as you have probably heard, the hierarchy of the catholic church is coping with plenty of more-than-usually-unpleasant scandal involving the usual suspects: priests, paedophiles, children, cover-ups, pay-offs, not-quite-apologies, denials, denouncings and defrockings which have, for the first time i can remember, started to take on a somewhat apocalyptic tone, that’s apocalyptic in terms of the catholic church if not the rest of us. even the commentariat at the times smell blood:
“A pope with no moral authority simply cannot function as a pope. Yes, he has ecclesiastical power. But ecclesiastical power without moral authority merely exposes the hollowness of an unaccountable, self-perpetuating clerisy. Does he think we don’t know? Does he understand that any parent of any child will be unable to imagine themselves in the same moral universe as this man?”
and some of them are even sort-of-default-catholics for whom this is the final straw:
“I could hardly be described as a good, or even decent, Catholic, but I’d managed to hang on in there, in the vaguest way imaginable. Vague because it’s hard to pay lip-service to a faith that you feel hates you; a faith that would rather let you die in childbirth than have an abortion, won’t let you take the contraception necessary to prevent said abortion, hates gay people despite having many homosexual priests; a faith that talks ignorant nonsense about HIV and Aids, that would rather watch people die in Africa than let them use a condom; a faith that is unbelievably slow to say sorry about the fact that some of its members are habitual rapists of children.
I mean, you know, at some point you just give up. Not one of these things is defensible taken individually. Collectively, they are beyond comprehension.”
faith central has a bunch more, thanks to the always-charming ruth gledhill.
and now, of course the pope’s opposite number in the atheist world, the ever-reliable richard dawkins and his fellow diatribalist christopher hitchens (the man who, i was appalled to discover, repeated the “hole in the sheet” legend as fact in his anti-religious tract “G!D Is not great” without doing basic research) have volunteered to “do a pinochet” on big bad benny before his lips touch the tarmac at heathrow.
now, i have to admit that part of me admires them for having the stones to try and, frankly, i’d rather not foot the tax bill for his security. however, it is only fair to point out, as indeed does libby purves at the times, that:
“We know that even if the Vatican had never done anything legally dubious or morally wrong, Hitch and Dawk would still hate it.”
although on balance, i think i agree with her that this needs airing and dealing with properly if the church is not to avoid a fatal collapse in its already critically compromised moral authority. aside from the pre-vatican 2 accusations of deicide and more than a thousand years of clerical jew-hatred (oops, i’m not sure we’re done with that), i have, i think, a fairly relaxed attitude to catholicism and a great admiration for my many friends who seek to remain within its communion, even if i always thought the theology was a bit on the prudey-square side and have never, ever seen eye-to-eye with celibacy.
i’m actually not sure if it’s the general or the specific that worries me; i always admired peter tatchell when he tried this kind of stunt, but that’s peter tatchell, he’s a principled sort of bloke. it’s just that i could envisage dawkins and hitchens trying exactly the same thing on, say, an israeli chief rabbi or the sheikh of al-azhar; it’s all the same to them, of course, but if they were to get this to fly, you could see exactly what would happen with every single-issue campaigner/gadfly/wingnut: the same thing that happened with tzipi livni. we are, after all, talking about a mentality that will try any stunt, no matter how stupid, counterproductive and unhelpful, that gets them into the paper.
i suppose south park are right:
Dawkins knew that logic and reason were the way of the future. But it wasn’t until he met his beautiful wife that he learned using logic and reason isn’t enough. You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn’t think like you.