James Blitz writing in yesterday’s Financial Times says serious questions are raised by the murders of five women working as prostitutes in the Ipswich, England. The first question he raises is more one of operational detail than of philosophy – he suggests that the structure of the police forces should be reformed, in order that country constabularies should not find themselves overwhelmed by big cases.
The other two issues he addresses are much bigger, the legalisation of prostitution and decriminalisation of hard drugs.
The toleration of mini-brothels, argues Blitz, would take women off the street and remove them from some of the danger they face.Church leaders would undoubtedly oppose Blitz’ suggestion, but what are church leaders doing to change the society that produces these problems? Churches which spend their time arguing about who can and can’t be ordained, who can say what at worship, which translation of the Bible should be used, and whether we should all speak in 16th Century English, are hardly geared to saying anything meaningful to the situation faced by the murdered Ipswich women. The vicar of one of the Ipswich parishes talked of the women as our children who have fallen off the edge. Why does it take deaths before the Church says anything worthy of national coverage? Would Jesus not have expected a different response?
The decriminalisation of hard drugs raises serious problems – should the state be complicit in people’s destruction of themselves? The argument is that the drugs should be available to users from state clinics, as happens elsewhere in Europe. At a stroke it would wipe out the drugs trade and the dealers and all the crime that arises. If someone can get something for free, they will not pay a dealer for it. The scheme is meant to offer users ways out of addiction, but what would happen in cases where people showed no sign of breaking their habit, would the clinic still prescribe drugs, even where it could be fatal? Politicians have argued against proposals for such schemes, but would they be a lesser evil to serve a greater good?
Blitz’ article raised a further question for me. Do we now need to look to journalists to engage with serious issues? What is the church for? We have problems of prostitution and a huge problem of drugs in Dublin, I am not aware of the Church of Ireland having a position or policy on either. What would Jesus say?