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Debate: Is Catholic indifference the greatest threat to the Pope’s visit?

The media, certainly, are not indifferent to the Pope’s trip. But are the faithful?

By on Friday, 27 August 2010

Will the crowds stay away for the papal visit? (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Will the crowds stay away for the papal visit? (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Francis Campbell, the British Ambassador to the Holy See, spoke to the US Catholic News Service this week about the Pope’s trip. Talking about hostility in the media, he mentioned that he preferred antagonism to indifference, “because it means you’re relevant”.

The media, certainly, are not indifferent to the Pope’s trip. But are Catholics? Rumours suggest that the Mass at Cofton Park and the vigil in Hyde Park are actually undersubscribed, and that the Church is struggling to fill the space.

Some say a lack of interest was spread by the papal visit organisers when they announced that not everyone could see the Pope and that most people would have to watch him on television. Others argue that Pope Benedict XVI is not as popular among English Catholics as John Paul II was.

Still others add that Cardinal Newman does not have a broad appeal among Catholics; he is known as a brilliant writer, but few people have read his books.

On the other hand, when Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Britain, his goodness and gentleness will be evident for all to see. Many Catholics love Pope Benedict, and their voice certainly has not been heard in the run-up to his visit.

So, is Catholic indifference the greatest threat to the Pope’s visit?

  • Alethea33

    None of this would matter if the Church had kept to its ancient tradition instead of marching off to fashionable heresy at the Vatican Council. The closet Jew will get the welcome he deserves: none.

  • agnesceciliaanastasialucy

    Yes, Catholic indifference is a particularly dangerous possibility; nothing could possibly be more dangerous for the Visit than no-one turning out to greet His Holiness or turning up to the Papal events.

    Unfortunately, given the colossal incompetence of the Bishops' Conference in England and Wales – as shown by the tremendous organisational cockups made for this visit – it's a distinct possibility that the protestors and those in favour of the visit will be evenly matched in terms of numbers for events like Cofton Park.

    sub tuum praesidium confugimus…

  • burritobob

    Alethea, are you for real? I suspect you are a joker.

  • burritobob

    I definitely think the attempt to manage people's expectations months ago by saying basically 'watch the Holy Father on TV' was a big, big mistake. It made people think, oh well, I won't bother applying for a ticket. Where was the sense of excitement? I think of someone like Archbishop Dolan in New York – he's the kind of bishop we need.

  • agnesceciliaanastasialucy

    Why were there tickets in the first place? And such limited numbers?

  • burritobob

    To be fair, it sounds like a lot of that stuff was imposed by the Foreign Office. Fr Lombardi said something along those lines the other week, I'm sure..

  • Martha Bux

    I must say I'm not at all surprised by the lack of interest this trip has evinced from ordinary Joe in the Pew, what with you lot being so negative, the relentless focus on the cost, the gross incompetence of the bishops to organise even a piss-up in a brewery and their evident lack of enthusiasm has clearly rubbed off on the faithful. As Burritobob points out, the attempts to manage peoples expectations have turned out to be catastrophic.

    I call on all Catholics to show their support for Pope Benedict when he comes . It is our responsibility as Catholics and a fundamental part of our identity to support the Chair of Peter even if we don't like its occupant. Regardless of whether you like or loathe Pope Ratzinger, you should be there with bells on.

  • J.H. Youssef

    Check this site & find out why some do not care about to see the Pope.

  • GFFM

    Catholics in England are not just indifferent; they are silent on a variety of social issues, especially the life issues. The lack of enthusiasm for the Pope's visit is not surprising and the sniping about cost and expense is petty and short-sited. In reality this visit is historic given the history of English Catholicism. Do English Catholics know their history? It inspires me to speak out on the part of the marginalized or simply to hold firm on Catholic teaching without caving into the pressure of anti-religionists. English Catholic history has inspired my professional interests and many English saints have inspired how I try to lead my life. Benedict understands the history and persecution of the English Church which is illustrative of the rights of conscience and religious freedom in the world. It seems to me, as an American Catholic, that the English Church is embarrassed by his visit. In actuality, English Catholics should be proud and supportive. After all Benedict XVI, despite the criticism he faces from every quarter of the globe, still possesses great moral authority.

  • lananhjn

    Alethea33: I find your comment regarding the Jews to be repulsive. Keep in mind that Jesus Christ was born of a Jewish woman, identified Himself as a Jew, and followed Jewish traditions. If nothing else, try to develop respect, or at the very least tolerance, for other people's religions. You are at risk of sounding like the Pharisees that Jesus our Lord had often criticized and condemned. Yes, I am a cradle Catholic.

