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The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession

Friday 28 March 2014

1 Hour


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Author and journalist John Cornwell talks to well-known philosopher of religion Sir Anthony Kenny about the history of confession in the Catholic Church and exposes its role in the child abuse scandals of the 20th century. He draws on his own memories of a Catholic boyhood and weaves it into the story of confession from its origins in the early church to the present day. Cornwell argues that the seclusion of two individuals in the dark box, where discussion is often of sexual actions and thoughts, has eroticised the experience of confession.  And he says that the horrific cases of child abuse that have haunted the church became possible when Pius X, in 1905, made the confession a weekly rather than annual ritual.

Cornwell is a fellow commoner of Jesus College, Cambridge. He has written for many national publications and is author of Darwin’s Angel and Hitler’s Pope. Kenny is a celebrated philosopher whose interests include the philosophy of religion. He was originally ordained a Roman Catholic priest but questioned the validity of Catholic doctrine and now characterises himself as an agnostic. He has written extensively on St Thomas Aquinas and his other works include What is Faith? and A New History of Western Philosophy.