Letters: Child abuse and the Church

This time the Church must act over child abuse
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Sinead O'Connor's anger at the emotional mutilation of children at the hands of Roman Catholic priests in Ireland is more than understandable (letter, 11 December). By covering up such abuse the church authorities have played accessory to it, and definitive action rather than words is now what is desperately needed.

In the face of lives which have been so horribly damaged, and with the need for so much healing, the customary reptilian reactions of the church are really not good enough.

Daniel Emlyn-Jones


Bravo, Sinead O'Connor – but don't hold your breath if you are hoping for change in the Church any time soon. The openness and accountability she is demanding of the Roman Catholic Church was largely envisaged by its own reforms of the Second Vatican Council. This agenda has been systematically strangulated by traditionalist Vatican officialdom over the past three decades, under the direction of the present and previous Pope.

It is laughable that the response of the present Pope to the clerical abuse of power should be talk of "reorganisation". It was as head of the "reorganised" Roman Inquistion (renamed the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith) that the Pope in his previous role vigorously countered any threat to the clerical status quo, with an attendant policy of concealment of clerical abuse. This issue is not just one of "reorganisation" but of fundamental values and theological disposition.

Change will now only come to the Church when ordinary parishoners stop behaving like intimidated sheep and demand – through confrontation - real acountability (as distinct from blarney and blather) from their "pastors".

Dominic Kirkham


You report that the Pope "feels shame over Irish child abuse report" (12 December). As well as he might, but the matter cannot be allowed to rest there. Child abuse is a crime and those accused of it deserve to be brought to justice and put behind bars if guilty .

Nor is this just a matter of bringing the abusers themselves to court but also those who knew about and covered up for their crimes. They have obstructed the course of justice and should face the consequences.

Profesoor P P Anthony


Blair's case for regime change

In view of Tony Blair's recent claims for the justification for regime change in Iraq, a number of points arise:

Perhaps he could explain the limits of his principle (if that is the right word) and why it applies to Iraq but not, for example, to Zimbabwe. Second, it may be desirable to consider whether a person with such views is suitable to undertake his Middle East role. Finally, it would be useful, in advance of the election next year, to understand how many of his cabinet colleagues share these views.

Peter Bloxham

London WC2

Hans Blix is right to conclude that Mr Blair's statement had a "strong impression of a lack of sincerity" (report, 14 December). The entire campaign against Saddam was based on the assumption that he possessed WMD, which turned out to be baseless. Regime change is illegal under international law.

Within the context of the international community establishing the legitimacy of the war, it is of great importance now for the Chilcot inquiry to determine whether the campaign was based on a lie; if yes, the culprits need prosecuting. Even six years after the invasion, it is still important to put matters into their rightful perspective if anything is to be learned from the war.

Dr Kailash Chand


I was surprised that Richard Ingrams (5 December) described Tony Blair's meeting with six experts on Iraq in November 2002, as "this hitherto unreported seminar". The meeting was covered in The Independent on Sunday on 17 October, 2004 over two pages with an accompanying editorial.

As reported in the IoS, I, along with the five other academics present, warned Blair in detail about the huge mess he was just about to dump both Britain and Iraq into. The seminar that Lawrence Freedman did indeed organise left the Prime Minister in no doubt that the experts present thought the invasion would have far-reaching negative consequences.

Dr Toby Dodge

Queen Mary, University of London

Tony Blair and his ministers have little to fear from the Chilcot inquiry. But justice will come eventually for those responsible for the war. Bush and Blair have left in Iraq a legacy that will live for generations.

The war has impacted on every Iraqi family; the lucky ones, who escaped death or maiming and are still living in their homes, lack adequate jobs, water, electricity, education and medical services. Millions are in external exile. Today they have little interest in hearings thousands of miles away as they struggle simply to live.

But once Iraq's economy has recovered it will have time to seek justice for the crimes committed against it. In the future, as China, India and Brazil rise to super-power status, the influence of America and Britain will diminish, and they will be forced by realpolitik to help bring the living plotters who were responsible for the war to justice.

The men and women responsible for the Iraq war will in time find themselves in the dock, when the US and the UK – like Serbia and Croatia today – have no longer the power to protect their war criminals from justice.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

Andrew Grice (28 November) writes that the second UN resolution "was vetoed by France and Russia". That was the spin put on it at the time. In fact there was not even a simple majority on the Security Council for a resolution backing war; therefore vetoes were irrelevant.

B Emmerson

SELBY, North Yorkshire

Reading the accounts of the Iraq inquiry, one longs for someone simply to say that premeditated war is wrong; that a democracy, if it is true to its principles, goes to war when it or its allies or its friends have been attacked; that to do so otherwise makes us no better than that thugs in this world we say we abhor.

Daniel parsons

Ackergill, Highland

Hunted down by TV Licensing

Pauline Gilligan of TV Licensing (Letters, 4 December) is living in a different world from her non-customers. Her assertion that "we never presume guilt" is laughable.

