The Pope And Politics.
I don’t think I have ever posted on a religious theme, not that I don’t have opinions but it seems to me that arguments concerning religion tend to go nowhere and shed very little light on the issues. People frequently believe what they choose to believe irrespective of the arguments or the evidence, plus it often creates unnecessary animosity.
Probably slightly surprisingly, as an atheist, I am not particularly concerned if people believe in a Deity, a Guru or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that is for every individual to decide for themselves, after all there should be no compunction in religion nor any enforcement of atheism.
Still the role of religious organisations in society is not a small one and in my view can often be detrimental, so I think it is perfectly proper to scrutinise religious organisations, their actions and the consequences, as public bodies.
All public bodies, in my view, should be open to scrutiny, from the highest government department to the lowliest quango, and certainly not excluding the actions of the officials. That approach should apply to major religious organisations too.
However, I have noticed during discussions on these issues that the topics of religious belief, organisational structures and the actions of leaders often become confused, unnecessarily.
It should be perfectly possible to accept that people can believe whatever religious belief they choose, but that the actions which follow from them are open to debate, further that religious hierarchies and their activities are not off-limits.
I don’t believe that anyone’s views are naturally privileged by virtue of holding those views, including my own, be that in the field of politics, faith or organised religion.
So it follows that controversial religious organisations may derive criticism from their public actions and statements. Equally, I think it is generally rude, counterproductive and unnecessary to attack sincerely held religious beliefs for no other reason than to start an argument.
If people wish to believe something that is their right, in as much as it does not adversely affect others, or that their organisations do not try to detrimentally influence public policy.
I think it’s very important to make that distinction, between belief and organisation, in much the same way that the idea of the separation of Church and State is instituted in the United States of America.
This was brought home to me whilst reading a post at Socialist Unity, Pope Welcome Here.
Readers can make their own minds up on it, but the visit of the Pope is an important one and worthy of critical comment.
I will post more in the future but for now Peter Tatchell’s words will do, from the Indy:
“Why we oppose the Pope’s state visit to Britain
Pope Benedict preaches intolerance & rejects key human rights. Most Catholics oppose many of his teachings
Pope Benedict comes to Britain next month. As democrats, we believe he has every right to come here and express his opinions. But we also have a right to protest against his often harsh, extreme views. We have a right to say that he is not welcome.
The Protest the Pope campaign is calling on the British government to disassociate itself from the Pope’s intolerant teachings on issues such as women’s rights, gay equality and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. On these and many other issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including most Catholics.
We also object to his visit being funded by the taxpayer. Much of his itinerary involves religious and spiritual events. It is not appropriate that these are paid for by the public. After all, we don’t fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.
On so many important social issues, the Pope rejects human rights.
Pope Benedict opposes women’s ordination. Women are deemed unfit to preach the gospel. This is an insult to the whole female sex. The implication of the Pope’s teaching is that women have no moral capability or capacity for spiritual leadership. This is pure patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.
The Pope says artificial contraception is a sin. He condemns poor parents to having large families that they can’t care for adequately. In some countries, priests spread the lie that contraception makes women sick.
Pope Benedict opposes IVF fertility treatment, to give childless couples the chance of parenthood. This is odd. The Catholic Church says having children is God’s will but denies this option of parenthood to infertile couples.
The Pope rejects potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research, which could help find cures for terrible illnesses like motor neurone disease – saving lives and improving people’s quality of life. Surely this research is fulfilling Christian values and ideals?
Benedict XVI has denounced the use of condoms, even to stop the spread of HIV. He has also claimed that condom usage may “increase” the rate of HIV infection. His dishonest teachings discourage a proven way to reduce HIV transmission; thereby putting millions of lives at risk.
The Pope has colluded with the Vatican’s promotion of the lie that condoms spread HIV because latex is porous to the virus (sic). This is an outrageous falsehood and has been condemned as untrue and irresponsible by scientists and medical professionals.
In 1992, When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.” Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no “right” to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination, suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be “legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.”
The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as “evil” and vilified supporters of gay equality as “gravely immoral.” He has also denounced homosexual equality as a “deviant trend” and condemned same-sex love as being “without any social value.” He even threatened to excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws.
While condemning loving, consenting adult same-sex relations, the Pontiff played a role in shielding Catholic clergy guilty of child sex abuse from prosecution.
In 2001, Pope Benedict wrote a letter to all Catholic Bishops, which ordered Papal silence concerning allegations of child sex abuse. He instructed the Bishops to report all such cases to him in Rome, so the idea that he did not know about sex abuse by priests is nonsense. His letter did not tell Bishops to report the abusers to the police.
The esteemed Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, said the Pope bears co-responsibility for the cover-up and that Benedict has failed to apologise for his own personal shortcomings during the child sex abuse scandal.
For more than two decades, as a Cardinal and as a Pope, Joseph Ratzinger has attempted to reverse the liberalising trends of the Second Vatican Council – pushing the whole church back to a more orthodox, conservative agenda. He’s strengthening the hierarchy and autocracy of the Vatican and the Papacy.
This has prompted a grassroots Catholic revolt – the “We are Church” movement – which seeks a more democratic, transparent, accountable church.
The Pope has condemned liberation theology, as espoused by Catholic theologians such as Gustavo Gutierriz and Leondaro Boff, and he has opposed the worker priest movement. He preaches social justice but attacks those clergy who advocate political action to reform society and make it more just.
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict rescinded the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson who, in 2008, denied key elements of the Holocaust; claiming that a maximum of 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps and that none were gassed by the Nazis.
Benedict has also paved the way for eventual sainthood of Pope, Pius XII, despite the war-time pontiff’s failure to speak out publicly, either during or after the Holocaust, against the Nazi mass murder of six million Jews and millions of others, including Russian, Polish, disabled, gay and Roma people – and many more.
Pius XII was no saint. The fact that Pope Benedict wants to makes him a saint shows how far he has strayed from the moral and ethical values of most Catholics and most of humanity.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is also a spokesperson for the Protest the Pope campaign, spoke at a public meeting at the Old Town Hall, Richmond, London, last night.
Update 1: A slightly longer version is available at Peter Tatchell’s web site.