I approach this post with two very specific perspectives. The first is as a father to two daughters at a nursery, and the second as a human being who considers childhood to be a particular gift, and a blessing to the rest of the world.
Today has seen me sitting in a classroom doing a little learning about being a school governor. The first thing we saw was a fabulous film of Ken Robinson offering a motivational speech about education. Watch it if you can - parts of it are stunning, but all convey the limitless potential of children and the creativity that exists in limitless measure in all of them. The rest of course was alright, but the film was an early highlight.
When I returned home, I caught up a little on the news articles, only to to see that a person has been charged with sexual offences in a day nursery - charges that include rape.
Now, I am a human being, a dad, a priest, and I hope a decent person. How am I meant to feel about this news story, or more importantly, that person's alleged acts? Yes, horrified. Yes, sickened. Any human being would - I would hope. But then the dad and the Father fight within me. The Father wants to wonder about cause, whether the man charged with these terrible things was himself damaged. Is there a reason, some mitigation, some way that I, as a priest, can see his humanity. Then the dad part of me rears its head. I firmly believe that if a man raped either of my children, more especially if that man were in a position of trust with them, someone they liked perhaps, then I would become quickly guilty of very terrible sins myself. I cannot promise that I wouldn't want to do terrible things to such a man as that, I cannot.
Part of the tragedy of such crimes is that they decimate trust and human bonds far beyond the injured precious life of a toddler. Most of us would find it hard to come to terms with how anyone could find sexual gratification from a person so tiny, so un-sexual, so pure, so vulnerable. Next, it reinforces our view that the world is dangerous for children, especially in the hands of men. No wonder so few men work in primary schools or nurseries. I am angry about those very distant ripples in a deep water of life-shattering hurt and damage that a little one was forced to endure.
As yet, the case in question hasn't even fully concluded how many victims there are, if it is proved that they are indeed victims. It is a dark, frankly evil situation if proved to have taken place. In my very deepest places, I want to gather up hurt toddlers and protect them - it comes of having like-aged children myself. Then I want to be angry, raging, furious. I want to lash out on behalf of those who cannot - all the while knowing that I cannot. Compared to the pain that these families may yet become exposed to, this thinking of mine is sub-atomic, I know that. At the moment, though, dad is beating Father hands down.
May God protect his little ones against all who would do them harm, that they may live and live so wonderfully.