Letter: `Paedophile art'

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I DON'T think Margaret Kennedy's article (29 April) was an "intemperate outburst", as Eamon Duffy makes out. Indeed his and Ian Hurdley's letters on the subject of the Eric Gill Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral (30 April) betray in a classic way how those who have not suffered put down those who have. To victims it seems that the church so often sides with the offender. Art, gifts and wealth are what appear to count more than the cry for help.

Of course we all have our dark sides, artists sometimes more than others, and art may be a redemptive activity. However, if this is so with Gill and his work is to be retained, then both aspects need to be made plain, and the sufferings of people like Margaret Kennedy must be taken into account. The church (of any denomination) so often neglects to do this, substituting the necessary vision with a glib triumphalism. Gill the artist is remembered; Gill the sinner, even the redeemed and forgiven sinner, is forgotten, and with him those he damaged.

One reason is that art historians and critics like to think that art is all-important and any disparagement is philistine. Another is one-upmanship by the church. Gill was a convert to Catholicism; therefore he has to be an adornment. It is difficult to admit that those who swallow your medicine remain flawed. (Again, all churches are the same.)

When Gill worked, we knew much less about paedophilia. Now we have the knowledge, the way in which his work is displayed needs to be reassessed. "Great art transcends the limitations of the human beings who make it." Maybe, but what about the viewers? For whose sake is it displayed?


Stainton, Middlesbrough