Pope? Nope…

Have you heard? The Pope is coming to the UK! Oh happy day. I can’t wait.

Or can I…?

I was originally going to avoid passing comment on the Pope’s impending arrival in the neighbourhood, but recent articles defending him and his church have prompted me to put my thoughts down.

Bur first, a disclaimer. I was raised a Catholic and educated in a Catholic school. Mind you, by the time I was a student there, most of the priests were purely ornamental, having passed responsibility for day-to-day education to ‘lay’ teachers. I have long since removed myself from the Catholic Church, not as a result of a sudden awakening , or any single event I experienced. It was a slow, gradual realisation that I fundamentally disagreed with much of what was said and done by the church and could no longer consider myself a member.

I’m not, on the other hand, vehemently anti-religion. I believe that everyone has the right to respect, though their beliefs certainly do not. I don’t want someone else’s religious or spiritual beliefs to impact my freedom of thought or action. What they do themselves is none of my business.

So, about this visit. Here’s why I feel it’s inappropriate to fete the pope and his entourage. He presides over an organisation that has shielded child-rapists from the civil powers in a range of jurisdictions over a period of decades (that we are aware of). Even when made aware of these crimes, he has failed to act decisively and has instead raised a smokescreen of vague language, seeking to somehow implicate homosexuality in the paedophile scandals. Even now, senior clergy are attempting to silence the victims of these crimes. Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals are doing their very best to sweep this child abuse under the carpet.

This article, in today’s Evening Standard (a newspaper of such quality that it’s given away for free) set my teeth on edge. It equates criticism of the Pope with attacks on members of the church as a whole. I don’t blame all Catholics for the child abuse scandals. But I blame every Catholic who silently obeyed orders from the clergy to ignore complaints from children, to shield paedophile priests or to avoid involving the authorities.

This is not about criticising the religion itself. It’s about  pointing out the weaknesses in the global organisation that represent the religion. I reserve the right to critique any belief in a god or gods. I don’t see why I should accept such beliefs as valid. And, despite what the fragrant Rosamund Urwin has to say in this evening’s Standard, I’m quite happy to turn my secular perspective on any belief system.

I’ll say it again: this is not about being anti-Catholic or anti-Christian. It’s about being able to stand up and say I don’t agree that the Pope should be free to visit the UK and not have to see or hear the many thousands of people here who want to protest against his views, his administration and the impact his religious doctrine has had on children all over the world.

It would appear that Urwin doesn’t want any form of protest:

Catholicism’s critics have only one focus now: the Pontiff’s state visit to our country in just over two week’s time. This should be a cause for celebration. Instead, if the anti-Catholic campaigners have their way, the trip will be marred by vuvuzelas, protesters and blocked streets.

That’s what is known as a free and open democracy. The very opposite of how the Catholic Church is run. The people of the UK do not live in a theocracy and are – at the time of writing – quite free to protest about things with which they disagree. (I would also ask: why should his arrival be “cause for celebration”?)

To those who plan to protest the Pope’s visit, I say: go for it. Let him know you disagree with what he has done and what he continues to do.

However, I can’t help but wonder if a much more powerful sign would be to refuse to acknowledge his present at all. Instead of standing on the streets shouting, you could perhaps do something more positive to undermine his influence. Give your time or money to one of the many charities that looks after the people whom he shuns. You may like to consider The Albert Kennedy Trust.

I’ll leave it up to you.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tribonian, Richard A MacKinnon. Richard A MacKinnon said: Pope? Nope…: http://wp.me/pBhi5-hu […]

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  2. I quite agree! During George II’s time, one of the things that disturbed me the most was the SILENCING of protestors.

    They were kept blocks away, out of sight and arrested or “taken into custody”/ zip-cuffed til He left. It was freakish and certainly not the way a democracy is run.

    President or Pontiff, people in OUR countries have the right to demonstrate.

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    1. Protest is healthy, as long as it’s non-violent. When the powers-that-be try to silence non-violent protest, something’s wrong.

      I wonder what form of protest(s) will greet his holiness when he touches down in the UK… something suitably humorous and anti-establishment I hope!

      Mind you, thousands of people simply turning their backs on his cavalcade would be equally powerful, if not more so…

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  3. Probably naiive to ask this, but does anyone even take him seriously? He seems like a meek figurehead to me. Even if the Pope vanished, they’d still hide the child rapists, go on voting for the right wing. It’s the votes and the money from these goons that disturbs me.

    (ps I’m so happy I get to follow you, I’m on WordPress now)!

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    1. Welcome to WordPress! And thanks for your comment.

      Unfortunately, the pope is far from a meek figurehead. His entire career in the church has been about the strict enforcement of church law. He has – by virtue of his position – absolute power, but has consistently used this in a reactionary way, trying to turn back the clock on any advancements his predecessor made.

      Basically, the pope sets the tone of the church and this one has nailed his flag to the mast for all to see. His message? Gays are intrinsically evil, paedophile priests were all gays, the appointment of women priests is is the moral equivalent of child abuse… I could go on but I’d probably just depress myself (and anyone else reading this!)

      Bottom line: he is listened to, he does have an audience and he is influential. The sooner he moves on, the better.

      But more importantly, the sooner people start to think for themselves and question some of these archaic beliefs, the better.

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  4. Nontheist billboards are going up all over the

    Bible Belt South (USA)(and they don’t like it)

    Mine was rejected — (With Friends Like God, Who Needs Enemas?)

    Most of the media Right-wingers here and many “Tea-partiers”

    are Irish, as am I (50%). Is it a defective gene?

    Check out a great website (incl “From the Headlines”)

    at FFRF.ORG.

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