Archbishop Continues To Recommend Mayne

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Archbishop backs books by paedophile author - Britain - Times Online

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has defended the work of a children�s author jailed for 2 1/2 years for sexually abusing his young girl fans. Rowan Williams said that although his view of William Mayne had changed since the court case, this would not stop him recommending his work, in particular A Game of Dark, which he read as a child...

9 Comments

OK deedee, I wan't going to add any more but in response to your plea.........
Silence on this topic may occur as people feel uncomfortable. I think reading and enjoying books as a child is a comfortable position � facing up to the reality of what William Mayne did and how he used his books takes real strength and requires adult responsibility. Maybe this is why some people would prefer to push aside what he did and just think about innocent stories.

Now its me who doesn't want the last word! Someone say something please!

I agree wholeheartedly that Earthfasts is a great book. So are many of the others (though not all by any means). Therein lies the danger I suppose. I remember staying up all night when I was 13 to read Earthfasts. I also stayed up all night to read 'Smith' by Leon Garfield, and 'The House on the Brink' by John Gordon (I think!), and 'The Wierdstone of Brisingamen' by Alan Garner, Marianne Dreams (Catherine Storr) and Midnight is a Place (Joan Aiken). There are probably more wonderful books than a child could read in a (childs) life time and so in the end, depending on the circumstances, I'd probably recommend the others in the first instance. Why take a risk. However, when a child is old enough I like the idea of being able to use the stories as a way in to talking about difficult issues...though perhaps that shouldn't be forced, and, in the end, whilst I can understand that anyone who has suffered at his hands may not want to read his work we shouldn't assume that all concerned feel that way. The Christian message as I understand it, is one of forgiveness and hope (which doesn't mean forgetting or tolerating abuse - it just means letting go of the right to judge the person and leaving that bit up to God). The selfish and destructive acts are judged by the legal processes and punished. What remains is to keep our children safe whilst being decent and compassionate human beings.

Ah, that's better. I was afraid I was going to get the last word - and I shouldn't have. There's a number of important questions here that ought to be discussed. The silence on this site has bugged me since the beginning.(See archive for my column on the topic.) Both the literary and the ethical questions are too important to let sit. Kneejerk reactions won't answer. (And my instinctive recoil from belief in the accusations is as kneejerk as anything. It reminds me of my expectation, immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, that the guilty parties would come forward crying: "I didn't know there was a daycare center in the building! Honest! Please punish me!" A lifetime of reading about Nazis and serial killers has been no help at all in that first confrontation with the news of human wickedness.)

For what it's worth, since the accusation I've bought a couple of Mayne books for research purposes to help me work things out - they haven't helped much - but I did it used or at deep discount, and he didn't get a dime out of it. When my niece is old enough, I can see myself giving her Earthfasts, which is an excellent book whatever anyone says, but I wouldn't ever introduce her to him, not that there would be an opportunity. I might feel differently if we were in the same country as him. Nor could I be mad at my sister for refusing to let me make the present once she knew Mayne's history - it's not a decision I'm entitled to make for her. And I think that such a gift might be a suitable occasion for opening discussion on the complex topics involved, which my niece will have to work through for herself one way or another, and which it is part of my job to help her with. Fortunately she's only three at the moment, and I'll have plenty of time to work out how to go about that.

I hold by my opinion that the Archbishop was brave, though. In our "Judge fast, hard, and cruelly, lest ye be tarred with the same brush" culture, it takes guts to separate the work and the man and to actually practice a religion which requires one to "judge not, lest ye be judged." Betraying one's own taste would be a non-constructive response to Mayne's betrayal of his audience.

The challenge to victims of crime is not only to survive, but to triumph over the harm done and be stronger than the perpetrator. Taking anything positive we can out of his books and discarding the rest seems to me merely a method of doing this. Isn't good stronger than evil?

It is easy for us to imagine that we understand William Mayne's motivation for writing - it is clear to me from what I know of the man and his life that it is a great deal more complex than we might suppose. Working as I do with sex offenders and abused young people, what matters to me in the first instance is not whether his books have literary merit but whether children and young people are at risk through reading them. I believe that they are, because as a result of reading his books many of his fans wanted contact with the writer himself. Given that William Mayne abused many girls over many years it would be impossible and inappropriate to suggest that contact with him could be considered to be without risk, especially whilst he continues to deny his offending behaviour. For this reason I believe it is inappropriate to commend his books at the present time. Once he no longer poses a risk (i.e post mortem) I would be happy to recommend his books. It would be true to say that we would read them in the knowldge of what he has done but this does not negate their literary merit. It saddens me to hear people suggest that he has been misunderstood and misrepresented. Whilst we all know of cases where people have been convicted for crimes they did not commit I do not believe that this is such a case. It is extremely difficult to obtain a conviction re historical abuse and his lawyers would have known that. It is extremely difficult to get such a case as far as a court as it has to satisfy rigorous criteria re chance of success and being in the public interest (i.e worth the money to prosecute). For the sake of those who are still living with the consequences of the abuse he has perpetrated we should respect the decision of the judge, whether we like it or not. Most children who are sexually abused find it extremely difficult to disclose because they are afraid people will not believe them and they are afraid of what the perpetrator of the abuse might do to them. Being so cynical about the outcomes of this case helps neither the victims nor William Mayne in my view.
As far as the books having content which is concerned directly with abuse, it is impossible to rule this out and there are instances where certainly it is possible to interpret his words as referring to an abusive or exploitative relationship. I'm still tryiing to work out what I think about this...other writers refer to abuse but maybe the difference is that they are not known to be abusers. If children are being exploited either through the writing or the reading then I suppose ultimately that is the test we should use...As far as the suggestion that Mayne succumbed to circumstance and temptation it isperhaps worth saying that on the whole most sex offenders know what they are doing is wrong but choose to do it anyway, often the risk of being caught is part of the excitement. People don't generally fall into sexually abusing children by accident. There is no space here to go into detail but if you want further information about this go to the 'stopitnow' website or lucy faithful foundation website.

