Why protest against the Pope’s visit?

When I got back to Scotland, I was very keen on doing some kind of protest or demonstration against the Pope’s visit. Unfortunately most of the groups I’m involved in were either busy with other events or were reluctant to do anything because they didn’t want to be associated with the Orange Order. So I found a protest in Glasgow on Facebook, but it’s horrendously organised and it wasn’t an ideal place to stage a protest. There will be a Popemobile parade going through Edinburgh so I thought that’d be a better location. Anyway I’m in the process of sorting that out with the police, but I thought it’d be good to explain a few of the reasons why some of us will be protesting. Let’s do this as a rather boring numbered list, starting with the fairly mundane:

1. The disruption. Look at all the bus services that are being affected by the Pope’s visit to Edinburgh. Look at the roads that are being closed in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  There will be still more disruption in Coventry and London. Bin collections are being cancelled, businesses are having to close, schools are being closed, hospitals are on high alert, all so the leader of a tiny proportion of the UK’s population (1.6% if we go by mass attendance) can have his parades and his masses and be ‘adored’ from behind his 6 inches of bulletproof glass. Faith in action, as Bill Hicks would say.

2. The cost. All the current estimates for the costs have failed to include the security costs. To my recollection, the UK government was originally supposed to cover £8million of the costs of the visit, whilst the Church would cover £7million, which supposedly reflected the proportion of the visit which would be a state visit as opposed to a pastoral one. The government’s contribution went up to £12m, and soon after that up to £20m, which is where I believe it currently stands. In the grand scheme of things that’s not so much, except that looking back at past events, the security is usually by far the biggest factor, and they’re not included. Bringing George Bush to Gleneagles for the G8 cost £72 million, and although there were much bigger protests happening then and IIRC that visit was a bit longer, the trip didn’t involve any parades or open-air masses, or any of that malarkey, and he was kept in one place, so we’re looking at a comparable sum of money. The News of the World claim to have uncovered a paper which showed the Scottish portion of the security will cost a minimum of £10 million, and the starting estimate for the costs of the London element is £1.8 million. I suppose we won’t know how much the visit will cost until it happens, but it’ll certainly be more than the £1m – £1.5m that the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police has quoted today.

Don’t forget that this money is coming from the normal police budgets, budgets that are already facing massive cuts in the coalition government’s spending review. People’s jobs and people’s safety are literally on the line because of this visit. Ok, not literally because I don’t know what line that would be, but they are literally at risk.

3. The Pope’s criticism of the UK’s equality laws and its opposition to equal rights for LGBT people. Despite the fact that there is already an exemption in place for ministers and priests, the Pope claimed that the UK Equalities Act which came into force this year imposed unjust restrictions on freedom of religion, basically because it wouldn’t allow the Church to discriminate against gay people when employing people. Let’s be clear here, the Church would not be forced to employ women or gay priests, but they would be banned from discriminating against gay people for example when employing people to be a secretary, or a window cleaner, or anything else that didn’t involve religious teaching. He wanted the Church to be above the law, basically. So not only are we paying through the nose for him to come over here, but while he’s here he’s going to rub salt into the wound by criticising our hard-won freedoms which we’ve had to prise out of the claws of religious groups like his.

4. The continued subjugation of women in the Catholic Church. I’m not just talking about not letting women be priests, but every time the Church releases a statement on the family, it’s always hearkening back to tradition and the old times, which is basically saying women should stay at home and be obedient to their fathers or their husbands. Granted, this isn’t just the fault of the Catholic Church, it’s a widespread phenomenon, particularly amongst religions, since the idea of the sacred is an inherently conservative force, and especially amongst Abrahamic religions. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church’s teachings on the family, abortion and contraception limit women’s reproductive rights and help to propagate the image of women as baby-making machines, which has all sorts of consequences.

5. The promotion of segregated education. We only need to look across the water at Northern Ireland to see the damage that segregated education does. Richard Dawkins made an excellent documentary on this issue which can still be viewed on 4OD.

6. The Vatican’s appalling handling of the abuse cases within the Church. As I’ve covered on this blog before, and as I’m sure new readers will be aware, a huge number of children have been sexually abused in the Catholic Church, and rather than handing over the perpetrators to secular authorities to be punished, Bishops, Archbishops and even Cardinals have chosen instead to deal with it privately within the Church, moving paedophile priests from parish to parish, free to offend again, whilst swearing victims into perpetual silence to protect the reputation of the Church. Whilst I don’t necessarily suggest that the present Pope has been personally involved in such cases, he has certainly not done enough to punish those who have covered up abuse cases. He has not called for the resignation of bishops who definitely did cover up abuse cases, and it is evident that as a Cardinal he put the reputation of the Church well ahead of the safety of children in its charge. He issued a self-serving apology to the Irish Catholics which offered no material solution to the problem. He appointed Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor as head of the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, himself a bishop who moved a known paedophile priest from parish to parish to reoffend. The Church has repeatedly blamed the paedophile crisis on homosexuals.

