Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Who should pay for the Pope's visit?

Andrew and Stephen have both posted passionately today about the Pope's planned visit to the UK in September.

The Pope and other senior members of the Catholic Church have made their homophobic views clear on many occasions. His rather bizarre view that homosexuality was as bad as destruction of the rain forests had me choking on my Earl Grey a year or so ago.

Now, I would have no objection in principle to him coming to the UK if the Catholic Church were funding it, but because he's coming as the Head of State of the Vatican, I do have a problem with shelling out £20 million of taxpayers' money to pay for the privilege of hearing him incite prejudice against the LGBT community. I'm not over chuffed about having to listen to his views on contraception either - my mind boggles that anyone could compare human trafficking, divorce and contraception as like for like. As well as his homophobic comments, we can't forget that this is a man who rejects the notion that women have the right to control their own fertility. Nor can we forget that his objection to condom use costs lives in Africa.

So, we've established that I really don't want to put my hand in my pocket and support this man's visit and I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in that? What can we do about it though? I mean, we've had some fairly unpleasant people visit this country on public money - the Chinese leader, and the King of Saudi Arabia, representing regimes where the regard for human life and liberty is scant to say the least. I particularly admired the stand the Almighty Vince took on the Saudi King's visit, saying at the time:

"I think it's quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour."

While I would have no problem if Nick Clegg decided against meeting the Pope because of his views on equality, I don't think it's a realistic proposition. There are many deeply committed Catholics who may not share the Pope's views - in fact the majority don't - who would view such a stance as quite insulting to them. The Church itself does a lot of good across our communities and supports many humanitarian efforts across the globe and can't be compared really to the Saudi regime, for example.

I think my way of dealing with the fact that my taxes are funding the Pope's visit will be to give some money to a charity which supports young, gay people or works against homophobic bullying. I know there are many - why not add your suggestions in the comments to give people a wide choice if they want to do the same?

UPDATE LJH in the comments has highlighted the National Secular Society's petition to ask that the Catholic Church funds the visit, not the taxpayer. If you agree, do sign - at the time of writing nearly 2500 people have.


LJH said...

I like your idea! But you could also add your name to this handy petition from the National Secular Society calling on the government to tell the Catholic Church to cough up the cost instead:


Unknown said...

Good idea. Will do.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Well, let us see:

my mind boggles that anyone could compare human trafficking, divorce and contraception as like for like.

It is sometimes useful to have one's mind boggled. It is good to be made to think and see things from another viewpoint. It is bad to sit so comfortably thinking one is so right that one will dismiss someone else on the basis that they are a horrible sort of person who thinks that way, without taking too much trouble to see what they are actually thinking and why they are thinking.

As liberals I would hope we would respect freedom of speech and of debate, and as such take the bother eve if someone is saying something we think we will disagree with very much, to see what is their arguments for it and counter THOSE ARGUMENTS rather than assume, through prejudice, that the arguments are something else and counter those arguments which awe feel more comfortable countering.

If you follow the link you gave, you will see it quotes the Pope as saying ""The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids."

Well, is that false? If people were to live by the "traditional teaching of the church" i.e. sex only within marriage, would that not counter the spread of HIV/AIDS? Are you claiming no, because HIV/AIDS is spread by toilet seats, or holding hands, or whatever? I don't think so.

Your argument, I guess, would be that it's impossible to expect people to live that way. You may set up sex within marriage only as the ideal, but people aren't really going to live that way, so really you are going to have to have mechanisms to counter that.

OK, but the Pope is using much the same sort of argument. The line is that condoms always used very carefully in sex will, of course, stop or at least slow down (they do break, slip off etc) the spread of HIV/Aids. But the Pope is saying, much like I guess you would say against his line, that this is unrealistic. You can't expect people to live in that way. Realistically, they aren't always going to reach for the condom in he heat of the moment. The widespread promotion of the condom, so the Pope would say, leads to a relaxed attitude to sexual promiscuity, leads to sex being seen as just a bit of fun, so there's no harm in using prostitutes, and why think of rape as such a big thing so long as it's done with a condom, and ...

Now you may not AGREE with the Pope on this, I am not asking you to, but your line was not just that you disagreed with him. Your line was that you didn't actually understand the argument he was making, but nevertheless you jumped to the conclusion that it should be dismissed because you assumed it was for certain reasons and would have certain consequences. Do you have proof of those consequences? For example, is HIV/Aids more prevalent in countries which are Catholic than those which are not?

I think as liberals we should respect what other people are saying, and take the bother to see what they are really saying and why they are saying it rather than jump to conclusions based on stereotypical thinking.

As for cost - how many people attend Catholic masses, how many people play the obscure sports on which we are spending huge amounts to host the Olympics? Why should we pay for what some people enjoy but not others?


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