i Editor's Letter: The ultimate taboo


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The Independent Online


Who was surprised Cardinal O'Brien quit? Sad, perhaps, but surprised? It was always confusing growing up Catholic, marrying daily indoctrination and the Sunday guilt-fest with the behaviour of adults: from "normal" (as sinful as non-Catholics), to bizarre and dodgy. That applied to priests and teachers (often the same person) as much as the duplicitous, cussing, drunk, philandering fellow believers.

For 14 increasingly disheartening years; through daily chapel, altar-boy humiliation and endless threatening sermons from an irascible canon, the hypocrisy was stifling. When the fear got too much, there was confession to make things better. But I knew, as we all did, that there were some in positions of responsibility for whom the confession box should have been just the start.

Sex was always the ultimate taboo; an unspoken, dark cloud that hung over our priests. Even then, it made no sense that they could neither marry nor build the type of family life they eulogised in the classroom and from the pulpit. None of this is to ever excuse any "inappropriate behaviour" of course. It's that bewildering, debilitating "weirdness" about sex that is the Church's cancer, an inevitable consequence of its refusal to let priests be "normal", and engage in sexual and marital relations. That, plus its attitude to extra-marital sex.

Like Jeremy Paxman and Nick Clegg, "we all heard the rumours". There was precious little we could do about it until we were adults. Then we all voted with our feet, the many thousands of us who will never inflict this same hypocrisy on our own children.