Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Archbishop of Canterbury's 'Breathtaking Hypocrisy'

Justin Welby has compared the BBC's approach to abuse to that of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches:
I haven't seen the same integrity over the BBC's failures over Savile as I've seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England, in other public institutions over abuse.
This is a remarkable statement. Certainly, the BBC as an organisation was negligent in its handling of Jimmy Savile from the 70s up until his death (frankly the whole of Britain were; many, many people and institutions turned a blind eye to his activities, including the NHS). Dame Janet Smith said of the BBC:
There was a culture of not complaining or of raising concerns. BBC staff felt – and were sometimes told – that it was not in their best interests to pursue a complaint. Loyalty to and pride in a programme could hinder the sharing of concerns; there was a reluctance to rock the boat. 
(Although ironically one of the men she singles out for not doing more to stop Savile was Anglican priest Canon Colin Semper:
He was a producer in the Religious Broadcasting department and worked closely with Savile. With commendable honesty, when giving evidence to the Review, he accepted that he had come to think that Savile had casual sex with a lot of girls, some of whom might have been underage. He did not discuss what he knew with his managers because he thought that they already knew about Savile and did not seem to be concerned about it. In my view, he should have discussed his concerns with his line manager. I think he now deeply regrets that he did not. )
So, it's clear that the BBC were culpable for Savile's continuing activities over decades. But, as Noel McGivern points out:
...there are key differences between the BBC and Catholic Church. The BBC does not behave as a moral guardian of Britain or the world; it doesn't claim spiritual authority over 1.3 billion people. It is not a primary human identity. Any organisation can have paedophiles in it, but what sets the Catholic Church apart is how actively it sought to protect both them and itself.
Even before the report was published, the BBC had made steps to safeguard the vulnerable. In 2015:
The GoodCorporation conclude that the BBC has strong child protection policies in place and that considerable effort has been made to improve them. Their report states that “there is a clear commitment and recognition of the importance of child protection and safeguarding in the BBC”.
Now, no doubt it's important to keep monitoring the BBC at all levels to ensure abuse does not recur, but the signs seem to be promising. It's not clear to me that this behaviour represents a lower level of integrity to that of the C of E and the Roman Catholic Church. A BBC spokesman said of Welby's comments:
This isn't a characterisation we recognise. When the Savile allegations became known we established an independent investigation by a High Court judge. In the interests of transparency, this was published in full. We apologised and accepted all the recommendations. And while today's BBC is a different place, we set out very clear actions to ensure the highest possible standards of child safeguarding.
Re the Catholic Church, this is what Geoffrey Robinson QC says in his book The Case of the Pope:
The Church's response, still echoed by those like Alan Dershowitz who defend the present Pope, is that hierarchical sex abuse occurs in all religious institutions and in secular schools, and it is wrong to 'stereotype' the Roman Catholic priesthood. But the evidence does reliably show a remarkably higher level of abuse in Catholic institutions (see chapter 2) and in any event, the defense misses the point, namely that this church, through its pretensions to be a state, with its own non-punitive Canon Law, has actually covered up the abuse and harboured the abusers. Moreover, this particular religion endows its priests with god-like powers in the eyes of children, who are put into their spiritual embrace from the time when they first develop the faculty of reasoning...A church that puts its children from this early age under the spiritual control of its priests, representatives of God to whom they are unflinchingly obedient, has the most stringent of duties to guard against the exploitation of that obedience to do them harm. That duty includes the duty of handing over those reasonably suspected of child sex abuse to the secular authorities for trial and, if convicted, for punishment. It is this duty that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, a.k.a. Benedict XVI, has for the past thirty years adamantly refused to accept. (pp3-4)
Certainly there is no way that the BBC could operate at the level of the Catholic Church, since that Church is also a state; a state that throws its weight around at the UN, for example. The Church's record on covering up abuse, and, in fact, facilitating it, are legion. These were the facts behind the award winning film Spotlight, focussing on the child abuse scandal in Boston. I previously reported on their behaviour surrounding Father Kit Cunningham:
...on the day that Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Britain last September, was in Westminster Cathedral expressing his "deep sorrow to innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes", the Rosminian order was writing to refuse to pay any compensation for what it has openly acknowledged are the crimes of four of its own priests.
(The Rosminian Order ran the school where the priest committed his abuse.)

As for the Church of England, its victims of abuse are none too happy:
In a statement, six survivors of abuse by powerful church figures rejected Welby’s comments and said the record of the church and Welby himself was one of “silence, denial and evasion”.
Their statement said: “Speaking from our own bitter experience, we do not recognise Archbishop Welby’s description of the integrity with which the Church of England handles cases of abuse in a church context.
“Far from the ‘rigorous response and self-examination’ he claims, our experience of the church, and specifically the archbishop, is of long years of silence, denial and evasion.
The Church of England needs to confront its own darkness in relation to abuse before confronting the darkness of others.”
Matthew Ineson, who was allegedly raped as a teenager by a C of E vicar, said Welby had shown “breathtaking hypocrisy”. The vicar, Trevor Devamanikkam, killed himself the day he was due in court to face charges.
“I know from my own experience, and the experience of others, that safeguarding within the C of E is appalling,” Ineson said. “The church has colluded with the cover-up of abuse and has obstructed justice for those whose lives have been ruined by the actions of its clergy. I have been fighting for five years for the church to recognise its responsibilities and I’m still being met with attempts to bully me into dropping my case.”
The independent report into the case of Anglican bishop Peter Ball (pictured) said:
This report considers the serious sexual wrongdoing of Peter Ball, a bishop of the Church of England (the Church), who abused many boys and men over a period of twenty years or more. That is shocking in itself but is compounded by the failure of the Church to respond appropriately to his misconduct, again over a period of many years. Ball’s priority was to protect and promote himself and he maligned the abused. The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others. 
The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey was forced to resign because of his treatment of Ball.