7. The Pope’s irresponsible comments about condoms and HIV. The Pope and others in the Church have repeatedly stated, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, that condoms do not help prevent the spread of HIV and that in fact they help to spread it. Abstinence-only education programmes have been shown to increase the spread of STD’s and whilst abstinence and fidelity are good ways to protect yourself from infection, it is not a choice that many women have in Africa, and condoms have been shown to be a good way to help prevent the spread of HIV and other STI’s. The Pope’s comments have undermined the work of many AIDS charities working in Africa, and have undoubtedly put lives at risk.

8. The Church’s continued silence about its role in the Rwandan Genocide. There’s not much else that can be said.

Those are some of the reasons. Notice that I have not attacked the Pope’s position as a head of state. Whether or not the Holy See is a legitimate head of state or not (and I’d say the Vatican is not much more than a palace full of old men in frocks) is irrelevant. In the sense that it’s necessary but not sufficient to justify a state visit. Kim Jong Il hasn’t had any state visit invitations recently, and if the heads of state of various other tiny countries like Macedonia or Andorra receive a state visit invitation, they won’t be parading in the streets of various cities. Seeing as the Holy See and its religion is pretty much one and the same thing, it’s only a minute distinction anyway. The Pope’s state visit should be opposed not because he is not a head of state, but because he is the leader of a Church which is completely out of touch with the majority of Britain’s Catholics, never mind the rest of the population, and which is morally corrupt. The visit will come at a great cost to the UK with relatively little benefit.


23 Responses to Why protest against the Pope’s visit?

  1. Michael says:

    can you post details of what time people will congregate? i would very much like to join this. There is other links i have found including people meeting at the david hume statue.

    what are your plans?

  2. rose says:

    You poor thing, all that would make me angry too if it was all true!!Clear article but lots of points are based on hearsay and without true facts. Yes, God is cleaning out his Church even one of the Pope’s said in the 60’s that the smoke of satan had entered the Vatican. However the Church per se is Christ’s Bride on earth, it is being purified. Pray for it rather than attack it that is love and faith in action!

  3. rose says:

    I wonder if this comment will ever make it on the screen? Freedom of speech and all that?

  4. David says:

    What do you mean exactly by ‘the idea of the sacred is an inherently conservative force’. Politically conservative? Or concerned with preserving something that is viewed as good? The latter isn’t automatically a bigoted or reactionary idea (it depends on what’s supposed to be deserving of preservation) or always a bad one (for example, I think Sweden should try to preserve its social democratic low inequality economic model).

  5. grammarking says:

    Michael, the plan is to meet outside the Clydesdale Bank on Lothian Road at around 11am. The police have given us our own little area. As soon as I’ve made one, I’ll post a link to the Facebook event in the OP.

    Rose, maybe you should give me more than 1 minute to approve your comment before crying foul. Some of us have jobs, you know. What is it exactly that is untrue about what I’ve written? I’ve posted links and references to my points, seems like you can just make claims and make it seem as if the truth is somewhere between the two positions.

    David, I mean politically conservative, but with a small c. As in it is an idea which holds onto the past without much thought about whether it is good or not, and is opposed to progressive movements like the feminists, LGBT rights, etc.

  6. Gottard says:

    From Wikipedia on the legitimacy of the Vatican State:
    Valla’s originality, critical acumen, and knowledge of classical Latin style were put to good use in an essay he wrote between 1439 and 1440, De falso credita et ementita Constantini Donatione declamatio. In this he demonstrated that the document known as the Constitutum Constantini (or “donatio Constantini” as he refers to it in his writings), or the Donation of Constantine, could not possibly have been written in the historical era of Constantine I (4th Century), as its vernacular style dated conclusively to a later era (8th Century). One of Valla’s reasons was that the document contained the word satrap which he believed Romans such as Constantine I would not have used.[1] The document, though met with great criticism at its introduction, was accepted as legitimate, in part owing to the beneficial nature of the document for the western church. The Donation of Constantine suggests that Constantine I “donated” the whole of the Western Roman Empire to the Roman Catholic Church as an act of gratitude for having been miraculously cured of leprosy by Pope Sylvester I. This would have obviously discounted Pepin the Short’s own Donation of Pepin, which gave the Lombards land to the north of Rome.

