Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My mixed feelings on the Pope's visit

Malc and Jeff are having their first inter blog stooshie on the subject of the Pope's visit. The debate on there is brilliant. Jeff says that we should leave Benedict alone:
The Pope may be a flawed leader of a flawed religion and there is of course no convincing reason for anyone to necessarily take his word as Bible but, amid the hustle and bustle of our post-recession lives, amid the attention-shortening gogglebox garbage that we all guiltily tune in to week after week and amid the community-loosening dispersal of increasingly individual lives, there is value in reflecting on what a man steeped in faith and well versed in Scripture has to say to us.
Malc, on the other hand, thinks the whole thing is an outrage:
Preaching against the use of contraceptives is a sure fire way of encouraging unsafe sex – and thus the spread of the disease.  Now obviously people are responsible for their own actions (the Nuremberg trials taught us that) but when a figure as powerful as the Pope is advocating unsafe sex, he is at the very least complicit in the suffering of an entire continent.
I thought I'd copy my contribution on here. Typical liberal, I can see the good points in both of their arguments but I also add that the country we all love is on show tomorrow - we need to give a good account of ourselves.

Because I refer to Stephen's post, it makes sense to post it here. But please view the debate at the original site and the other 55 comments:

I’m going to maybe going to throw a cat among the pigeons and say that both Jeff and Malc have made valid points, indeed it was something I blogged about yesterday.
The Popes visits has two parts the secular/state occasion and the religious/pastoral. As a gay man I’m of course upset about some of the proclamations made by the Pope and his Bishops over a range of issues, gay rights, birth control, child abuse being most prevelant. However, I do have a number of gay Catholic friends some of whom are attending some of the masses.
Just as I a gay Presbyterian (by upbringing) have had to make points for my own case from within the church so to those gay men from within the Catholic Church. Heck if took me one individual a decade to come to terms with just me, I’m expecting the churches to take some time about it.
Bizarrely the Pope is head of State and Head of a Religion, of course he is not alone, our own Queen being another. Therefore there is the Dichotomy was head of State for his prounouncements quite rightly we should be protesting him, and our civic leaders who will have audiences with him should be emphasising issues that they feel he needs to retract or U-turn on.
However, such protest should not infringe on those who want to attend the religious elements of his visit.

And my response:

I tend to agree with Stephen. As a woman I find many of the Pope’s views on things like contraception and abortion utterly objectionable. That he holds as equally bad the ordination of a woman and the covering up of child abuse in the Church is appalling. As a liberal, I find his attitude to gay rights dangerous. His teachings cost lives. End of story. Again as a liberal, I’m prepared to let him have his say, however much I disagree with it, but as an atheist I reserve the right to respectfully tell him that I think he’s wrong when he gets his mates to tell me that my view of the world is somehow deficient.
Having said that, many of my friends will derive a great deal of pleasure and spiritual inspiration from the Pope’s visit, from seeing the leader of their Church in person. Most of them don’t agree with what he says, but he symbolises their faith. I don’t get it, but they do and that’s all that matters to them.
I think it’s important to respect the feelings of those who want to attend the masses tomorrow regardless of the Pope’s dismissal of who I am. It’s all part of that be the change you want to see ethos that is very dear to me.
I don’t think the Pope should be insulated from the very real concerns and outrage his views cause, though – let him see the LGBT groups peacefully protesting against his teachings. We all need to learn to live together.
On the question of the State visit, of course there are things that I’d rather see my taxes go on. We’re where we are, though. It’s done and dusted. And although I endorse the views expressed by Stephen Fry et al in their letter, that it’s wrong to grant him a State visit, there’s not a lot I can do about it now.
I think we also need to consider some other factors – it’s not just that we’ve played host to people like the Chinese leader and the King of Saudi Arabia. The British state has committed some real atrocities in its time. Sending children to Australia to lives of abuse and misery and taking decades to even try to make amends is one of them. In the case of the Catholic Church, the way it dealt with the child abuse carried out by its own clergy is something that we must never see again. I’m far from convinced that they truly understand how they added to the trauma suffered by the victims.
In the spirit of live and let live, I think of the children who can’t get to sleep tonight because they are so excited at taking part in the Papal parade or one of the Masses, of those who have travelled from the ends of the country for a once in a generation opportunity.
The other thing we should remember is that our beautiful country is on show tomorrow. The pictures of the Pope touching down and travelling through the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow will be broadcast all over the world. I want that world to see our respectful, tolerant, liberal, diverse Scotland.
I might fundamentally disagree with the man on practically everything but, thankfully, in this country, his views are not law, nor will they ever be.
I guess what I’m saying in rambling fashion is that I can see where both Jeff and Malc are coming from, but I think we just have to accept it. When he does say something illiberal, as he’s bound to, you can bet your life I’ll be on his case, as is my right.
Whatever, you can bet your life that tomorrow, I'll be watching his every move like the news junkie I am. I can't control this visit or what the Pope says, but I'll be giving my opinion, spreading a little liberalism, whenever I can. 

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