Wednesday, October 11, 2017

George Hook and That Old Time Religion

George Hook

[Or I could have entitled this "George Hook and the Four Cardinal Virtues"]

A few of my so-called friends have suggested to me that - while, they agree with some of my views [traitors!]- they feel I am being too extreme and alienating potential supporters. One even quoted to me the words of St Francis de Sales: "You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar".  OK I looked up the quote and St. Francis de Sales was Bishop of Geneva from 1602 to his death in 1622 but was never able to reside there because the area was firmly under Calvinist control. I have no doubt that he was a very holy man but the "spoonful of honey" approach was the only possible one he could have adopted in the circumstances! And apparently he had some success.

So taking inspiration from the Saint, I will quote some of my more "moderate" comments from the discussion on George Hook.

The Meaning of the word "Responsible" [1]

Originally posted by owedtojoy
 22-year-old man raped in an alleyway after leaving Glasgow nightclub   The Independent 25/09/17

Was he a "slag"? A "slapper"? Was he drunk? Wear his jeans too tight? Shouldn't he stay out of alleyways?

 What did he do to get himself raped?

Reply by Pabilito to owedtojoy:
Well yes he put himself in a dangerous situation wandering alone around dark alleyways in the early hours. He certainly does bear some personal responsibility however that doesn’t detract any blame for the crime from the rapist.

I once worked for an American multinational and sometimes would take visiting engineers out for a meal and a few drinks in Dublin, one particular guy insisted on staying on late in Temple Bar when we all went home and I told him to be careful and gave him money for a Taxi. Following morning I learned that he’d been stabbed several times in a laneway behind Pearse Street. Fortunately he survived and when I visited him in hospital before I could say anything he said “I know, I know I was stupid .. I got drunk and went up the lane for a pee”.

Reply by Kilbarry1 - to owedtojoy and Pablito
Leaving the fanatical man-haters aside for a minute, SOME of these disagreements are about the meaning of words and in particular the word "responsibility":

(a) "Responsibility" can relate to the concept of Justice - and so we have criminal responsibility. A criminal is always fully responsible for the crime he or she commits - and this applies even if the victim has been careless e.g. wandering the streets late and drunk.

(b) The other meaning is more closely related to the virtue of Prudence. Every person has a duty (responsibility) to take reasonable  care of their own safety.

When I was at school, we were taught that the four cardinal virtues were Prudence, Justice, Fortitude (Courage) and Temperance. Our very orthodox teachers also told us there might appear to be contradictions between the four but "properly understood" the contradictions disappeared. One topic we discussed in religion class about 1965 was Prudence vs Fortitude e.g. if you were a soldier in wartime just what did "Prudence" mean. Of course we came to the conclusion that the virtue was still valid but it didn't mean the same kind of behaviour as in civilian life!

 As young teenagers, we had no great problem making that kind of distinction. I went to an all-male school but I'm sure that girls of the same age had the same ability to apply logical reasoning.  Nowadays many adults - especially women - seem unable to understand the concept of "responsibility" and the fact that it doesn't mean exactly the same thing in relation to Justice as it does in relation to Prudence. It is quite possible for a criminal to be 100% responsible for committing a crime AND for the victim to have facilitated the crime by stupid or careless behaviour!

The Meaning of the word "Responsible" [2]

Of course we came to the conclusion that the virtue was still valid but it didn't mean the same kind of behaviour as in civilian life!

And the reason for the "of course" was that it was a directed discussion with the adult teacher very much in charge. If the discussion had veered in the direction of "Prudence is meaningless in wartime" or "Prudence is only cowardice" then the adult would have stepped in to correct us. Nowadays it is the adults who are leading the hysterical mob against someone who probably has much the same values that we teenagers accepted in 1965.

I recall a comment by George Orwell when he was writing dismissively about Spiritualism - which was the New Age Philosophy of his own time. He wrote something to the effect that "It may well be true to say that organised  religion is a defence against superstition".  It is also a defence against the kind of hysteria directed against Kevin Myers and now George Hook. (Let's not forget that Kevin Myers was denounced as an anti-Semite and our Taoiseach and Tanaiste joined in the chorus of abuse.)

The Churches and Personal Responsibility

No doubt it's because I'm getting old but I am saddened by the failure of the Catholic Church - and especially our own Archbishop Diarmuid Martin - to say anything about the hysteria generated by the media against anyone they dislike. I have quoted the following in a previous post but it is worth repeating:

The following is the beginning of an article by Church of Ireland Archbishop (and Primate) Richard Clarke in Irish Times on 12 September. In the PRINT version it is headed "Defensive Rage of Social Media is Horrifying" with sub-heading  "Reasoned persuasion has been replaced by the hasty production of battle-lines"

"It is a truism that we are living in a culture of adversarial anger. We most readily discover our identity not by establishing what we are, but in finding and vilifying those who are against us. A cursory engagement with social media will horrify most of us. It reveals a pervasive if anonymised defensive rage. It is an inchoate anger that can also present itself – even more dangerously – in the casual savage violence visible throughout our island.

"In an apparent corollary, civic discourse (and not merely within political life) is likewise being steadily degraded as a stark binary pose on all issues becomes the predominant public mindset – no reasoned discussion, simply some new scheme presented with a minimum of nuance and a surfeit of self-righteous assertiveness

"The routes of reasoned persuasion have been replaced by the hasty production of battle-lines. In the midst of this is it not sensible to suggest that more wholesome conversations are needed in our public discourse? In particular, we surely need to consider together not simply the latest momentary squabble but far deeper matters. .......

 [It seems to me that the remainder of the article is a bit disconnected from this beginning. Did the Archbishop do a last minute revision in order to take on board the hysteria surrounding George Hook -including the hysteria propagated by Fintan O'Toole?]

Has any Catholic Bishop said anything as powerful as that? I do understand that Catholic clergy feel they cannot speak out on this sort of issue without exposing themselves to the same torrent of rage that was directed at George Hook. BUT there is one exception -our own beloved Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. Archbishop Diarmuid is a hero to secular liberals like Fintan O'Toole. It would be safe for him to speak out and condemn the hate-filled ranting. So why doesn't he do so. Maybe it's BECAUSE he is a hero to secular liberals (like Fintan O'Toole) - and wants to ensure that things stay that way?


  1. According to the Wikipedia article on St Francis de Sales:
    "In 1601, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Henry IV, where he was invited to give Lenten sermons at the Chapel Royal. The morals at court reflected those of the king, which were notoriously bad, yet Henry became personally attached to Francis, and is said to have observed, "A rare bird, this Monsieur de Genève, he is devout and also learned; and not only devout and learned but at the same time a gentleman. A very rare combination."

    Henry IV was originally a Huguenot (French Protestant) who converted to Catholicism in order to secure the throne of France in 1589. He is supposed to have said "Paris vaut bien une messe" ("Paris is well worth a mass"). He was assassinated in 1610 by a Catholic fanatic François Ravaillac. Unfortunately I think I can understand how Ravaillac felt!

    Some of Francis friends were also doubtful about his methods and the gentleness with which he received heretics and sinners. One of them said: "Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure of the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn."

  2. I read an article in the Sunday Independent about a week after the event saying that it was telling that nobody with any standing had supported Hook's remarks. The people I spoke to agreed with me that what he said was common sense.

    1. “Hush. Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do."
      "But suppose there are two mobs?" suggested Mr. Snodgrass.
      "Shout with the largest," replied Mr. Pickwick.

      Quote from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. And Archbishop Diarmuid couldn't agree more!