After much correspondence and telephoning in 2000, ending with a strongly worded letter from me to TV Licensing, I managed to persuade that organisation that I do not have a television. In February 2008 I received the first of a new batch of correspondence, which started with a headline "Important: Please respond to this letter by 26 February to avoid your details being passed on to our Enforcement Division for investigation".

No polite enquiry whether I still had no television; no free return envelope to confirm that I did not. I did not spend my own money to reply to this rude letter.

Over the following nine months, a further seven missives arrived, of increasing aggressiveness. Finally the last of these actually included a reply-paid envelope with a relatively polite request to confirm whether I still had no television. My reply to this resulted in a confirmation letter, since when all has been quiet. Innocent people should be treated much more courteously by this organisation.

John Miller

Chippenham, Wiltshire

Respect for young black Londoners

It is disturbing that all "young male black Londoners" are considered by some to be completely immersed in a lurid, trashy and self-serving "ghetto culture", when in fact the vast majority are decent and hardworking.

Were Michael Gordon's fictitious "immigrant" (letter, 10 December), cited in support of Rod Liddle's remarks about street crime , to visit the meaner streets of, say, Glasgow, he could well encounter gang-related crime, but would be hard-pushed to spot a black face. He might then conclude that the problems that beset this society are far more to do with poverty and inequality than with race.

I have taught in multicultural London schools for over a decade. Mr Gordon's description of young black males chimes in no way with my experience of them, which has been overwhelmingly positive (as with students from any ethnic background). My respect for them is down to their hard work and their pride in achievement, and nothing at all to do with fear.

Philip Foyle

Wallington, Surrey

It is true that Rod Liddle may not be a racist, but by making the sweeping statements and over-generalisations that he has in his article, he is feeding the ignorance of those who are.

Penny Joseph

Shoreham-by-sea, West Sussex

Goggles won't put a name to a face

Your article on Google Goggles (14 December) claimed that people could "take a photograph . . . and Google's new technology will put a name and biography to the face", which is factually inaccurate. Google Goggles is a new technology that can help people identify landmarks, works of art, consumer products, and logos. It does not search for faces, and it cannot be used to identify people in any way.

When designing the Goggles application, we explicitly chose not to include any kind of facial recognition technology because we do not believe there is a useful application for such technology to our users today. We will continue to keep our users' privacy in mind when developing our products and currently have no plans to incorporate facial recognition technology into Goggles or other similar products.

We want to have an open discussion about the transparency and user-choice questions that arise from the use of facial recognition. Unfortunately, misleading claims in the press make that process more difficult.

Hugo Barra

Director of Product Management, Google, London SW1

Test your stress

In your Business section of 12 December, James Moore mentioned the Financial Services Authority's proposal for "fresh curbs on banks, including 'capital buffers' to protect against recession and a tough 'stress-testing regime' to ensure they cope with another downturn". Can I propose similar curbs on future UK governments, so we never again accumulate in just a few short years a national debt that will to take a whole generation of taxpayers to pay off?

Michael Brice


Women in football

Hope Powell to manage a men's team? Absolutely (report, 11 December). But let's not get carried away by what the FA has done for girls' and women's football. Most girls' FA Centres of Excellence are run on a shoestring; most women Premier League players either get no income from the game or a meagre income; conditions at the grassroots level are often poor – poor pitches, inadequate changing facilities. The solution? A 1 per cent levy on all Premier League transfers to go directly to the grassroots.

John Bird


Cooking in a box

David Buckton has forgotten that cooking a chicken with body heat alone would also require his and his partner's bodies to be heated to cooking temperature ("Body Heat", 8 December). However, he touches upon an old technique which could save energy, namely hay-box cookery. During the Second World War, uncooked food would be heated to boiling in the morning and then placed in an insulating box of hay. On returning from work it would be cooked and piping hot. I used the technique, utilising wide-necked Thermos flasks, during the power cuts of the 1970s.

Michael K Baldwin

Sittingbourne, Kent

Dangerous spoons

Janet Hyde writes (letters, 12 December) about her spoons being confiscated at Heathrow. I regularly fly to Israel and, although Israel is more exposed to terrorism than Britain, the security at Ben Gurion airport is much less "in your face". There are no restrictions on liquids, one does not have to remove shoes and the whole process is quicker. I think it is because Israeli security uses personal profiling and would consider it unlikely that an elderly Englishwoman would pose a threat, so would not treat her spoons as potential WMDs.

John Naylor

Ashford, Middlesex

You ought to introduce the lady who lost her spoons to a youth I met at a football match a few years ago. On my way into QPR's ground I was frisked, and my Swiss Army knife taken away in exchange for a numbered ticket. When I went to collect it after the game there was a short queue. The lad in front of me handed in his ticket and was given back a truly lethal item: a tinned steamed pudding.

Alan Wilkinson