THERE have been further developments in the case of Archbishop
John Myers, whom the New York Times described last week as
the "one-stop shop" for people who dislike the Roman Catholic
The paper returned to the story of the Archbishop's retirement
home, where "the ongoing renovations . . . will expand the
4500-square-foot home to 7500 square feet, complete with six
bedrooms, five bathrooms, a three-car garage, two pools (one
outdoor, another small one indoors for exercise), a library, an
elevator and a gallery room. Myers is set to retire in 2016."
The real meat of the story came from the Newark Star
Ledger (isn't the internet wonderful?), which had a helpful
image from Google satellite maps of the house and its substantial
outdoor pool, and a lot of interviews with parishioners who are
voting with their wallets and refusing to subscribe to the annual
diocesan fund-raising campaign, for fear that some of their money
would go to fund the $500,000 expansion of the house.
It also quoted Fr John Bambrick, a priest in a neighbouring
diocese: "'The average priest lives in two rooms with a bathroom,
and the pope lives in a hotel room,' Bambrick said, a reference to
Pope Francis' decision to live in a guest house instead of the
papal palace. 'I don't understand why a 75-year-old man needs a
7500-square-foot mansion with two swimming pools.'
"Parishioners, Bambrick said, are now faced with a dilemma. By
refusing to donate they are most certainly sending a message. But
they're also depriving the neediest residents of care.
"'It does hurt the poor,' Bambrick said. 'As priests, that's the
hardest thing for us. It doesn't hurt the archbishop. There's no
way to hold him accountable. But the poor are held accountable for
his bad decisions.'"
It is a really tricky dilemma. The only way out that I can see
is to negotiate a house swap with the diocese of Bath &
The Archbishop's hapless spokesman, by the way, is called Jim
THAT is a lovely story because it is so clear. No one is going
to waste any sympathy on the Archbishop, although it does make
plain what a monumental struggle Pope Francis faces if he is to
reform his Church.
More complicated, or at least more interesting, was Boris
Johnson's suggestion in the Telegraph that the children of
radical Muslim parents be taken into care to stop them from going
the same way. The point is that Johnson here is converging on the
Richard Dawkins position: "The most important question now is how
we prevent other young men, and women, from succumbing to that
awful virus: the contagion of radical Islamic extremism.
"Some young people are now being radicalised at home, by their
parents or by their step-parents. It is estimated that there could
be hundreds of children - especially those who come within the
orbit of the banned extremist group Al-Muhajiroun - who are being
taught crazy stuff: the kind of mad yearning for murder and death
that we heard from Lee Rigby's killers.
"At present, there is a reluctance by the social services to
intervene, even when they and the police have clear evidence of
what is going on, because it is not clear that the 'safeguarding
law' would support such action. A child may be taken into care if
he or she is being exposed to pornography, or is being abused - but
not if the child is being habituated to this utterly bleak and
nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become
"This is absurd. The law should obviously treat radicalisation
as a form of child abuse."
Religion as "child abuse", religion as a "virus": this language
is straight from Dawkins, who himself retweeted this week some of
Winston Churchill's fruitier animadversions: "How dreadful are the
curses which Mohammedanism lays upon its votaries! Besides the
fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in aman as hydrophobia in a
dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy."
Johnson does everything he can to make himself more likely to be
the leader of the Conservative Party, and appealing to this kind of
atavistic contempt and fear is clearly something he thinks will
help in that ambition. This, in turn, tells us something about the
existence and spread of prejudice against Muslims, because,
although fundamentalist Islam is, indeed, a loathsome ideology that
inspires killers, it is by no means the only one.
I don't think he would ever advocate taking into care the
children of Irish Republicans.
It is an extraordinary thing for a conservative to advocate the
destruction of families to protect the state. That Johnson should
do it tells us something important about Britain today. It also
shows how much journalism can teach us about the world, even when
it isn't true at all.