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there is a risk for firms taking these cases on. Part of the difficulty is how to calculate the impact in monetary terms that abuse has on an individual. One way that the English courts attempt this is via loss of earnings. For example former City lawyer Patrick Raggett is claiming £5 million from the Jesuits for abuse he claims to have suffered at Preston Catholic College, Lancashire. He argues that the abuse blighted what would have been a lucrative legal career. In another case, an anonymous victim of cler- ical abuse was awarded £43,000 after the abuse was deemed to have caused depression and severely affected his quality of life. Clifton Ingram started acting for abuse vic- tims in the 1990s after a now retired lawyer, John Housden, described by Mr Rae as “an extremely moral man”, took on a number of cases, many of them victims of Clonan. But, according to Mr Rae, the firm would take a different approach today: “If I went to the firms’ bosses now saying I have these cases, with the high costs and legal obstacles, I’d be told to do something else.” Another difficulty for lawyers representing


victims is knowing which claims are worth pursuing. After the Clonan case, Mr Rae said Clifton Ingram received a “frightening” num- ber of enquiries and, similarly, the publicity generated by the Michael Hill case started a flood of calls to Mr Scorer at Pannone. But many claims do not get further than a dis- cussion with a solicitor. “You’ve got to be damn sure that you have a good case,” Mr Rae explained. In recent years lawyers have seen the num- ber of enquiries relating to clerical abuse fall, but there is still a trickle. It is understood that victims of James Robinson, a former priest sentenced to 21 years in prison last October for a string of abuse offences in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, are preparing cases against the Church. There is also the £8-million claim being made by 158 victims from St William’s children’s home, Market Weighton, in the Diocese of Middlesbrough. The diocese and the De La Salle brothers, who ran the home, are currently in dispute about who was in overall charge of the institution.


ome of the lawyers who have pending cases are now looking for bigger pay- ments. David Greenwood, a partner at Wakefield-based Jordans Solicitors, which is representing claimants in the Market Weighton case, said: “We are talking about some of the most horrifying cases of abuse you can imagine. These payouts are, in my view, not high enough.” It is unlikely, due to the legal system and the smaller number of cases, that dioceses in England and Wales will face the predicament the Church finds itself in the United States. Many believe that a majority of sex-abuse cases have now been dealt with. And Mr Anderson and his team may well find that the more aggressive tactics of the American legal system clash with the legal culture of Britain. But the mere setting up of a new ded- icated practice shows is that the shadow of continuing sex-abuse claims against the Church in England and Wales still looms.


S


CATHERINE PEPINSTER


‘Muslims in Britain have unsettled the consensus that religious adherence belongs in the past’


Tunisia, Palestine, Moscow, Cairo – it seems not a day goes by when Islam is not implicated in troubles around the globe. Last week, Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi, who in Opposition served as shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, caused raised eyebrows when she said that prejudice against Muslims is now accepted in Britain to the extent it is part of dinner-party conversation. Muslims, said the baroness, are


viewed as OK so long as they are just a bit Muslim. Plenty of commentators, including some of her fellow Tories, felt this was far-fetched, but certainly in the post 9/11 world, Muslims have suffered from suspicion and hostility, much as Irish Catholics had in the previous 25 years. What the growing numbers of


Muslims in Britain have certainly done is unsettle the consensus that religious adherence belongs in the past. In 1996, Bryan Wilson, the leading sociologist, claimed that religion was now reduced to “ritual performance, exposition of scriptures and amateur counselling”. Last week, some of the top contemporary theorists of religion gathered to listen to Professor José Casanova of Georgetown University, and one of the most eminent thinkers about religion in the world today, talk about religion in the public square. Casanova’s view is that religion has now been “deprivatised”, suggesting that it has returned after being routed, and is a growing, direct influence on political and public discourse. The trouble with Casanova’s arguments is that they are bound up with the nation state and the limits placed on religion by specific governments. But if religion has broken out of the box in which it was placed by the forces of secularism, it is now free to roam the world, thanks to global media networks, and about which Casanova disappointingly said nothing. Meanwhile two British academics,


Professors Linda Woodhead and John Milbank, are talking about religion’s connection with social, civic and political issues in terms of


its supra-national reach. Milbank, professor of religion, politics and ethics at Nottingham University, suggested at the Casanova seminar that religion is turning into a series of contestations, or disputes, beyond the old national divides. That global reach of the media and its impact on where religion meets politics can be seen in the reactions to the Tunisian uprising, with similar protests in Egypt, boosted by internet media such as Facebook, and the speed with which objections to the Pope’s comments about attacks on Christians spread. The difficulty is that such


communication does not necessitate accuracy, and a narrative can emerge that is resistant to truth. So it’s noticeable, for example, that in the reports about tensions in Egypt following the massacre of 23 Copts, the thousands of Egyptian Muslims who turned out in solidarity as “human shields” to protect the Christians as they celebrated their Christmas on 7 January went unnoticed by many (although not by The Tablet: see “Church in the World”, 15 January).


What has most distressed many of those trying to keep dialogue going between Christians and Muslims is the decision by the influential Cairo-based al-Azhar educational institution to suspend its dialogue with the Vatican following the Pope’s call for greater protection of Christians in the Middle East. Pope Benedict’s comments seemed a measured call to assure the safety of a Christian minority, yet were taken in Egypt to be political interference. Dialogue at the highest levels is now under deadly pressure but the move by al-Azhar, rather than stymieing debate, may lead interfaith work to move to other centres of excellence that are not so strongly linked to a national government. Again, this will emphasise how religion is changing, moving away from and beyond national borders. This may well not be the stuff of dinner-table chat, as discussed by Baroness Warsi. But what often is among Catholics is not the Muslims who are – in her words – just a little bit Muslim – but those who are keenly so, such as my colleague’s garage mechanic who fixed his car but only after prayer. Grace Davie, another eminent sociologist, coined the phrase “believing not belonging” for people in Britain who are spiritual without being connected to a conventional religion. Are Muslims disconcerting Britons, including Catholics, because they so noticeably believe – and belong?


29 January 2011 | THE TABLET | 5


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