SOME weeks are just pure unpleasantness in the news. Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury finally facing in public the reality of schism in the Anglican Communion is an exception. His letter to the Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Kaziimba, some time after the law had been condemned by Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak, was covered properly in The Times and The Guardian; the Mail carried agency reports, but was otherwise more interested in the Archbishop of York’s making nice with travellers at the Appleby Horse Fair. Presumably this represents the editorial judgement that Mail readers loathe Travellers a lot more than they nowadays loathe gay people.
Otherwise, the British church coverage was wall-to-wall sex abuse and its cover-up. The slow-motion disintegration of Soul Survivor (News, 9 June) continues to be a story on which The Daily Telegraph beats everyone else. The news that a caretaker at the church building, Matt Robinson, then 28, of Watford, was arrested in 2018 and later sentenced for “trying to facilitate the commission of a child sex offence”, came out first there.
Now, it is true that “there is no suggestion that the church failed to cooperate with the police investigation,” but the paper also reports that, when the caretaker was arrested, “The Soul Survivor Watford congregation was urged to contact Mr Croft if they were approached by the media” — always the sort of thing that makes a journalist suspicious. Mr Croft — the Revd Andy Croft — has now himself been suspended, as has the woman who was sharing duties with him in the absence of Canon Mike Pilavachi, Ali Martin.
This news is right at the bottom of the “Meet the Team” page on the church’s website, which lists 18 people on the payroll who have not been suspended, as well as the three who have. All of the undisgraced ones have finished off their potted bios with some detail meant to humanise them: one “loves to climb trees, play with Lego, and cook any chance she gets”; another has “his busy life fuelled by a love of coffee”; another has “an addiction to peppermint and liquorice tea and loves reading in the sunshine”.
At least none of these earnestly normal people has a “passion” or a “heart” for anything. We can presume that none of them suspected anything, and that it took the Telegraph to inform them that Canon Pilavachi “encouraged young men, usually aged about 18 to 21, to engage in full-body oil massages on his bed, as well as vigorous wrestling matches that lasted up to 20 minutes”.
THINGS seem to have been much worse in the RC diocese of Hexham & Newcastle, where the Bishop actively tried to find a job for a friend who had been convicted of the possession of hundreds of indecent images of children. The Telegraph’s story indulged in the sort of sentence that invites readers to imagine the opposite: “There was no suggestion that Bishop Byrne was either at the alleged party in a priest’s living quarters next to the cathedral, or was aware of it, and a church report recently found that there was no evidence of ‘lewd parties’ during the pandemic.”
Then there was the matter of Canon Michael McCoy, whom the Bishop promoted to Dean, despite three known instances in which his behaviour towards young people had been the subject of complaints. The Dean killed himself after the police told him that they were investigating him for allegations of historical sexual abuse. The independent report by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency concludes that the Bishop knew about the Dean’s record. The Telegraph quotes one lethal sentence: “Bishop Byrne’s assertion that he did not know of McCoy’s safeguarding history prior to the cathedral appointment does not stand up to scrutiny.”
There has been nothing like this in the Church of England since the diocese of Chichester was cleaned out.
ON QUITE another plane, the American Jewish online magazine Tablet carried an interesting essay from Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook executive, who wrote a rather bad but illuminating book about his work in the digital ad industry, and later lost a very good job at Apple because his book contained a crude joke about Californian women.
“For me”, he writes, “the challenge in converting to Judaism from Christianity was convincing myself that, actually, the Pharisees were the good guys in the Gospels and Jesus some delusional hippie. After living in San Francisco and witnessing the triumph of progressive politics there, it was easier to make that mental turn: I wasn’t abandoning Catholicism, but the secularized Christianity that had elevated the worship of hippie delusions into the law of the land and had spawned wokeness as its afterbirth.”
I think that this might be the first recorded instance of a man led by his Nietzschean convictions to convert to Judaism.