  • Mrchipfat

    The greatest threat to the papal visit is the pope himself. Due to his personal aiding and abetting of pederast priests, providing them with cover and secrecy for many years, he has caused more dissolution within the harlot church of Rome than any recent predecessor.

    Mr 666 will perform his gigs to wide open spaces, any many will stay away. In their place will be pervert homosexual activists and human rights loonies, protesting and making a scene.

    The trip will be no doubt hailed a success by senior Catholics, whose salary depends on them saying so. However this 4 day uk tour will be little more than a swansong. When Christ returns He will destroy the rotten, corrupt perverted and wicked papacy, as Revelation shows us.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    Ironically I've got tickets to the beatification but I don't really care…. it's almost funny.

  • Kennyinliverpool

    Catholics in England are not Catholic because they don't accept most Church teachings… including papal authority / Magisterium…so why would it surprise us that no one cares. Catholics devote their lives rejecting Church teachings. If they suddenly feign an interest in conservative Catholicism it would be a bit silly… because as soon as Benedict goes back to Rome the crowds will go back to their normal – nominal Catholic existence…. (celibacy is destroying the Church….. no priests = no evangelisation)

  • pauline rowe

    We've been told it's limited tickets only organised by the neighbourhood parish – made to feel like you have to pass a test to qualify for a place on the coach – and, anyway, I couldn't go with just one other member of the family as we have 6 kids – one being nursed at the moment – and it feels very different to the visit by JPII. I cycled miles to get to the race course in York and though I couldn't see him, heard every word. Amazing experience. Would like to be able to go to Birmingham but practically impossible!

  • Roger1001

    Perhaps they are just all to embarrassed. When there was talk of the Pope visiting some of the poor souls that Catholic priests have abused over the years and have had justice denied by the Church institutionally covering things up, it just became too difficult to admit to being part of the same faith as him and them. Shame on all who attend or even watch. Think of the victims and don't perpetuate the abuse.

  • Roger1001

    Perhaps they are all just too embarrassed. When talk of the Pope visiting the victims of Priest abuse it just became too difficult to stay art of the same faith. The Catholic Church is morally bankrupt after concealing the abuse of young believers. Shame on all who attend or even watch. If you believed in God you would repent properly, not contuine the abuse.

  • njme

    Catholic indifference has been here for a long time. I am in my 70's and have questioned teachings on birth control etc since my 20's. The scandal has not helped and perhaps this is Gods punishment. We need leaders who have more respect for woman, and more in touch with the needs of the Catholic Community. Jesus welcomed everyone to his table and was more interested in social justice then the sexuality of His followers. njme

  • Domjoer3

    It sounds like you don't understand why celibacy is important in the church. RCIA is a great way of learning more in-depth information about what the church does/believes and why. :) Lay people evangelize everyday!

  • Kevin Greenan

    For over a year now we have had endless scandals concerning abuse which the media have relished to imply that no priest can be trusted, this is of course not only untrue but insulting to the immense majority of our priests and religious. None the less serious damage has been done. Added to this is the continued comparison even by Catholics between Pope John Paul the second and Pope Benedict – unfair but it has happened, Pope John Paul by his very nature was the most charismatic Pope who was loved by Catholic and non Catholic alike, sadly these comparisons have affected the 'popularity' of Pope Benedict. Finally the 'indifference' of British Catholics has not been helped by the fact that most Catholics have only read through the natonal press and media negative reporting while Catholic homes do not see regular reading of our own Catholic newspapers, it is obvious that our loyalty is being worn down. If ever there was a time we Catholics turned to our own Catholic media for a fairer more honest presentation of church news it is now. In all my 64 years I cannot remember once a priest even mention the need for parishioners to regularly read a Catholic newspaper – maybe this should change!

    On Palm Sunday a small band of anti-Catholic demonstrators poured out abuse on Pope Benedict outside Westminster Cathedral, only a very small number of the large number attending Mass challenged them – led by a regular brave parishioner confined all his life to a wheelchair, Peter du Bois. Maybe we Catholics need to remember the price paid for our faith in the time of the Reformation and stop being bullied or so mis-informed that we have the luxury of becoming 'indifferent'

  • Roger1001

    Good idea Kevin. Why don't you all read your own propaganda and ignore the independent press which reports the real failings in the Catholic Church. Let's all pretend that there is no abuse in the Church, none of the priests are abusing and no one is covering it all up. Simples!

