Belfast Telegraph

Tom Sutcliffe: Safety and the Synod

I've been trying not to get too worked up about the forthcoming papal visit. I'm not greatly looking forward to the wave of sanctimonious humbug it is likely to unleash but I think the proposed demonstrations against it are probably a bad idea.

They run the risk of making atheism look both undignified and intolerant and they'll only draw more attention to the whole thing anyway.

I couldn't help laughing, though, when I read that the Catholic Church of England and Wales had banned alcohol, barbecues, gazebos and musical instruments from some of the events the Pope will attend on the grounds that they "could pose a threat to others".

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic priests, historically a proven hazard to younger members of their congregation, will be all over the place.

And right there in the middle – a known "threat to others" through his support of benighted teachings on condoms and Aids prevention – will be the Pope himself.

I'll grant them barbecues – which can be tricky in crowds – but, while I don't know the exact statistics for gazebo-induced trauma, I'm willing to bet that this blameless garden shelter has a better safety record than ordained members of the Catholic Church.

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