This is the latest column for Humanitie, the Humanist Society of Scotland’s magazine, and as such it was written some time ago, when the protest was still just a glint in Facebook’s eye. Tim at the Friendly Humanist and I tackle the Pope’s visit in this one, be sure to read his contribution too.
I was as surprised as I’m sure all of you were to discover that the Pope’s planned visit to the UK in September has caused a spot of bother. I’m writing this piece from Portugal, where the Pope has just finished a 4-day visit without a hitch. The newspapers had nothing but praise for him and there were no protests to be heard of. Even the most vocal of the atheist groups were content to just sit and have a quiet meeting to discuss the evils of the Catholic Church.
What could be causing all this trouble back in the UK? Maybe – and stop me if I’m being a bit daft here – it could have something to do with the systematic cover-up of child abuse that it certainly seems has been going on for Thor knows how long (the Council of Elvira contains a ruling on the sexual abuse of boys, and that dates back to 305AD). So I thought I’d give the Pope some advice on how to clean up the image of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Surely the first thing would be to sack all the people who helped cover up child rape. After all, if your right hand causes you to sin, it’s better to cut it off than for your whole body to go to hell, isn’t that right? This will be difficult. It would mean getting rid of people like Cardinal Bernard Law, who is currently carrying out some cushy job in the Vatican instead of answering awkward questions in Boston, and Cardinal Sean Brady, who earlier in his career presided over meetings where children were forced to sign confidentiality agreements. It may even mean getting rid of the Pope himself, and when replacement clergy are a scarce commodity, somehow I don’t see that happening. I’d also suggest that in future, these sorts of measures should be outlined in apology letters. That way instead of just saying nice words about justice, it seems like you actually mean it.
And whilst it’s being scrutinised, I think it would be wise if the Church stopped saying it’s being persecuted, or likening the scrutiny to a witch-hunt, or to anti-Semitism. It might be more Christian to turn the other cheek and simply pray for your persecutors (or ‘whistleblowers’, as the rest of us might call them).
But perhaps the greatest lesson the Church should learn from its own Bible is to not remove the speck from the eye of its neighbour until it’s removed the log from its own. Until the Church has sorted out its kiddie-fiddler problem, I say it must put its obsession with everyone else’s sex lives on hold, and it must stop blaming homosexuals for its own crimes. Because whilst gay people were having the consensual relationships the Church so despises, priests were raping children behind closed doors, and other priests were helping them get away with it! Sort that out, Mr Ratzinger, and you might salvage some respectability for your Church.