trial of the cadaver of Pope FormosusI have always disliked Jimmy Savile and felt there was something creepy about him. Now he is
dead accusations and revelations seem to abound but there is something creepy about putting a corpse on trial, though of course media are trying the BBC and other institutions that gave him access to the vulnerable. There are obviously parallels as Fr Tim has drawn out with the situation of the Church.
A few commentators have suggested values and attitudes have changed, that sexual assault in the work place were common up until a couple of decades ago. Even violent rape against women was often not reported, if it happened against children, at a time when violent physical assault against them was part of official school discipline, it was not believed. Juries sought to excuse sexual crimes, the judiciary was far from sympathetic and the police ..., well I remember a women who had been raped saying to me her interrogation by the police was like being raped yet again.
Savile rose to fame against a culture which extolled sexual promiscuity and deliberately pushed the bounds of sexual taboo. Women and girls were expected to be sexually available. Pop culture tended to dehumanise and demean women: baby, doll, bird come to mind from the libretti and popular culture of the time, the time when we "let it all hang out". Conversation in the workplace was peppered with sexual innuendo, as much the walls of the workplace, at least where men worked, were plastered with semi-erotic imagery.
At the moment we are trying individuals and certain institutions but some groups claim that as many as 1 in 4 people have been sexual abused as children. In some environments, such as where there is stepfather or a succession of "uncles" it seems, possibly, to be even higher. It is significant that allegations are bought into the open only after Savile's death. There is an unstable silence amongst victims when they feel isolated, when society in a sense conspires to silence and isolate them, so much so that it is only after two or three dare to speak out that there appears to be a feeding frenzy.
The Catholic Church in New York paid out huge reparations for abuse victims, the New York City Council refused to accept allegations concerning its public schools service claiming it would bankrupt the city. Some people when allegations are made about priests suggest the police tend to go on a "trawling" expedition to find other allegations. personally I see no problem with this, I just wish it could be applied to the rest of society as easily as can be applied to a Catholic parish.
Indeed what the Savile allegations suggest is that sexual abuse is indeed deep seated in society but so too is a culture of cover-up. We need to replace that culture with one of disclosure, but what our society will look like if we did, and whether it would be pleasant to live in or riddled with whispers and suspicion is another matter.
Maybe, too we need to put on trial the cadaver of 1960s/70s then in 40 or 50 years our generation can be dragged to the dock too.