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Ugly anti-papal protests are harming the so-called secularist cause

Protesting about the Pope coming to your city is appalling bad manners

By on Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A World Youth Day pilgrim walks past protesters in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

A World Youth Day pilgrim walks past protesters in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

I had dinner last night with an enthusiastic returnee from World Youth Day, which has received ample coverage from many media outlets, with a few all too predictable exceptions. I asked whether he had seen any of the anti-Pope protesters, and he said he had not – which is hardly suprising, given that the people at World Youth Day outnumbered the protesters by about a thousand to one.

And what were they protesting about? It seems the cost. But, as this article from the New York Times shows, WYD will actually benefit the Spanish economy. Besides which, since when did protesters actually protest anywhere about government spending? Forgive me if I doubt their sincerity.

It seems we must get used to the idea that wherever the Holy Father goes the usual suspects will round themselves up and stage a protest, indulging their love for synthetic rage. First London, now Madrid…

But just think about it for a minute. These people do not like the Pope and they do not agree with his teachings. Well, I feel no real empathy with Buddhism, and I strongly disagree with Buddhist teaching on reincarnation. So, whenever the Dalai Lama rolls into town, should I organise a protest? Of course not! And why not? Because I believe in freedom of conscience, and I fully respect the absolute right of the Dalai Lama to believe what he chooses and to teach what he believes. End of. And I also believe that people who want to hang out with the Dalai Lama have an absolute right to do so, part of their basic human right to freedom of association.

It is this freedom of association, and the freedom of expression that goes with it, that contemporary secularists simply do not “get”. Dr Evan Harris’s secular manifesto makes no mention of these rights, but seemingly sees religion as something relegated to the private sphere alone, as it was in the Soviet Union: “None of it [the manifesto] engages with what families get up to in their home, or religious leaders within their own families.” And yet, ironically, freedom of association and freedom of expression are secular values.

And herein lies the problem: our modern secularists are not really secular enough; they are simply people who dislike religion and want it out of the way. A true secularist would welcome the Pope to Madrid, acknowledging his right and the right of his fellow Catholics to do as they please in conscience and within the bounds of the law, a right they share with everyone else.

If none of this cuts any ice, perhaps I could introduce another idea. Protesting about the Pope coming to your city (if indeed these protesters were Madrileños) is simply rude, a case of appalling bad manners. It is against all the rules of hospitality. Last year we had the King of Saudi Arabia here in London as a guest of the Queen. I can’t honestly say I warm to King Abdullah, or that I approve of his government and its policies, but if I had met him I would have been polite, greeted him as protocol demands, and wished him well. That is what civility demands. Civility: another great secular value. The expressions of infantile rage that we saw when the Pope came here were in fact very damaging to the so-called secular movement, and revealed the forces of anti-religion for what they were. We need to reclaim the word “secular” for proper use, and we need to stop using it to mask the ugly face of anti-religious prejudice.

  • Anonymous

     @ oconnordamien…(you seem to have dropped the 17!)LOL Well if it ignites prayer, Disqus cannot be all bad. Thanks for that advice, about to try it!

  • Oconnordamien

    I asked questions little knowing I would seem as a fool.
    To my chagrin I was unanswered by a knave.

  • Oconnordamien

    Sorry same person, for good or bad. The 17 was clunky and it might have given the idea I was young,
    Warning bad joke ahead>>>>

    My prayers are to Thor the god of thunder and lightning.
    I figure he would be best at sorting my electronic problems.

  • Oconnordamien

    If you write the article it’s very much what I say not what I meant.
    Unless you are being subtle, but with your opening sentences that was not the case here.

    If you have to thank one person who makes a comment for understanding you. Well in my book that just admits the piece was badly written. You admit few other people understood your point.

  • Oconnordamien

    I tried not to reply to this but every time I scrolled down it screamed at me.

    To use capitals all though your post is like shouting. It is the most simple way you can be bad mannered online. Shouting does not make your point more valid.

    On your point.

     There are cases of rape where a man is falsely accused, so should the police never investigate rape cases? I think all here would agree that any case of rape should be investigated. 

    On your second point it is not who is doing more but simply
    Is the pope doing all? or  not even enough.

    Again I would ask you to stop being so crude, desist from the caps lock.

  • Oconnordamien

    Dude with the shouting again. CAPS LOCK OFF PLEASE

  • John

    Pray for them. Love those who hate us.even if they eventually honor us all with martyrs crowns thank them. Pray, hope and don’t worry. St pio.

  • TaylorB

    Do you get this angry about the child abuse that happens at an equal or greater rate in society in general? Or at an equal or greater rate in other institutions?
    A child is still far more in danger of abuse from a close relative. Sad, but true. All this anger towards the Church, while understandable, is obscuring the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Why are you trying to make excuses for priestly child abuse? That abuse also happens outside the Catholic Church (both within and without other religious organisations) does not excuse abuse within the Catholic Church one iota. Abuse within religious organisations is particularly shameful for obvious reasons. What seems to distinguish the RCC is the degree to which such abuse is facilitated. If such abuse was discovered within a non-religious organisation, the organisation would immediately report it to the local authorities. Not only does the RCC go out of its way not to do this (and you talk about obscuring the truth), but it puts more children in danger. This is absolutely unforgivable, except, it seems, by millions of Catholics who continue to support the Church. They are blind to the immorality that has been indoctrinated into them and seem to think that they hold the moral high ground. “Look at the good the Church does” they might say, but no amount of good excuses evil.

