Well, he did make the trains run on time
Well, they say of Mussolini, at least he made the trains run on time.
Actually, that’s disputed, but that’s by-the-by. While watching the telly, I was struck by a remark of Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, on the resignation of the leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholic community, Cardinal Keith O’Brien following allegation of sexual misconduct. “It would be a great pity if a lifetime of positive work was lost from comment in the circumstances of his resignation”, said Salmond.
This was a few days ago, before O’Brien admitted to ‘misbehaviour’. Even so, it seemed to me to be a premature and injudicious remark. (And Salmond praised him in other comments too). We still don’t know much about the allegations against O’Brien, not do we know whether others will come forward with additional accusations. The scale of O’Brien’s ‘misbehaviour’ is, at the time of writing, unclear…he may well be guilty of not very much.
However, I would have thought we need such information before we can weigh it in the balance against his good deeds. No life is unrelentingly bad. Just as no life is incessantly good. All lives have at least some good and some bad. In some lives, the bad massively overshadows the good. In such circumstances, we tend – quite rightly in my view – to ignore the good. We do this on grounds of taste. We would object – again quite rightly, in my view – to a person who said “well yes, but putting aside the Jews and the gays, and the torture and the invasions and the war, Adolf did build some marvellous autobahns”. And similar comments would be misplaced even for criminals on a much smaller scale…“it would be a shame if in all the allegations of rape and assault we forgot Jimmy Savile’s tremendous contribution to popular television”.
As I say, we don’t know very much about the O’Brien case. But, sometimes it is not ‘a pity’ to disregard ‘positive work’. It’s the right thing to do.