There has been a lot of hoo ha over the Pope’s visit to Britain. The Pope has been greeted by attacks from various organisations with an axe to grind. Not all of the attackers were from secular organisations. Of course, Ian Paisley was there in Edinburgh doing what he has been doing since before I was born.
I read the post of Brian McClinton, Chairman of the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland, published by Jeffery Peel.
I am actually an atheist myself, though brought up as a Catholic. Even though I agreed that what Mr. McClinton had said was mostly factually correct, I found the article disturbing. It was, perhaps, a hasty reaction of mine to suggest in my first comment that the article would feed Protestant anti-Catholic propaganda. In a second comment upon the article, I expressed the view that we should be careful about how we criticise religions. Jeffrey countered that the Catholic Church had escaped criticism for too long.
There is plenty of merit in what Jeffrey said and yet I still could not help the feeling that there was still something wrong with Mr. McClinton’s article. That feeling was heightened when I watched the broadcast highlights showing the Pope give a joint sermon with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey and the scenes of joy from people who came to see a significant ecumenical event.
The criticisms made by Mr. McClinton are not new. His message was clearly aimed at Catholics. However, there almost no Catholics who are unaware of the problems of Paedophile Priests or the fact that senior clergy have erred in the way that they have handled the allegations.
We are in the age of reason, enlightenment and human rights. The latter point is important in this context. Whatever wrongs there are with the Catholic Church, Catholics are free to choose whether they want to remain Catholics or not.
Never mind this Pope’s failings or the failings of the structure and doctrine of the Catholic Church. The people who welcomed the Pope genuinely wanted his visit to be a symbol of peace and goodwill. Those people deserve to be left alone to pursue that very laudible objective during the Pope’s visit. Accordingly, the timing of Mr. McClinton’s comment was inappropriate.
Simon Heffer writing for the Daily Telegraph has a very similar view to mine on this particular issue.
“In a society like ours, faith should be a consideration, such as whether one takes sugar in one’s tea. It is entirely a matter of private conscience and taste and of no consequence to anyone else. Only when fundamentalists decide they wish to start to force their feelings on others, even to the point of murder, should the state intervene to protect the liberties of the people. Religiosity should have no part in politics – the comments to the contrary by Baroness Warsi on Thursday were fatuous, opportunist and shallow – but individual politicians are free, in their private lives, to do what they like. The atheists have, though, set a bad example by becoming so unpleasant about the Pope. Let’s just hope the religious fanatics don’t follow their example.”
Amen to that.