  • Anonymous
  • TaylorB

    The question was:

    “Do you get this angry about the child abuse that happens at an equal or greater rate in society in general? Or at an equal or greater rate in other institutions?”

  • Anonymous

    Compensation of victims? ” What’s done is done, and cannot be undone ” (Shakespeare)
    Exactly how do you think these so-called victims should be compensated?  With big bundles of money?  Will that wipe out the memory of what they suffered?
    Such people should try to recall the words of the Lord’s Prayer and forgive those who trespassed against them.  Any unrepentant trespassers will suffer eternally for those sins; they will not be permitted to escape from the responsibility for them.

  • Anonymous

    I took your question to be directed at pdxprogressiveX. It was followed by “A child is still far more in danger of abuse from a close relative. Sad, but true. All this anger towards the Church, while understandable, is obscuring the truth.”

    If that is the case (and I do not say that it is), what do YOU suppose should be done about that? Your implication is that there should be less anger towards the Church and/or more anger towards abuse by close relatives…

    Obviously we cannot be angry towards the close relatives before their crime is made known since we do not know who they are, and the normal situation is that discovery of the crime leads to prosecution. One could get angry at the causes of abuse by close relatives. One cause might be the downplaying of the seriousness of the crime by influencial figures. Another cause might be the preaching of the acceptability of cruelty to children in general. Another cause might be the lack of scientific investigation into the phenomenon or the suppression of the results of such an investigation (perhaps by denigrators of science). Another cause might be the lack of focus that results from ignorant people broadcasting unfounded hypotheses (often presented as knowledgable statements) about the phenomenon. Trouble is, the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of all these, and to be less angry with the Church will only serve to increase the totality of child abuse.

    But is it even true that anger at the Church is obscuring the truth? Just how much coverage was given to child abuse statistics before the priestly abuse scandal erupted and is there less coverage now? Many Catholics have strangely become interested in highlighting the level of abuse by close relatives. Does this not give that phenomenon more, not less, coverage?

    Given the above, I do not consider your response to pdxprogressiveX to be driven by a concern for the victims of close relatives. Rather, it seems to be an attempt excuse the RCC on a ‘them too’ basis.

  • Anonymous

    Financial help and justice would go some way to compensating victims. I agree that it can never fully compensate, but that is no reason to withhold it, let alone pile on the misery.

    The sadistic notion of eternal suffering did not deter the abusing priests. Either they know it is nonsense, or they bank on repenting just before death.

  • Anonymous

    If those priests are paedophiles, they will deny any accusation that what they do is immoral.  Consequently, they will not willingly repent or reform
    It is pure fiction to allege that Pope Benedict “covered up” for the abusers, or knew anything at all about their crimes.  So many of them are now in jail, and indeed one of them, Fr John Geoghan, was murdered in prison by a fellow-convict.  It is a denial of the facts to assert that the abusers are not being punished.

  • TaylorB

    Thanks for taking the time to respond with such careful


    My point was not to excuse or condone. I’m sure that the
    overwhelming majority of Catholics are disgusted and appalled by the abuses
    carried out by priests and by the subsequent mishandling and cover-ups.


    I just wonder if an opportunity is being lost; that of
    holding up a mirror to ourselves – all of us, regardless of belief.

  • Anonymous

    I suppose there is the possiblity that a few priests might not know what celibacy means in the context of Canon Law, and that  a few of those few are paedophiles. I would have thought that, by virtue of their training as priests, if not as adults, most would be well aware of the immorality of paedophilia. It is the Vatican who, as one of their many excuses for priestly abuse, try to paint a picture of a generation of priests who were somehow unaware of the immorality of the abuse of children (in apparent disregard for what this implies about the integrity of priesthood).

    Ratzinger, in the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, asked for all details of abuse to be reported to him. How can you assert that he knew nothing of the abuse? There is also plenty of evidence of a cover up. Closing your eyes and covering your ears will not make this evidence dissappear. As an example, take the institutional attempts to silence victims and the promotion of a silencer (Brady) by the Pope referred to elsewhere in this thread. As another example, take the letter uncovered from the Silvio Angelo Pio to Bishop Moreno forbidding the surrendering of incriminating files to any lawyer or judge. I could go on and on. I realise, of course, that in religious thinking, evidence counts for nothing. The promotion of the notion that religious faith trumps evidence makes all religious leaders culpable.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with that last paragraph, and I apologise if that is what you were getting at.

