Thursday, January 03, 2008

Turbulent priests

Another thing HenryII contributed to English Law was the idea of its primacy. His famous dispute with Thomas A'Becket concerned jurisdiction and "criminous clerks" - members of the clergy, or people in holy orders, who had committed a crime. The Church was clear, the secular authorities had no jurisdiction over them.

That's an opinion still held in the Catholic Church, though you'd have to resort to the methods of their Spanish Inquisition to get anyone in it to admit it. It's one of the reasons why paedophile priests were sheltered so often by the church establishment. Of course the Church didn't condone child abuse. But they didn't acknowledge the jurisdiction of the secular authorities either and tried to deal with problems in-house. A millennium and a half of sexual repression has left its mark, though, and sexual shenanigans of various kinds have always been a problem the church has had to deal with. This has led to an unduly sanguine approach to such incidents.

Henry II was also clear: the secular law was paramount and a cleric who committed a crime should be tried in one of his courts. So far as I am aware, this was the first really strong stance taken against the idea that religions should be treated differently before the law, and before the government.

Subsequently, during the age of revolutions and Enlightenment, anti-clerical sentiment became a clear characteristic of Liberal thought, and from there it made its way into what its devotees often call "progressive" thought, though this is as self-satisfied, smug and repellent as Richard Dawkins' idea that atheists (like myself) should call themselves "Brights".

Not all who call themselves "progressives" have maintained this secular stance. In fact, a bizarre courtship of the most ugly, reactionary and objectionable palaeolithic clerics who demand different treatment, different legal status and treatment and different laws to the rest of us (if I forced a girl into "marriage" I'd be arrested, rightly, and so would her rapist) has become characteristic of a section of the left. Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, has adopted this approach, fawning over people whose "moderate" stance, as Ken described it, consists of, as Peter Tatchell put it, support for:

female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty

But hey, it has paid off:
Prominent Muslim organisations and individuals have pledged to back Ken Livingstone as mayor of London, saying it is in the "best interest" of Muslims to vote for him in this year's elections on May 1.
Congratulations, Ken. Henry II lived during the twelfth century. You'll drag us back to the eleventh yet.

UPDATE: Slight amendment here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let no one doubt that Ken's chasing of paleocleric votes is not just immoral it is stupid. It will bite him in the backside: londoners are seeng him more and more clearly as a supporter of extremists.