Belfast Telegraph

The nasty truth about the Pope’s critics ...

By Gail Walker

The views expressed in open letters and on the streets of London in relation to the visit of the Pope were sectarian, bigoted and an incitement to hatred, and if they had occurred in Northern Ireland would have resulted in arrests.

It is unthinkable that Richard Dawkins would have been able, in a Northern Ireland TV studio, to refer to the Pope as “a leering old villain in a frock”.

He would have been stopped immediately and quite rightly.

Or that Claire Rayner could say “I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature”; that the CEO of the British Humanist Association can claim that “he [the Pope] and the Holy See use their powers to make people’s lives worse”.

Or imagine how far down Royal Avenue someone would get wearing a T-shirt declaring ‘Pope nope’ on it before being collared?

Are we looking for a society where individuals can be vilified because of their beliefs?

Because the only crime of which Benedict XVI is guilty is of being a Catholic and no one in 2,000 years has been under any misunderstanding about what a Catholic believes in.

It is remarkable how stupid even the most erudite of scholars and most witty of gentlemen can be when hatred is their theme.

And how selective.

What’s not surprising is that they can plug in so easily to a tradition of sneering at the Catholic church and by extension the core values of Christianity — and British civil society seems to think that’s fine.

If the Queen were referred to in this manner in British TV or in the Press, the vicious reality of what was levelled at the Pope would be clear to everyone, as indeed would the effect it has had on the millions of British Catholics.

Those comments would never — and, believe me, will never — be made by British celebrities and media creations about a Muslim cleric.

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