  • Anonymous

    “I would have thought that, by virtue of their training as priests, if
    not as adults, most would be well aware of the immorality of

    I’m sure they would.  However, this abuse was only to a small extent caused by paedophiles.  The greater part of it was caused by predatory homosexuals closeted in the priesthood, and exploiting their position of trust to prey upon their unsuspecting charges.
    This fact was recognised by the Holy See as long ago as 2005, when a decision was taken to exclude homosexuals from the seminaries, and thereby prevent any repetition of this scandal in the future, at least on such a scale as we have seen in the last nine years.
    Presumably. one or two potential perverts will slip through the cracks, but they will know that they are being closely monitored.
    There has never been a cover-up by any bishop innocent of any personal wrong-doing, or knowingly aiding and abetting any priest known to him as an abuser.  There have been some bishops, a very small number, themselves homosexuals, who have protected their boyfriends in the clergy when they, the priests, became known to them as abusers of males, children, young boys, teenagers, mature 20-year-olds.
    An even smaller number have relocated any offenders to other parishes, in the vain hope that a change of scenery would cure them of their unnatural lust.
    I repeat: the Pope could have known nothing of this abusive behaviour, for the simple reason that, for a ‘cover-up’ to be successful, any bishop participating in the concealment would not have obeyed the Pope’s request to provide such information, fearing for his own position.
    However, all this is in the sweet bye-and-bye.  What’s done is done, and cannot be undone.  A number of such abusers are now in jail, but the majority of them are long since dead and beyond the reach of any human law.  I can only repeat what should have been obvious to you right from the start: this scandal was caused by a very small minority (2%) of the priests in the Church, mainly homosexuals who had infiltrated into the ranks of the clergy.  The Church, per se, (I repeat, PER SE) has never attempted to conceal this wrong-doing; it has always been the misguided or miscreant few who have done so.

  • Anonymous

    Wikipedia.  That says it all, really.  Shall I amend that erroneous entry?

  • Anonymous

    Name?  Country?  Hospital?  Catholic nuns?

    “So far she has had NO justice in the courts or any where”

    Not really surprising considering the fictitious nature of your allegation.

  • Anonymous

    “The solution is for the Church to be beyond criticism.”

    You, as much as any Catholic, must surely realise that such an Elysian state is absolutely impossible for the Church.  She must always be true to her mandated mission to spread the gospel of Christ, and in this endeavour she will always be opposed by those who wish to impose their own agenda on the state.

  • Anonymous

    Why? What is wrong with it? What should it say? (Please reference your sources as the Wikipedia entry does – for example, in this link which quotes the Catholic Information Office.)

  • Bob Hayes

    My earlier posting was entirely concerned with the arguments about state-expenditure on papal visits and the fact that many other events are underpinned by state-spending. At no point was I debating the merits of free-speech. The ‘some courtesy’ to which i referred was the necessity of public order and municipal expense.

    As for my use of the word Pride in inverted commas, I find it hard to understand why that is perceived as disrespectful. Not everyone on this site – viewable worldwide – will be familiar with the nuances of public events in Manchester. Recently the city held an ‘I love Mc/r’ event and the ‘Pride’ event has also been known as ‘Mardi Gras’. Let’s leave ‘Pedantry Corner’ to ‘Private Eye’ magazine!

  • Annita

    I read this article and a previous one, which specifically targeted the BBC’s mean spirited ‘grouchy ‘coverage of WYD with a depressing sense of deja vu. The last WYD here in Australia received exactly the same treatment from our equivalent, the ABC. I wrote a letter of protest to the MD and received the usual bland brush off but it is clear that aggressive, intolerant secularists among the journalists and producers employed at the ABC have a powerful voice. I pointed out that I am not the Australian equivalent of ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” ie a I vote Labor or Green, have no truck with right-wing associations, and am a tertiary educated retired professional. But I am a Catholic and do not like to see the dishonest, manipulative airing of personal prejudice and spite posing as critical objective analysis.

  • Anonymous

    Do you often classify the expression of opinions that disagree with your own as agressive, intolerant, dishonest, prejudicial, spiteful, or similar? (Please note that this is a question, not an accusation.) It is just that I often observe the term ‘agressive’ being used to mean ‘daring to express disagreement with my opinion’, ‘intolerant’ being used to mean ‘daring to disagree when faced with my opinion’, ‘dishonest’ being used to mean ‘expressing an opinion different to mine’, ‘prejudice’ being used to mean ‘having the audacity to have considered their opinion beforehand’, and ‘spite’ being used to mean ‘I hate them, so they must hate me, how dare they?’. Could a lack of substantive justification in your letter of protest have prompted the brush off?

  • marijose

    Michael, what about the sexual abuse and abuse of the children happening in your own home and society by it’s own people? aren’t you mad about about it and speak loud like you are doing here about it? I pray the Lord gives you light not to judge others but also to reflect on your self

  • Honeybadger

    Where did you get that pile of horse feathers from? The Beano?!

    Why bring up the Inquisition and all that to prove your point? Haven’t you got fresh evidence?


  • Honeybadger

    Welcome to the Twightlight Zone and the mystery of the chip on your shoulder…