stories were a disturbing reminder that the Christian faith would be nowhere without witnesses who testified to the unbelievable.

The programme's narrator was Tom Wilkinson, a cheeky and triply-suitable choice, as in Priest he played a priest who has a loving relationship with a woman, his Pecksniff was a fumbling sexual hypocrite and in Resnick he played a strictly moral policeman.

If only Catholicism's charlatans were as vulnerable to exposure as the small-time healers and fakirs broken like flies upon a wheel by Gurubusters (C4). A small band of itinerant rationalists are struggling to prove to a superstitious India that the holy men to whom they give credence and money are merely accomplished illusionists and tricksters. Some are just low-rent magicians who trawl poor doctorless villages for custom; others have national influence and political clout. But a guru's prominence is little more than a measure of his sleight of hand.

The rationalists busted in on one fake fakir and proved that anyone can throw fireballs at a sick woman cowering under a cloth, at which the object of their accusations got very hot under the collar. Let's hope Everyman gets similar results under Rome's dog collar.

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