Saturday, 18 September 2010

Pope in London : The best thing is the protests

In case you haven't noticed, the Pope is in London. Millions have come out to see him, the papers are full of it. The media has been awash with the chattering classes giving their opinion. Richard Dawkins must be chuffed as he's been rolled out time and again to tell us all his views. Stephen Fry has jumped on the bandwagon. These pundits take the view that the Pope shouldn't have been invited because, unlike the 5 million Roman Catholics in Great Britain, they don't like him. Gay rights campaigners such as Peter Tatchell have been out on the streets protesting. I never really imagined Tatchell getting into bed with Ian Paisley, but this is one of the stranger effects of the pope's visit.

People have asked me what I think of the protests (for those of you who don't know, I'm a Roman Catholic). I think it is great. If people feel strongly enough about something to protest, they should. I don't agree with many of the protestors, but so long as the protestors are peaceful and don't prevent other people from enjoying the visit, it is perfectly right and proper for them to protest. I am sure the Pope himself is actually chuffed. All of the debate has caused huge interest in the visit.

Many people forget that until 1829, it was illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Untold numbers of people died as a result of the reformation and the religious infighting. Roman Catholics couldn't legally practise their faith. There are still vestiges of this discrimination in the Act of Settlement, which prevents a Roman Catholic becoming monarch. For the Pope to formally visit Queen Elizabeth II is a sign of the progress we've made. We live in a tolerant society. We can say what we like. If we don't like someone, we can protest and that can only be a good thing. A society where a Papal visit didn't spark a few protests would be a society I couldn't live in. If we only tolerated protests we agreed with, we'd have no freedom at all. That is why, even though I don't agree with the protestors, the fact they are there shows we live in a healthy democracy.

I won't be going to see the Pope tonight, although my son will. I'm going around to see some friends and celebrate the end of the Yom Kippur Fast. This isn't a comment on the Pope, its what we always do on this day. We live in a multi racial, multi cultural, multi faith society and that to me is something worth celebrating. I believe Londoners love a bit of Pomp and ceremony. We know we are the capital of the world and as such it is only right that the Pope should come to see us. I hope he has a good time and all of those who see him get something great from the experience


baarnett said...

I have yet to be convinced this should have been a state visit. The pope is welcome, of course, to come here on a pastoral visit, like the last pope did.

I don't think a state visit is appropriate, NOT because of any policies of this "state", but because it isn't really a state at all. Unless someone can correct me, the Holy See only became a state in a rather dubious agreement with that great colossus of democracy, Mr Mussolini.

Rog T said...


I'm sure many "States" have come into being as a result of rather dubious arrangements. As far as I'm concerned, the criteria of judging whether it is a state is whether it fulfills the criteria necessary for membership of the UN and is recognised by the UN as a State.

As I understand it, the Vatican meets these, although chooses to be an observer rather than a member.

When it comes down to it, if it fullfills the legal requirements of the UN for statehood, then it is a state and a state visit is appropriate.

I'm sure that of the many heads of state who have come here, few have generated such general interest. I think such things are part of lifes rich tapestry and add to the experience of living in a great city.

It also stimulates debate and makes us think. For these reasons alone, I suspect that the pope is better value for his visit than many.

I don't personally care whether it is a state visit or not, although the meeting with the Queen is hugely symbolic, given the history of the Church in the UK.

Broadway Blogger said...

We are covering this brilliant visit on Broadway Blog today. Mill Hill has a strong Catholic Tradition being the former home of the MHM and Cardinal Vaughn.

So far this Pope has been very impressive and the turnout/music has been very impressive.

6 million catholics and around 3,000 protesters ! Sums up the real feelings of the UK about this visit. The protest adds some more colour and actually highlights the Pope's message by keeping the story at the top of the headlines.

SKY HD coverage has been awesome of the visit.

Jaybird said...

Baarnett - that is certainly Geoffrey Robertson QC's view on the Vatican "State" (along with an estimate that 9% of Catholic priests were involved in abuse).