  • Roger1001

    You just prove my point. You seem to edit out any comment which does not blindly agree with you myopic views.

  • louella

    I think the trouble is that the tickets were issued weeks in advance – but come the actual event I believe very few will want to be left out of this Papal visit. The eyes of the world will be on it – and even protestors will ensure it is not a staid event.

  • Ian Logan

    Roger1001 wrote:
    Perhaps they are just all to embarrassed. When there was talk of the Pope visiting some of the poor souls that Catholic priests have abused over the years and have had justice denied by the Church institutionally covering things up, it just became too difficult to admit to being part of the same faith as him and them. Shame on all who attend or even watch. Think of the victims and don't perpetuate the abuse.

    Don't you read the newspapers – almost everyday there are accounts of sexual abuse of children by teachers in UK state schools. Presumably you think everyone should hate teachers and the education system that 'protects' them, and that parents should refuse to let their children go to school at all. Get real. The problem of sexual abuse of children is endemic in society and is happening in state institutions to a far greater extent than in Church institutions. People like you appear to be trying to deflect attention onto the Church? Why? What is YOUR agenda?

  • Paul

    Well, I'm not Catholic – not Roman Catholic at least – but I'd be staggered and extremely concerned if there really was a lack of interest in the Holy Father's visit. That I have not investigated going myself is purely because I'd assumed that RC Parishes would fill the pews several times over. If they don't and fail to realise what a gem they have in the current Pope then one really does start to wonder where the church is heading.

  • Buddy Page

    There is another great threat looming just below the horizon. Just visualize what will occur when people learn proof of Christian Rome's deepest, darkest, secrets, just prior to the Pope's tour. If you want to see what happens when they are confronted by the truth, then start talking about me…

  • Mclom

    Plenty of yellow and white flags as well as the bells please! They are obtainable on eBay at quite a reasonable cost.

  • Mclom

    Well said, Ian. Between 1991 and 2000, there were 394,000 cases of abuse of minors in American state schools by teachers, figures that are easily available to anyone who wants to check them out. This gob-smackingly high percentage of cases has been ignored by The New York Times and every other American newspaper in the world that has been gunning for the RC Church. I found the info on a very reputable Catholic website. I myself was molested at age 8 by a family friend – not a Catholic.

  • Mclom

    Kevin Greenan said, “In all my 64 years I cannot remember once a priest even mention the need for parishioners to regularly read a Catholic newspaper – maybe this should change!” I fully agree and I hope this page is being read right now by several priests who will do just that. Sunday in and Sunday out, Catholic newspapers remain at the back of churches. I know many Mass goers who buy only “Hello”, or similar, or “The Sun” or “News of the World” or “The Daily Mail”. Are they afraid that a bit of true Catholic doctrine may rub off onto their souls?

  • Mclom

    Thanks to birth control by disobedient Catholics and wooly minded Christians of other denoms all westerners are on the way to becoming extinct in the world. You might want to think about that implication. If women respected themselves more, and the important role they have to play in God's plans… For example, promiscuity and therefore many cases of rape, and the cases of aborted babies, would not be on the scale they are today. We wouldn't have the various immigration crises due to a lack of native labourers to fill our countries' industrial needs. People tend to not travel to countries looking for work where they know there is none to be had. Jesus was pretty open, I would say, about sexual misbehaviour – he told one woman to go away and not sin any more, calling adultery a sin, which is more than reality shows on TV and agony aunt columns in papers do! His disciples left letters for us to read and obviously they would only be passing on what he taught them about sodomy etc…

  • Mclom

    No one is pretending any such thing! The Catholic laws in place since 2001, called Nolan, to protect children prove we are not. Nolan is much harsher towards priests only suspected, not proven just suspected, of bad behaviour than any secular laws are towards non-priests in the same predicament. As for covering up, my own parents certainly did not call in the police when I was molested by a family friend. And I got ticked off for being tempted by the offer of sweets!!! That culture that people like you call, “covering up”, was considered the normal and decent thing to do even thirty years ago, to avoid scandalising the community and adding to the family's woes – gossips were very likely to think the child brought it on him/her self. Blame the culture of the British people, the majority of whom were not Catholics! My parents were not and nor was their friend.

