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Papal visit to the United Kingdom, 2010

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Pope Benedict XVI visited the UK from September 16 to September 19, 2010 following a formal invitation from the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009. [1] turnout for the major events of the visit was below expectations. [2]

His Unholiness began the visit in Scotland where he was greeted by the Queen. The Pope then travelled by helicopter to Glasgow, to hold mass. Later he preached in Westminster Hall and made an address to Members of Parliament and peers.

Controversies[edit]

Of course, in these modern times, tax-payer funded visits by religious leaders are hardly likely to pass by without a little controversy. The main ones are outlined below in roughly the order they were revealed. Some were in the run up to the visit, some happened during it.

Dawkins to arrest Pope shock!![edit]

In April 2010 The Times newspaper ran a report claiming that Richard Dawkins was personally planning to perform a citizen's arrest on the Pope when he arrived in the UK.[3] The Pope was to be charged as a consequence of his involvement in the multiple child abuse scandals which the Roman Catholic Church has been responsible for covering up.

It subsequently emerged that Dawkins had made no such claim - and that he didn't even instigate it - although he voiced his strong support for those investigating the possibility of legal action.[4]

The mock memo and the "Benedict brand" condoms[edit]

In April 2010 a "mock" memo was circulated and leaked to the Daily Telegraph.[5] The Telegraph included a link to a copy of the memo which included the suggestions shown below.[6] However other newspapers have also referred to other suggestions such as "singing a duet with the queen". These do not appear on the Telegraph link which suggests that either the data released by the Telegraph is part of a larger document or that some journalistic inventiveness may have been at work.

Launch of 'Benedict' condoms
OK, this one was a bit cheeky.
Review of Vatican attitude on condom use
An excellent idea.
Bless a civil partnership
An excellent idea. (Although the couple may prefer to go without as they chose to have a civil partnership instead of a religious service.)
Reversal of policy on female bishops/ordain women
Well, they are short of bishops, and their present policy would appear to contravene sexual discrimination laws (except that strange exception for religions).
Open an abortion ward
This may be asking a lot. (They have wards for abortions?)
Speech on equality
And the problem with speaking about equality is?
Statement on views over adoption (change of stance)
Perhaps more detail needed.
Training course for all bishops on child abuse allegations
Does the Vatican think this is a bad idea? Their previous best idea was to pressurize the victim into silence while in most cases the abuser had chances to go for other victims.
Harder line on child abuse — announce sacking of dodgy bishops
Is this the insulting suggestion?
Vatican sponsorship for network of AIDS clinics
Do they have something against charitable hospices?
Meet young unemployed people
Can this be a bad idea?
Apologize for ...
Perhaps a lack of detail here.
Canonise/pseudo canonise a group
Perhaps a lack of detail here.
Announce whistle blowing system for child abuse cases
The Church actually did this in Germany. What do they have against doing it in the UK?
Go to job centre
Why not?
Debate on abortion
This could be most interesting.
All Roman Catholic schools should be free entry to all
And this is offensive because?
Speech on democracy
What is the problem here? Is the church so afraid of democracy that it can't speak about it?
Vatican and C of E funded committee on dialogue
Oh no! Not dialogue!
Launch helpline for abused children
Again, they did this in Germany. Why not in the UK?

Vatican response[edit]

Although all of these suggestions seem very reasonable, the official responsible was punished for suggesting that the Pope would consider doing anything so positive. (Specifically, by being ... quietly moved sideways to another job.) It would, in fact, be interesting to learn which of the suggestions was thought to be so "offensive".

Notwithstanding the sensible nature of the majority of these claims a Vatican spokesperson was quoted as saying:[7]

It is disgusting. Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See has been in to see the Secretary of State and explain what happened and this will all be relayed to the Pope. It’s even possible the trip could be cancelled as this matter is hugely offensive.

Journalist Johann Hari noted:[8]

The Pope calls British memo joking about him "offensive." You know what I find offensive? RAPING CHILDREN. THOUSANDS. FOR YEARS.

