There’s been a bit of scandal in the UK over the last week or so regarding a visit of Pope Benedict XVI. There’s a lot to cover from this visit, so I thought I’d summarise it as best as I can and bring up some of the talking points.

State Visit

As pointed out in the open letter to UK paper The Guardian, much of the opposition to the Pope’s visit is the way it has been funded. The Pope was invited by Queen Elizabeth II as a head of state, thus rendering the visit an official “State Visit”. This means that the UK taxpayer picking up the tab for large portions of the visit. The cost of letting a Pope into your country? In excess of $20 million not including police protection, which would probably run another $10 million. For a country which has more non-cathcolics than Catholics, it seems a bit on the expensive side.

Third World Country

Prior to the visit, one of the Pope’s official advisors, and member of the visiting party Cardinal Walter Kasper, made a statement that the UK was like a “third world country”.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion, regardless of how ignorant.  But the noble Cardinal went on to clarify…

Cardinal Walter Kasper told German magazine Focus that someone landing at Heathrow airport might think they were in a ‘Third World country’ as there are such a variety of multicultural faces there.

Oh, so he’s not just an idiot, he’s a racist idiot.  Such was the backlash that he pulled out of the tour before it started.  But of course, this is the Catholic Church, so they can’t just apologize and state that Cardinal Kasper is pulling out of the tour to prevent any offence, no, instead they are claiming illness.  but once again, public relations aren’t their strong point, so the illness that they chose was gout.

Affecting around 1–2% of the Western population at some point in their lives, gout has increased in frequency in recent decades. This is believed to be due to increasing risk factors in the population such as metabolic syndrome, longer life expectancy, and changes in diet. Gout was historically known as “the disease of kings” or “rich man’s disease”.

I’m sure the starving Catholics in third world countries who are dying of AIDS, and spreading AIDS because this Pope has forbidden the use of condoms have real sympathy for someone suffering the “disease of kings”.

The Pope’s Views

If you’ve read this blog before you’ll no doubt be aware that I find the Catholic Church to be one of the most despicable organisations on the planet.  We’ve had the the Church, or representatives thereof, claiming child abuse is linked to homosexuality, abusive clergymen weren’t technically pedophiles and generally sweeping the problem of child abuse under the carpet.  It is not a nice organisation that refuses to face up to its problems whilst simultaneously blaming everyone else for it’s own problems.

The Catholic Church needed a bold leader who would front up to its problems and weed them out.  A leader who would change the public image of the Church by being more open, honest, accountable and inclusive.  Instead they got Pope Benedict XVI.

His views on contraception and women’s rights are antiquated.  His protection of those who abused children is disgusting. His demonisation of homosexuality appalling.  This does not make him popular in relatively liberal developed countries, such as the UK.

His Speech

Given the controversy of the visit for the points noted above, the Pope (or his advisors assuming he is not the one who writes his own speeches) chose to court yet more controversy.  In his opening speech he decided to associate atheism with the Nazi party.

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny”

There are a few things that need to be pointed out in response to this ridiculous gibberish.

Firstly, perhaps we should consider that this isn’t an insult at all.  After all, he was in the Hitler Youth and later served as an anti-aircraft gunner in the German army during WWII.  He knows Nazis, and maybe he liked them.  He may have been comparing us to people he likes.

Furthermore, I’d like to refer you to this:

Today they say that Christianity is in danger, that the Catholic faith is threatened. My reply to them is: for the time being, Christians and not international atheists are now standing at Germany’s fore. I am not merely talking about Christianity; I confess that I will never ally myself with the parties which aim to destroy Christianity. Fourteen years they have gone arm in arm with atheism. At no time was greater damage ever done to Christianity than in those years when the Christian parties ruled side by side with those who denied the very existence of God. Germany’s entire cultural life was shattered and contaminated in this period. It shall be our task to burn out these manifestations of degeneracy in literature, theater, schools, and the press—that is, in our entire culture—and to eliminate the poison which has been permeating every facet of our lives for these past fourteen years.

A reasonable person might draw some similarities between the views of Pope Benedict XVI and the speech above.  So who is this person that seems to share the Pope’s views?  Why it’s everyone’s favourite Nazi, Adolf Hitler.

So what other pearls of wisdom did the Pope have to pass on?

As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.

What are the “sobering lessons of atheist extremism”?  Let’s take a stab at them, shall we?

  1. Don’t put people who are ordered to suppress their sexuality in charge of minors and entrust them with their care.
  2. Allow the use of condoms because they prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and HIV.  Emphasise this especially in poorer countries where good healthcare is not available.
  3. Don’t oppress women.
  4. Don’t oppress homosexuals.

Ah, I see the problem there.  Those are the lessons we’ve learned from the actions of the Catholic Church, not atheist extremism.  The problem being that the Catholic Church has not learned these lessons, and probably never will.

The Demonstrations

Sir Ian McKellen at the protest

As I write this there are reports coming in of more than 10,000 people peacefully protesting against the Pope’s visit in London.

What’s interesting about this protest is the wide range of communities it has pulled together.  In many ways, this is one of the great benefits of the Pope’s visit.  There are secularists, gay rights activists, women’s rights activists, people campaigning for justice on the issue of child abuse and even Catholics who are opposed to the direction in which their church is heading.

But of course, despite all the negative media coverage world wide, the criticizm from all corners and now a major protest, the catholic Church still thinks the Pope has been “well received”.

That level of ignorance is so out of character for the Church and its leaders I’m shocked.