  • Mclom

    I checked the recommended site. Yawn. The G8 summit cost the taxpayer £90 million for one day. Are you complaining? The Pope is a guest of the Queen so why should Catholics foot the whole bill? When an African tyrant, Robert Mugabe, was a guest a few years ago, the taxpayer forked out for that visit with far less fuss. One thing is certain. A lot of people who say they hate the Church must be lying otherwise why are they so outraged when a few of its members sin? Obviously, very high standards are expected of the one true religion founded by God himself! And I agree. I disagree with the hypocricy of those who do not acknowledge that paedophilia is not only sinful but is also a world-wide, multi-religion phenomenum.

  • Mclom

    I am not a cradle Catholic but an adult convert. I love the Jewish people in particular because Jesus was Jewish. If his own had accepted Him then, what a different world we would have today. Well, they will accept Him when He returns! In the meantime, how lovely if the Pope has secret Jewish blood! Obviously you find this thought revolting. Are you planning to write a conspiracy theory book?

  • Mclom

    Oh, now anyone attending one of the events to honour the Pope is perpetrating child abuse? Well,well.

    How about a list of other ubiquitous forms of child abuse…? Such as…..What is someone doing who is buying a sex magazine from a supermarket? Their demand to read what they like and buy it where it is convenient to them (with the supermarket's conivance) means having such mags visible to innocent children who are very likely to be disturbed by being confronted with hitherto unfamiliar views of the human anatomy for the first time. When child actors are made to act in scenes where they witness adult sex, or where they are asked to simulate teen sex, that is a form of child abuse. Parents who permit their children to view the Internet without strict parental control monitoring are also guilty, by omission of their parental duty to protect their children's innocence. Last but not least, our schools that are teaching sexual behaviour to children who, 30 years ago, would have been engrossed in adventure books and dolls and other healthy childhood pursuits are guilty of gross child abuse, as young minds are corrupted for no good purpose at all. Britain has the highest percentage of sexual experimentation among very young children of any European nation, resulting in rocketing STD infections, yet you are saying only the Catholic Church is guilty of child abuse? I will be charitable and suggest that you have left your thinking cap at home. Find it, put it on, and when you come back hopefully you will apologise for your wild accusations. Not the least of which is to state as fact that the Pope and everyone in the Church's hierarchy is guilty of child abuse. I shall attend the Pope's Mass at Cofton Park with pride, and wave my flag with great joy.

  • Mclom

    I am not a cradle Catholic but an adult convert. I love the Jewish people in particular because Jesus was Jewish. If his own had accepted Him then, what a different world we would have today. Well, they will accept Him when He returns! In the meantime, how lovely if the Pope has secret Jewish blood! Obviously you find this thought revolting. Are you planning to write a conspiracy theory book?

  • Mclom

    Give them to someone who does care.

  • njme

    I cannot believe Mclom that you are that narrow minded. Women are raped by men who are criminals!!! Westerners are not on the way to becoming extinct because women chose to stay healthy and not keep getting pregnant. Many women are not able to carry a large family…each child carries its own danger. As a woman I was thrilled each time I became pregnant and each child was a gift. God did tell the woman to go and sin no more but his anger was towards the people that JUDGED her. To state that promiscuity is the result of many cases of rape is obscene. It is an insult to all males.

  • Kevin Greenan

    By insisting on tickets only it helps the security. Things are different since Pope John Paul's visit. There is a coaltion of anti Pope protestors determined to disrupt the visit of Pope Benedict. I hope we will not be intimidated by these people and if we can't get into a venue to see the Pope then we can line the streets.

  • Kevin Greenan

    Roger, you clearly are not a regular reader of the Catholic Herald. This paper is not an official newsheet of the church, it is very independent and publishes warts and all but it reports ALL which the mainstream media does not!

  • Maryhalliwell

    Kevin, we would love to line the streets, but if we travel independently to Birmingham will we be allowed anywhere near Pope Benedict?

  • QuodEratDemonstrandum

    I don't understand how anyone could want to see the Pope or give him any respect until he orders the turning over all files on paedophile priests for investigation and prosecution. Followed up by total cooperation from every diocese with the local police and prosecuting authorities

    Until that happens, the Pope is merely using his position and the authority of the catholic church to continue to protect child rapists instead of children.

    Why are some of the Herald commenters trying to defend the indifensible? I have read every bad excuse under the sun from catholics: “It's the gays”, “it's a few bad apples”, “other organizations are worse”, “it's old news”, “it's the devil”, “it's a media's conspiracy” etc. etc.

