Belfast Telegraph

Do the liberals hate Benedict? Er ... is the Pope a Catholic?

By Gail Walker

Here comes Pope Benedict hiding his horns under his pointy hat and his cloven hooves with his long flowing robes, whipping up a frenzy against gays, denouncing condoms and forcing people to have unprotected sex and squandering taxpayers' money by not being prepared to let himself be killed by some loony assassin.

And he's literally, and not just metaphorically, a Nazi. Unlike that nice novelist Gunter Grass, whom we like now. No wonder some people think he should be arrested (Richard Dawkins most notably) and charged by somebody with something or other. Calling for people to be arrested for “crimes against humanity” is all the rage. Clamp Tony Blair. Book George Bush. Now scoop the Pope.

Or at least give us a Channel 4 documentary. Step forward Constable Peter Tatchell preparing the charge sheet against His Holiness.

This is all “justice porn” for liberals — getting their jollies through elaborate yet unlikely fantasies. (Isn't it strange, it’s only those who displease the liberal left who end up in ‘virtual reality’ court?) True, the Catholic Church does have very serious questions to answer about its role in covering up child abuses by clergy. The victims of clerical abuses have the right not only to protest but the right to cast a dark shadow over the papal visit. (Also many here would like to ask the Pontiff about Fr Chesney and the Claudy cover-up.)

But child abuse isn't just a problem for the Catholic Church. It is a problem for the whole of our society. It happens, as we learn day after wearying day from the papers, not just in the vestry but in the schoolroom, the nursery and, overwhelmingly, the home.

However, many of the other charges boil down to the fact the Pope is well a Catholic. He believes in God. He, unlike the Church of England, speaks clearly about homosexuality, abortion, divorce, sexual morality, women clergy. The trouble with the Pope is that these are all the hot buttons where there's a supposed secular, civilised consensus.The Pope's “crime” is not what he's said or done. It's what he is.

Hence, the hysteria in the complaints. The church's attitude to homosexual practices engenders hatred — as if gay-bashers sit and read papal encyclicals of an evening and as if they are Catholic in the first place.

The church’s position on birth control is causing disaster in South Africa as HIV ravages that country.

It might also have something to do with the attitude of the ANC government in South Africa — but no Nelson-fearing liberal is going to take issue with that sainted outfit, are they? But on and on the hectoring, finger-pointing, liberal jibber-jabber goes.

Why is it that Catholicism gets the back-of-the-hand treatment in the British media? Maybe it’s a hangover from a time when loathing Catholicism was as English as roast beef. The fact that, depending how you count it, the Catholic Church is the largest active Christian denomination in Britain, seems to have escaped most critics' attention — then again, being largely new immigrant communities, they hardly count, do they?

Anyway, English Catholics get it in the neck when there aren’t enough Jews to go round for the liberal left.

But maybe it's simple cowardice. Where exactly are the television confrontations with, say, Muslim clerics, over female genital circumcision? Or their views on gays? Or even adultery? Where's the Dawkinseque commentator threatening to do a citizen's arrest on a cleric coming out of mosque?

Absolutely one hundred percent no chance of Dickie Dawkins on that one! No, no, no — that's all about differing cultural values, blah, blah, blah. Far easier to attack the old guy bumbling in the corner. Benedict's not so much a scapegoat but a scapepope — a religious figure who can safely be attacked.

Liberals shudder when a nutter threatens to burn the Koran. But they’re queueing up themselves to threaten and insult Pope Benedict.

He may be right in many or all of the issues that perplex his vast church. Or he may be totally wrong. But the truth is, his is a different — and largely oppositional — view of the way we live today. For that reason alone, we should welcome him.

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