Sunday, 19 September 2010

With all due respect

Dear Pope Benedict

Hello, and welcome to Britain. Today you're visiting my hometown, which I'm sure is a source of delight to many. Although it has meant that some of my friends living near your route have needed to carry identification with them whenever they've needed to leave the house, even on the smallest of errands.

I'm led to believe that God moves in mysterious ways, but even he doesn't need his driving licence if he wants to pop into Tescos.

I should perhaps state an interest here. I am a baptised Catholic, although I never had the Confirmation thing when I was seven. Not having taken first Communion is a little like filling out the application form but not returning it, I suppose.

But I suspect you have many other things to think about right now. I mean, there was that thing that cropped up with one of your aides, who described Britain as being like a Third World country just before your visit. That was indeed unfortunate.

However, I suppose if anyone was going to be an expert on the Third World, it would be someone senior in the Roman Catholic Church, wouldn't it? I mean, after all, the Catholic Church has been pretty active in the Third World for some time. It's your main growth market sector, I would think.

Of course, a lot of that growth has been caused by rampant over-population in many of these Third World countries. It's a serious problem, putting already scant resources under immense strain.

And it makes me wonder. If only the accepted authority figures in these communities were to positively promote methods by which people could control their fertility. Sensible and realistic advice on contraception - that might help.

But instead, it seems that there is an army of people in many of these Third World countries who are doing their level best to actually discourage these measures. These people are your people, Pope Benedict. They report to you, ultimately. And they're not exactly stopping these unsustainable birthrates, are they? Someone more cynical than me might even think this was some form of recruitment programme. After all, market share is where it's at.

Mind you, I suppose the worrying spread of HIV/AIDS in some of those same countries, partly because condoms are a no-no, helps to keep the numbers down, doesn't it?

That would be worrying enough, Benedict. But there are some other inconsistencies that trouble me. On Friday you spoke at Westminster Hall. Amongst other things, you talked about those who have criticised organised religion. I'm not here to enter the debate about the existence of God - I don't want to go there - but you did accuse those who favoured, for instance, a scientific approach, of taking too narrow a view.

That's an interesting choice of words, isn't it? You do know that the Vatican only formally acknowledged that the Earth goes round the sun about 20 years ago, don't you? But there's more to it than that. You're head of an organisation seeks to deny the rights of homosexuals to live their lives as they wish. An organisation that, for no logical reason, refuses to allow women to be ordained. That promotes segregated education. You know, I think these are views that fall quite easily into the 'narrow' category.

On Friday you spoke about the cult of celebrity and its associated dangers. Wise words indeed, and I'm sure they were well-meant. But coming as they did from the mouth of a man in shimmering white robes and a big hat, who is driven around in a glass box on an elevated platform, they didn't quite ring true.

You talked about the scourge of 'aggressive secularism'. You even drew a not-too-subtle parallel between it and the rise of Nazism. But you left out any mention of the people across the planet who've been on the receiving end of some good old-fashioned tough loving, courtesy of the Catholic Church. And I'm not just talking about the pederasts in your clergy who you have protected from justice. I'm talking about the Jews that had 1,500 years of shocking treatment from the Catholic church. I'm talking about young mothers ripped from their families in Ireland and elsewhere. I'm talking about divorced people struck out of their communities. I'm talking about people becoming targets if they have lifestyles of which your Church disapproves.

It seems pretty aggressive to me. And while we're on the subject of aggression, a quick quiz for you. What did Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, Pinochet's Chile and Peron's Argentina have in common? Brutal dictatorships, strongly Catholic, not one of whom ever received a squeak of protest from the Vatican. Bonus points if you mentioned the Reichskonkordat, the treaty between Pope Pius XI and Nazi Germany in 1933. Which, by the way, has never been revoked.

Say what you will about secular folks - but they don't have the same back-story as some of those who went to Mass regularly.

Benedict, I'm sure you mean well. And I'm sure that for many people, my own mother included, the Catholic Church does good works. Since we lost Dad I know she's taken comfort from her faith. I wouldn't begin to question her on it; that would be arrogant and unhelpful. It works for her. I still wish she wouldn't take the Daily Mail, but I guess that's out of even your hands.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Britain, and that your congregation gets some degree of fulfilment from it. But I remember there being something in the Bible about removing splinters from eyes. I think there's a plank in yours that needs to go first.

So please don't be surprised if some of us in this apparent 'Third World Country,' with its hard-won freedoms and tolerance, hear your words and want to take you up on them, to question and challenge you and the organisation you lead.

With all due respect, of course.


sher said...

bravo! found you via cold spaghetti, and glad i did :)

fatboyfat said...

Thank you sher, and welcome!


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