The apologies are welcome but have not really covered the facilitation of the abuse.

However, in many ways I am with Dr Ben Goldacre on this - the lies about condoms are despicable.

Dotted around this country are old hospitals built to house people with psychiatric problems as a result of tertiary syphilis - testament if any were needed that abstinence is not a realistic response to managing sexually transmitted illnesses.

Not crazy about the treatment of homosexuals and women either, by the way.

Mrs Angry said...

Wouldn't it be nice if this weekend, with the visit from the Holy Father and Yom Kippur, that we all had some time for some reflection and spiritual refreshment? Perhaps, for example, our Tory councillors will return to 'work' on Monday full of new direction and dedication, foregoing all worldly rewards for the sake of mankind, and perhaps we bloggers will feel moved to write only about fluffy, nice things, full of the milk of human kindness. Ahh ... Oh well. Maybe not.
But seriously: it is easy to criticise the Catholic church, and God knows there is plenty to criticise, but there is also an awful lot of good that is done, or has been done, by clergy, lay members, teachers and Catholic charities. If it is true that 9% of priests were involved in abuse, that is terrible - it is also true that 91% were men of faith with good intentions. Some of those being most vocal in protesting about this visit no doubt have some very interesting skeletons in their own cupboards. And here endeth Mrs Angry's Thought for the Day.

Rog T said...


I read the Geoffrey Robertson view and felt that it was a rather clever piece, but the fact is that the UN recognises the Vatican.

As to the other points. I read the Ben Goldacre article (read it every week). It wasn't one of his better ones, it seemed to me that he failed to prove his point. My issue with his argument is that abstinece (the churches solution) is dismissed by him because everyone ignores it, but he claims no one uses condoms because the pope decrees it.

As far as I'm concerned, people don't use condoms because sex is better without them and blaming the pope is cobblers. If sex was better with condoms everyone would use them. Ben completely neglects to mention this major hole in his argument.

As to women & gays, if you want them to be treated properly, you'd be far better off protesting outside the Daily Mail or the Sun's offices. I suspect they are far more guilty of suppressing them than the Pope is.

Much as it would be lovely if the Pope controlled the way the 1 billion Roman Catholics behave in the world, this notion is ridiculous. If you don't believe me go to mass and count how many people have ten kids these days.

In my personal opinion the Pope and the Church are a force for good but one with a few problems which urgently need sorting out. UK Catholics are aware of all of this and hope that it is sorted out ASAP.

By the way, you are economical with the truth on the 9% claim. What the article says is "on one estimate 9% of clerics are implicated". Firstly this doesn't give the source or reliability of the "estimate". Secondly it doesn't say how they may be implicated. Thirdly implicated is completely different to actually being an abuser. A Priest who properly reports suspicions of abuse by another priest to a bishop, who then does nothing is "implicated".

Of course 0.09% would still be unacceptable. I'd be all for throwing open the files to the Police and cleaning it up for once and all.

baarnett said...

"... our Tory councillors will return to 'work' on Monday full of new direction and dedication, foregoing all worldly rewards for the sake of mankind."

I'm sure that Brian Coleman cannot perform his "100-hours-a-week" of public service in his various roles, if he were to take a day off, and only return to work on Monday.

The very idea.

Broadway Blogger said...

The abuse figure is "Made up" and this article shows the real figure

It is generally accepted by those outside of the media that abuse by RC Priests is no more and could be far less than other professions.

It has been used as a stick to beat religion by those who would find any excuse.

These "secret files" probably do not exist. It is also quite clear that what abuse there was took place mainly in residential homes/schools back in the 50s and 60s. Nearly all of those are closed down now and modern methods of early detection mean that it would be impossible for the physical beatings to take place in 2010.

I am not a Catholic but I recognise the "campaign" against the Catholic Church by some in the UK luvvies media. Perhaps now they will realise that faith is a matter for the individual. It is the decision of the heart of a person whether they believe in God. No amount of SPIN will make any difference.