Dodgson and Euripides are dead but William Mayne is alive, as are his still suffering victims. I am not discussing his literary merits. I am objecting to the way this detached debate serves to prop up Mayne's reputation and prepare his return to society with his ego and income intact.

Yes I do believe that he deserves not to profit from his books, not to censor them but because they are such an integral part of his crime. In his case to mitigate is to minimalise.

�Recantation� implies that torture or inquisition extracted Mayne's confession whereas it was devastating evidence from multiple witnesses that persuaded him to plea bargain. The subsequent denial is a crafty ploy to have it both ways.

I thought that Peni's first posting was intended to be ironic. The Anglican church is known for it's tendency to fudge. The Archbishop chose to enter this debate in a shallow, personal way. He should have realised that for a man in his position to vacillate on Mayne's artistic merits without forcefully condemning the abuse he committed lends comfort to Mayne and his apologists while further upsetting his victims.

If TL would cite the sources indicating that Mayne wrote specifically to seduce children, as opposed to being led into temptation by the circumstances of his life and career and succumbing, I would be grateful.


But let us assume for the moment that TL is correct on this point and that Mayne�s confession is authentic and his recantation is not. Is it really true that his work has no independent existence, and that those who, like the Archbishop, had derived legitimate enjoyment and enlightenment from reading that work, are ethically obliged to retroactively erase these benefits from their lives?


Expanding the question, is Charles Dodgson�s literary work poisoned by his photographs of nude little girls? How much do you need to know about the context of those photographs before making a decision one way or another? If you condemn Dodgson�s work, how does that affect your judgment of the many, many writers (arguably including the entire modern tradition of children�s literature in English) who were influenced by him?


What about the classical literary traditions of the Greeks - for whom male/male pederasty was institutionalized - and the Romans - who made mass murder into mass entertainment? Is this tainted, too, and if so, does it corrupt all the poetry, drama, philosophy, etc., derived from it?

What if Mayne repented, publicly and spectacularly - would his existing work remain tainted or somehow be purified by the act? What are the implications for the audience of an artist�s behavior changes over time? Once you learn that Louis Armstrong beat some of the women he had relationships with, are you obliged to study his oeuvre and approve only those which stem from periods that show no evidence of domestic violence? If so, how do you judge recordings from acceptable periods of works composed during unacceptable periods? Are we obliged to obtain complete biographical information before making literary judgments, and if so, how are live authors to make a living?

This sort of argument ad absurdum would not be fair, except that I live surrounded by a sternly literal-minded would-be moralist strain, big on snap judgements and low on reflection and generosity, which regards all art and literature as inherently corrupt and all intellectual activity as dangerous. I will not assert that anyone who rejects Mayne�s work on the basis of his life will go down this road, but I will maintain that it is important for that person to be aware that the road exists.

Moral and literary questions deserve to be considered in detail, in a broad context; not in general, in a narrow context.

P.S. I promise I put paragraphs breaks into this screed; but I couldn�t make them appear in the preview. I apologize if it all comes out run together.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's defence of paedophile author William Mayne (Sunday Times 17th April) shows that the Anglican church is as ignorant about child sexual abuse as it's Catholic brothers.

Mayne's crimes cannot be separated from his books because he used the latter expressly to attract and groom his victims. He used his status as a respected author to access primary schools, Sunday schools, book clubs and a wide base of fans. His intellect was used to charm naive parents and fascinate children while intimidating anyone suspicious of his activities. The income he derived permitted him to travel the country to turn up unexpectedly on a young fan's doorstep and lavish gifts and holidays. Not having a day job allowed him to be always available after school and during holidays while busy parents worked, unaware that the gingerbread cottage he baited with books and games was a trap for their children. Above all he groomed and flattered his young victims by including them as characters in his books. No-one should ever be able to read them again without thinking of the decades of suffering he has inflicted.

Mayne is not a repentant sinner. He has shown no remorse or understanding and has tried to deny his admissions of guilt in order to maintain his reputation. The Archbishop will have caused anguish to his many victims by defending a pervert where he should have given clear moral leadership.

Good for the Archbishop! Y'all must be very proud to have someone so brave and honest in such an important post.

And :P to the Times for a sensationalist headline.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on April 17, 2005 6:15 PM.

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