"Third World" jibe[edit]

In the run up to the official visit, Cardinal Walter Kasper was asked his opinions regarding the apparent opposition to the Pope's visit in the UK. His response, as printed in the German magazine Focus, was fairly blunt;

England is now a secular, pluralistic country. When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you had landed in a third world country. Particularly in England, an aggressive New Atheism is widespread. If you wear a cross at British Airways, you will be discriminated against. But we want to show our faith in public. Anyone who knows England knows that there is also a great Christian tradition. Europe would no longer be Europe if it could not preserve this tradition.

This was to set the tone of the visit to come, branding atheism as "anti-catholic" and any form of secularism as "aggressive" or "extreme".

Peter Hitchens, of the right wing rag The Daily Mail, seemed to take issue with the backlash against Kasper's comment, stating that if UK liberal icon Stephen Fry had said such a thing, it would have been the height of wit. Hitchens, of course, had completely ignored the context of the quote (the UK's multiculturalism) and assumed that it was a jibe against the shabby state of Heathrow.[9]

An aide to the Archbishop of Westminster stated that laws favouring the gay rights agenda, the pro-choice agenda and anti-family legislation (presumably that means allowing people in unhappy marriages to divorce) had turned Britain into a “selfish, hedonistic wasteland” The aide was criticised by other leading British Roman Catholics opposed the commercial exploitation of women for sex but apparently thinks a woman who is sexually exploited in an abusive marriage should stay with her husband.

Nazism[edit]

Despite being a man who actually lived through the war in Germany and being an ex-member of the Hitler youth movement (whether he attended the meetings or otherwise),[10] and thus should know better, the Pope decided to pull a riotously funny Godwin by comparing atheists to Nazis.[11][12]

"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society.

Of course, who in the UK hasn't partaken in our national pastime of flying planes into skyscrapers while shouting "Praise Richard Dawkins" - and who remembers that time Johann Hari personally murdered 6 million people wearing a belt inscribed with "God Isn't With Us". And of course Hitler invented Positive Christianity.

Censorship[edit]

After the worthy pope and cardinal felt free to offend the whole British nation with the third world jibe, also to offend all atheists the RC’s were very sensitive when they themselves were criticised. Round the time of the papal visit a Scottish referee sent a modest joke by email which did no more than warn kids to be cautious because the pope was around. The RC church demanded that he and others be punished and they were sacked. [13] Here is a link to the picture with that joke so readers can judge for themselves, is that offensive? With their record the RC’s really have no reason to be self-righteous. After an apology the sacked men were reinstated. [14] Why did they need to apologise? [15]

Cardinal Newman[edit]

During the visit Bennie beatified Cardinal Newman and strongly denied suspicions that Newman was gay so Peter Tatchell asks:-

How can the Vatican be so sure? Were its spies in Newman's bedroom every night of his life? [16]

Newman wanted to be buried alongside his long time lover platonic same-sex friend, then the RC's insisted on removing his remains; they could find no more than brass handles to his coffin and a brass plate, sadly. There is a dubious claim that Newman performed a miracle and Newman, who knew his own conscience, did not consider himself a saint:

I have no tendency to be a saint — it is a sad thing to say so. Saints are not literary men...[17] [18]

Newman’s excuse for unsaintliness, that literary men are not saints is inconsistent with RC practices. Both Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas wrote works considered inspiring and both were declared saints at the time of Newman. [19] There appears to have been some different, more sinful reason why Newman was sure he was no saint.

Newman also said that old popes become corrupted by power, surrounded by people who do not contradict them; unfortunately the present pope does not heed these wise words.

Nature and cost of the visit[edit]

As the Pope's visit was a "State Visit" it cost the UK taxpayers up to £20 million.[20] For this reason some campaigners wanted the visit downgraded to a "Pastoral Visit" as in that case the cost would have fallen on the Catholic Church. Arguments for this mostly rested on whether the Vatican indeed counted as an actual state, and even so, whether the UK would benefit from such a visit - as most state visits are for diplomatic relations.

External links[edit]

References[edit]