    Valla was motivated to reveal the Donation of Constantine as a fraud by his employer of the time, Alfonso of Aragon, who was involved in a territorial conflict with the Papal States, then under Pope Eugene IV.[citation needed] The Donation of Constantine had often been cited to support the temporal power of the Papacy, since at least the 11th century.

    The essay began circulating in 1440, but was heavily rejected by the Church. It was not formally published until 1517. It became popular among Protestants. An English translation was published for Thomas Cromwell in 1534. Valla’s case was so convincingly argued that it still stands today, and the illegitimacy of the Donation of Constantine is generally conceded.

  7. Craig says:

    Hi Gram,I am not an interllectual man by any means and though I recognize that everyone has the right to make voice upon that which they find goes against their beliefs,I also believe the Pope is doing his utmost to bring man closer to God,Therefore I ask you in all kindness to try and aid his work by praying for him to be given strength to accomplish this and to keep your protest peaceful.

  8. catholic says:

    You all who write against Pope are sick… go for proper medicine.

  9. HarryHatless says:

    Currently using the hashtag #ProtestThePope on Twitter.

  10. David says:

    Instead of a pointless protest go and do something useful with your time.

    • Grant says:

      What like David ….go to church? Stop wasting your lives people as the truth is there is no god and religion of any sort is a medieval control system that gave people then, the answers to most of life’s questions in an age when most were ignorant of the world about them. Now we know how the world and beyond works and that believing in a mythical being is as naive and silly as believing in Santa.

  11. Angi says:

    David, Catholic,Craig

    I’m willing to have my mind expanded and willing to listen. Could anyone provide me with a legitimate argument of why the Pope feels it right to let people die of aids, to excuse the rape of thousands of children, to accept Holocaust denial and to believe that a homosexual feeling is evil regardless of whether a homosexual act has taken place.

    Honestly, not being sarcastic, I really value your opinions on this because I don’t understand.

  12. Andrew says:

    If you were just focused on his role in the sustained organizational cover up of child abuse whilst he was Cardinal there would be a good argument for protesting. I generally agree with most of your other arguments but protesting against his visit on some of those grounds risks to look like denial of freedom of expression. Have you protested against the cost of other state visits?

    As an atheist I turned out in 82 to welcome the Pope on the basis that I did not want anyone to think the No Pope in Scotland nutters were representative of Scottish society. I certainly don’t want to welcome this one. But I am tempted to go and protest against Ian Paisley in the Grassmarket!

    • grammarking says:

      How are we denying his freedom of expression? You recognise that there is a difference between denying someone free speech and not giving someone a platform to speak? You’re free to say whatever you like, but that doesn’t mean that I have to give you a soapbox to speak from.

      I haven’t personally protested against the cost of other state visits, but other heads of state (never mind heads of states as tiny as the Holy See) don’t go parading down streets, driving up the cost of security. Given the moral bankruptcy of the Catholic Church, I think it’s an outrage the invitation was even offered. Clearly it was just to buy the votes of Scottish Catholics.

    • HarryHatless says:

      The idea of freedom of expression works both ways. The pope is allowed to express his opinions, but I am allowed to express my opposition to them.

      Luckily for the pope, I will not be golng to his country and blocking the roads of the city that he lives in while I express my opinion. And I will not be making the citizens of his country pay millions of pounds either.

  13. Trubrit says:

    The Popes visit to Britain is illegal according to the 1700 Settlements ACt which is stil legally binding on the monarchy and the citizens of britain. true.

    From Lines 10 downwards the act forbids a Protetant already crowned monarch from continuing on the throne if they reconcile with the Pope and the HolySee and anything Papist. They loose regal power and the Citizens are absolved from any allegeiences with such a monarch e.g NO taxes etc.

    the Only way to change the law is to issue a STATUE OF WESTMINSTER which the govts have decided not to.

    a copy of the ministry of justice letter confirming that it does apply to the Queen is available on bansection 19c facebook page.

  14. […] When I got back to Scotland, I was very keen on doing some kind of protest or demonstration against the Pope’s visit. Unfortunately most of the groups I’m involved in were either busy with other events or were reluctant to do anything because they didn’t want to be associated with the Orange Order. So I found a protest in Glasgow on Facebook, but it’s horrendously organised and it wasn’t an ideal place to stage a protest. There will be a Popemobile parade going through Edinburgh so I thought that’d be a better location. Anyway I’m in the process of sorting that out with the police, but I thought it’d be good to explain a few of the reasons why some of us will be protesting. Let’s do this as a rather boring numbered list, starting with the fairly mundane: for more click here […]

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