So Welby himself is guilty of silence, denial and evasion, according to one of the Church's victims, and a report into one abuser states baldly that the Church colluded with the abuser rather than help those he harmed.

Remember, Welby's contention was that he hasn't seen "the same integrity over the BBC's failures over Savile as I've seen in the Roman Catholic Church, in the Church of England...over abuse." Perhaps he means the BBC have shown more integrity, but I doubt it!

I think one might make a case that the BBC have been equally as bad as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church over abuse, but really the evidence shows that both these Holy institutions have been much worse than the BBC. The Archbishop should retract this claim, and ensure that his organisation stops bullying the victims of abuse, like Matthew Ineson, and recompenses them properly for their years of abuse.

UPDATE: See this Youtube recording of an LBC interview of Justin Welby with annotations by Andy Morse, an alleged victim of John Smyth, a some time friend, or acquaintance, or colleague, of Welby. The abuse is alleged to have occurred at Christian holiday camps in Africa. This is Part 1 of 4 parts.

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Friday, 22 September 2017

EASAC statement on Homeopathy

Here, dated September 2017:
EASAC – the European Academies' Science Advisory Council – is formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States to enable them to collaborate with each other in giving advice to European policy-makers. It thus provides a means for the collective voice of European science to be heard.
EASAC, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, is publishing this Statement to build on recent work by its member academies to reinforce criticism of the health and scientific claims made for homeopathic products. The analysis and conclusions are based on the excellent science-based assessments already published by authoritative and impartial bodies. The fundamental importance of allowing and supporting consumer choice requires that consumers and patients are supplied with evidence-based, accurate and clear information. It is, therefore, essential to implement a standardised, knowledge-based regulatory framework to cover product efficacy, safety and quality, and accurate advertising practices, across the European Union (EU).
Our Statement examines the following issues:
Scientific mechanisms of action—where we conclude that the claims for homeopathy are implausible and inconsistent with established scientific concepts.
Clinical efficacy—we acknowledge that a placebo effect may appear in individual patients but we agree with previous extensive evaluations concluding that there are no known diseases for which there is robust, reproducible evidence that homeopathy is effective beyond the placebo effect. There are related concerns for patient-informed consent and for safety, the latter associated with poor quality control in preparing homeopathic remedies.
Promotion of homeopathy—we note that this may pose significant harm to the patient if incurring delay in seeking evidence-based medical care and that there is a more general risk of undermining public confidence in the nature and value of scientific evidence.
Veterinary practice—we conclude similarly that there is no rigorous evidence to substantiate the use of homeopathy in veterinary medicine and it is particularly worrying when such products are used in preference to evidence-based medicinal products to treat livestock infections.
We make the following recommendations.
1. There should be consistent regulatory requirements to demonstrate efficacy, safety and quality of all products for human and veterinary medicine, to be based on verifiable and objective evidence, commensurate with the nature of the claims being made. In the absence of this evidence, a product should be neither approvable nor registrable by national regulatory agencies for the designation medicinal product.
2. Evidence-based public health systems should not reimburse homeopathic products and practices unless they are demonstrated to be efficacious and safe by rigorous testing.
3. The composition of homeopathic remedies should be labelled in a similar way to other health products available: that is, there should be an accurate, clear and simple description of the ingredients and their amounts present in the formulation.
4. Advertising and marketing of homeopathic products and services must conform to established standards of accuracy and clarity. Promotional claims for efficacy, safety and quality should not be made without demonstrable and reproducible evidence.

Our purpose is not to seek the prohibition of homeopathic products, and we recognise the fundamental importance of allowing and supporting consumer choice. Rather, we aim to explore the policy dimensions for ensuring informed patient choice with the emphasis on ‘appropriately informed’, and for achieving a standardised knowledge-based, robust regulatory framework and sound advertising practices across the EU, which can apply equitably to all medicinal products, whatever their origins and whatever their mechanisms.

The continuing popularity of homeopathic products worldwide might be taken as demonstrating an unfortunate point – that scientific evidence is not always relevant to the policy maker nor understood by the public-at-large. In this eventuality, there might be only limited room for optimism that EASAC and others – in reiterating that homeopathic products and practices lack proof of efficacy– could influence the present situation. 

Any claimed efficacy of homeopathic products in clinical use can be explained by the placebo effect or attributed to poor study design, random variation, regression towards the mean, or publication bias. Among these, the placebo effect can be of value to the patient but there are no known diseases for which there is robust, reproducible evidence that homeopathy is effective beyond the placebo effect.
• Homeopathy raises issues of concern for patient-informed consent if health practitioners recommend products that they know are biologically ineffective.
• There are also potential safety concerns for homeopathic preparations because of poorly monitored production methods, and these require greater attention to quality control and assessment of adverse effects.
• The scientific claims made for homeopathy are implausible and inconsistent with established concepts from chemistry and physics. In particular, the memory effects of water are too short-range and transient (occurring within the nanometre and nanosecond range) to account for any claimed efficacy.
• The promotion and use of homeopathic products risks significant harms. First, by incurring delay in the patient seeking appropriate, evidence-based, medical attention or, even worse, deterring the patient from ever doing so. Secondly, by generally undermining patient and public confidence in the nature and value of scientific evidence for decision making in health care and other societal priorities.
• In the absence of similarly robust evidence for homeopathic products in veterinary medicine, it is an error to require organic farmers to use these products in preference to prevention or treatment for which there is demonstrable efficacy and an established mode of action.

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