    That paedophiles joined the clergy and raped children is unspeakably awful but not necessarily the church's fault – that could and does happen in any organization that deals with children. The difference is that other organizations do not systermatically, institutionally cover up the crime, silence victims and witnesses, shroud it in secrecy, move paedophile priests from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, refuse to turn over paedophile clergy to the police and refuse to cooperate with investigations. The entire machinery of denial, obstruction of justice and protection of paedophile priests is headed by the Pope and the Princes of the Church.

    Why would anyone want to see such a person and lend him support?

  • QuodEratDemonstrandum

    Ian Logan: that is a ridiculous argument.

    First you claim that because child abuse happens in other organisations, child abuse in the catholic church should be ignored. Second, you provide no evidence of schools or state institutions “protecting” the paedophiles. Third, you ignore the fact that State Institutions do not claim to have special moral authority because they are the representatives of God on Earth!

  • QuodEratDemonstrandum

    “hopefully you will apologise for your wild accusations. Not the least of which is to state as fact that the Pope and everyone in the Church's hierarchy is guilty of child abuse”

    Until every file about every paedophile priest has been turned over for investigation and prosecution, yes every catholic and every priest should think very hard about supporting the Pope and the Church hierarchy while they continues to protect themselves and priests who rape children.

  • Youth4Christ

    It almost doesn't really matter if you can't get anywhere near the Pope, but to turn up anyway. This is an amazing opportunity to show our support for our Holy Father and witness to our Faith. Make a scene! Turn up with flags, paint your face white and yellow or whatever you want, but we need to be there! God bless Pope Benedict!

  • Moycunningham

    so glad his Holiness will stand where Thomas More-surely one of the most attractive of Saints-stood as Chancellor of England

    Our pesent Pope is such gentle and cultured person-who would not recognise him.

    Britain is a bear pit and deeply anti Christian-

    So glad I moved away-only whn one moves out of it does one realize that the threat is real

  • Oliveocross

    Non-catholics are not the only ones who feel that the tax payer should not pay for this visit, many catholics think so as well. The Pope is very much removed from my life, he does not seem to understan the importance of women, of children and of family life–why on earth would I want to go and see him.

  • Kevin Greenan


    Now that the days are near I understand the routes of the popemobile are being published so I think everyone able to get to Birmingham or London will be able to cheer the Holy Father as he goes by – lets give the critics and potential demonstrators something to write about! : ))))))

  • Robinleslie

    One of the reasons for the low attendance figures must be due to safety fears on behalf of Catholics who otherwise would attend in greater numbers. Of course the motley coalition of humanists, gays, feminists and

    downbeat rationalists will commend their scapegoating of the Pope by pointing to the numbers attending. However the Catholic Church has seen all this before, and 'ecclesia semper reformanda' has both reformed itself from within (and not from without through persecutory anti-religionists and anti-Catholics) and provided itself with adequate resources of vigilance and knowledge of the civilisationasl crisis that surrounds it.

  • Anneg16

    Who says we don't like/love Pope Benedict? The Holy Spirit loves him and called him to his position as Pope. Catholics are ignorant. They should learn about their Faith. Going to Mass is not enough. They should read the Bible (Catholic version only), read the Catechism and the Catholic newspapers. As a catholic, I love my Church and the Pope. Don't think that because you call yourself 'catholic' and do not obey the Magesterium of the Church, that going to Mass on Sunday is an insurance for getting into Heaven. It isn't. You have to LIVE your faith and that means obeying the Church that Jesus Christ founded. Anne G

  • Anneg16

    Absolutely right Kevin! You are the first catholic I have heard telling catholics to read the catholic newspapers. Although not owned by the Church, the papers have taught me much, especially the Universe and the Catholic Herald. Our Priests do not tell us to read these papers, or even the Bible or the Catechism! Do they want to keep us ignorant? Are they afraid that we might challenge them? Do they want an easy life? Are they afraid? If so, what of? Why have they issued booklets for us to buy re the Pope's visit but not one word about Catholic Television, EWTN on Sky 589? I could scream with frustration!

  • Anneg16

    I agree. How many so called 'catholic's use the church only because they want to educate their children in our schools, which we have paid for out of our own pockets! We save the British taxpayer billions! The Church should toughen up on this. Bearing the name 'catholic' should not be enough to use our schools. If catholic parents first had to sit an exam to show how much they understood of the catholic faith, then perhaps we would not now have such an ignorant laity.