Tomorrow will see the start of Pope Benedict XVI‘s “state visit” to the UK and, after quite a significant break from blogging about my thoughts on religion, atheism et al I find myself returning to this old, familiar battleground with mixed feelings. I would now rather not have to blog on the subject, but feel I must.
Whatever my personal views – solidly atheistic and, under certain circumstances, anti-theistic – this visit goes beyond that. Whether one believes in God or not is not the issue; my objection to this visit, like those of many, many others, is grounded in the crimes that this odious little man has actively worked to conceal, and the moral crimes that are perpetrated daily in the name of Catholic doctrine.
I’m not, however, going to list the various accusations today. We are all more than familiar with them, I’m sure. Instead, I’m going to start by referencing this recent – rather excellent piece – by Johan Hari in The Independent:
I want to appeal to Britain’s Roman Catholics now, in the final days before Joseph Ratzinger’s state visit begins. I know that you are overwhelmingly decent people. You are opposed to covering up the rape of children. You are opposed to telling Africans that condoms “increase the problem” of HIV/Aids. You are opposed to labelling gay people “evil”. The vast majority of you, if you witnessed any of these acts, would be disgusted, and speak out. Yet over the next fortnight, many of you will nonetheless turn out to cheer for a Pope who has unrepentantly done all these things.
I believe you are much better people than this man. It is my conviction that if you impartially review the evidence of the suffering he has inflicted on your fellow Catholics, you will stand in solidarity with them – and join the protesters.
To further underscore how blasé the Pope and his cohorts actually are when it comes to causing offence or injury to members of their church, we today heard how Cardinal Walter Kasper referred to the UK as a “Third World country”. We, apparently, are a country marked by “a new and aggressive atheism” where even British Airways discriminates against those who wear a cross. The Vatican – laughably – explained the Third World reference by insisting that it wasn’t intended as any kind of slight but was merely referring to the UK’s multicultural society! Once again, this cackhanded attempt at damage limitation serves to show just how removed they are from reality – or, perhaps, how immune they consider themselves to be from it.
So, whatever your faith, I would – as a caring, hopefully moral man – like to emphasise that whilst I might not respect your particular beliefs, I certainly respect your right to believe whatever you wish. And, as I have stated elsewhere numerous times, I would indeed fight for that right. I don’t ask that you wave placards and shout slogans, only this: consider the words of Cardinal Newman – the beatification of whom Ratzinger is to announce during his visit to the UK – when he said, “I shall drink … to conscience first and to the Pope afterwards.”
Two sample chapters of If I Never can be read here.
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