Very busy with work at the moment (October will certainly be easy) so I've not had any time to post over the last fortnight. However I must add my €0.02 to a debate which has been going on very heavily on Facebook and other social networking sites recently.
Unless you have been locked in a cupboard by the Revd Ian Paisley, you will not have failed to notice that the Pope is visiting the UK for the first time in an official capacity at the moment. Crowd numbers have apparently been way down on the previous "pastoral" visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982. And there have been far, FAR more protesters this time round. That's not surprising because the child abuse scandals had not broken in 1982.
There certainly is a lot of Pope-bashing - antagonistic statements towards the Pope himself and some of his more hardcore followers (like the adviser who said Britain was "like a third world country") - out there on the web. And I think that's fully justified. The previous Pope was certainly a conservative; but this guy is something else. He believes he is fighting a war against "aggressive atheism" when in fact, he's presenting an extreme-right, homophobic, misogynist and authoritarian view of the world - a worldview which, were it to come from an atheist, would be roundly condemned. And then he expects to get praise from the wider community for touting this crap. Well I'm sorry sir, it just ain't on. So I make no apology whatsoever for Pope-bashing. Quite the opposite.
Some of my Catholic friends have reacted defensively to this criticism of the Pope as if it were a criticism of all Catholics. This is very unfortunate, as I don't believe that the objective of the Pope's (sensible) critics is to attack all Catholics; and it would be quite wrong if they did. To the extent that any of the current anti-Pope sentiment spills over into a moronic and offensive sectarianism, it is completely abhorrent.
The main point to make here is that the current Catholic church hierarchy has very little - in fact nothing at all - to do with the rank and file churchgoers. The congregation has no say in which Pope is appointed and they have no input into Vatican policy. Therefore, it would be completely wrong to blame them for the crap the Pope is coming out with. Quite the reverse, in fact - the Catholic congregations are the people I feel most sorry for, as they have to put up with this crap week-in week-out - which puts them in a very difficult position. In the same way that residents of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s had to put up with Stalin.
So really, what I'm saying is that the criticism is aimed at ONE person, the leader, not the rank-and-file. Actually, I'll qualify that a bit: there are a few Catholics out there who slavishly follow every word of Vatican doctrine and appear to have no minds of their own, and the criticisms would apply to them equally - but that's their own fault for believing unquestioningly in whatever drivel is handed down to them. The vast majority of religious believers are not like that. They will always question what they are being told to do, and most of them will reject obvious bullshit for what it is. And for that, I give them huge respect.