Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The Pope visits the UK this week. He arrives tomorrow. He'll be in Glasgow, where I have a friend who I know won't be queueing up to see him, Edinburgh, London and Birmingham. It seems like the fading of all the harsh media coverage of Pope Benedict, and the Catholic Church itself, over the summer has not resulted in short public memories. In fact, it seems like the Pope is going to have a bumpy ride... Because people are just not letting this whole pedophile thing go, are they? Geeez.

To wit, this article in today's Guardian points out that many of the priests who have been jailed in England and Wales as pedophiles have, in fact, remained in the priesthood and still receive financial support from the Catholic Church. In an exposé on the UK's Channel 4 news program, journalists investigated whether or not the Church was following recommendations of the Nolan Report of 2001. That report recommended that any priest that was sentenced to a year or more than of jail time because of conviction on sexual abuse charges should be cast out (laicized) from the Catholic Church. However, as Channel 4 is reporting this evening in the UK,

"At least 14 of the 22 priests who have served a year or more behind bars are still members of the clergy and 10 of these appear in the most recent edition of the Catholic Directory, the official yearbook of the church. Only eight of the 22 men have been dismissed from their positions.
One of those featured in tonight's programme, Fr John Coughlan, was jailed in 2005. Although he no longer leads services, he is still a priest and lives in church-owned property. He refused to appear on camera but said he was "in limbo" and that he was in touch with other priests who were in a similar situation.
His home is in the diocese of Westminster, which is run by Vincent Nichols, who is the most senior Catholic in the country and who played a pivotal part in developing child protection policies for the church. He has frequently said the Catholic church in England and Wales leads the way in child protection."

I don't know about you, but that last sentence just left me ill.

The outcry across the UK is loud and strong, however. And some of it is rather high profile. Here's a letter posted in Today's Guardian:

We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:

● Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of AIDS.
● Promoting segregated education.
● Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.
● Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
● Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.
The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties ("concordats") with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.
Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor Susan Blackmore, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Ed Byrne, Baroness Blackstone, Ken Follett, Professor AC Grayling, Stewart Lee, Baroness Massey, Claire Rayner, Adele Anderson, John Austin MP, Lord Avebury, Sian Berry, Professor Simon Blackburn, Sir David Blatherwick, Sir Tom Blundell, Dr Helena Cronin, Dylan Evans, Hermione Eyre, Lord Foulkes, Professor Chris French, Natalie Haynes, Johann Hari, Jon Holmes, Lord Hughes, Robin Ince, Dr Michael Irwin, Professor Steve Jones, Sir Harold Kroto, Professor John Lee, Zoe Margolis, Jonathan Meades, Sir Jonathan Miller, Diane Munday, Maryam Namazie, David Nobbs, Professor Richard Norman, Lord O'Neill, Simon Price, Paul Rose, Martin Rowson, Michael Rubenstein, Joan Smith, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Professor Raymond Tallis, Lord Taverne, Peter Tatchell, Baroness Turner, Professor Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA, Ann Marie Waters, Professor Wolpert, Jane Wynne Willson

(I was so delighted to see Harold Kroto, a chemist whose work I heard about regularly while I was getting my PhD, on that list. Who knew?)

There is growing opposition as well to the fact that a state visit would be funded with British taxpayer monies, to the tune of a reported £1.5M for police protection alone. First Post estimated back in March the total cost of the Pope's visit may run to £20M at least at least £13M of which is already known to be on the taxpayer's pence.  Of course that was before all the 'complaints' calendared for 2010 worsened, as the Vatican itself, and dioceses not just in Ireland, but in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil and India, began to be accused of covering up pedophile priests, and the level of anger increased. Now it's likely going to be even more exorbitant, if the CNN article is to be believed. A lot of people really actively dislike the Pope. In fact, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have said that they'd like to see him arrested for crimes against humanity. (It's no surprise, therefore, that Dawkins is the second signatory on the letter to the Guardian stating that the Pope shouldn't receive a state visit.)

And why does the Vatican's man rank a state visit? Distinguished human rights attorney Geoffrey Robertson looks at the legal side in a column in the Guardian. It seems the reason the Holy See gets treated as a state is because of the Lateran Treaty signed in 1927 with none other than Benito Mussolini. And the UK wasn't even a party to the treaty. Robertson is the author of The Case of the Pope, which has been termed "a coolly devastating inquiry into the Vatican's handling of Child Abuse."  From Eagleton's review:

"The first child sex scandal in the Catholic church took place in AD153, long before there was a "gay culture" or Jewish journalists for bishops to blame it on. By the 1960s, the problem had become so dire that a cleric responsible for the care of "erring" priests wrote to the Vatican suggesting that it acquire a Caribbean island to put them on."

The Case of the Pope releases on September 29. I know what I'll be reading come the end of the month...

Frankly, I'm thinking the reason for the state visit is state protection. When John Paul II visited the UK in 1982 the visit was pastoral and presumably the Vatican picked up the bulk of the cost. But Pope Benedict has a lot of people who really wish he and his Church and his pedophile priests would just go away. 

So centuries of misdeeds on the part of the Church he represents result in their need for taxpayer funded protection?

You bet. And how wrong is that?

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


  1. Dennis, babe, right now I feel sick with autoimmune GI stuff. for like five days already. Do you think it's a manifestation of your God's will that I suffer or is it some genetic cell-mediated mischief? I'm-a gonna go with the latter but I know you're gonna go with the former?

    What's up for you this week in Montreal? Is the weather cooling off up there?

  2. BTW, Dennis, any take on the Pope? He makes Christianity look bad, or at least the Catholic political machine does?

    What do you think about all the pedophiles in the Catholic Church? What will your God have to say to them?

  3. Dude! You're proxying out of España now? I am sooooo impressed. Dennis, where do you get this list of proxy servers?

  4. You noticed that, too? Let me tell you, when I decide to visit Spain, I'll go in person.

    I hope you get to feeling better, though.

  5. Thanks Michael.

    And today was a good day for Dennis on my blog. Only three generic posts and one menace. I got off easy, right?

  6. I think that's because he was busy over at Forever In Hell. ::sigh:: I really do hope he gets some help. Oh, maybe he enjoys what he does, but I have a hard time imagining that anything involving repetitive unpleasantness to others could be all that satisfying.