Let’s Arrest the Pope

I’ve written before about the antiwar faction’s talismanic reverence for the concept of legality, and it’s this that trips up Liam MacUaid’s argument against arresting the Pope when he makes his publicly funded visit to the UK. (I found MacUaid’s piece via Andy Newman, who naturally and enthusiastically endorses it.) MacUaid asks:

And if we’re in the mood for dishing out arrest warrants would the pre-election period not be a good time to demand the arrest of all those present and former ministers with direct political responsibility for the ongoing wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan?

You could turn this question on its head: why do you want to arrest an elected leader for leading Britain into a war backed by parliament, but not arrest an unelected autocrat for covering up the torture and rape of children? You can mess around with the text of the 1985 letter as if it were a postmodern novel, you can go on about anti-papism and Orange Zionism until the stars burn out, but the Pope has a case to answer. Let him answer it, if he can.

Imagine if the Telegraph exposed a culture of systemic child rape in the Labour Party. It would make the expenses scandal look like a minor flap in media land. An investigation would already be well underway, the government would fall, people would be tearing up their party cards, those with evidence against them would be afraid to walk the streets – if they’d even been bailed. The same goes for any private business or public sector organisation. Because this involves a church, any talk of justice has to be a conspiracy against Catholics in general.

‘The left liberal intelligentsia is making a wrong call on this issue,’ says MacUaid. He talks about migrant Catholic workers at a parish in Bethnal Green:

Feel free to chastise them for their ideological backwardness but the hard fact is that they get more out of their membership of the Catholic Church than any other organisation they could choose to join. It would make for an interesting spectacle if a few of the liberal and left secularists demanding the arrest of Pope Benedict tried to rustle up support for their campaign among some of the most exploited workers in London.

The implication is clear: secularism is a bourgeois intellectual phenomenon that can only alienate the earthy and spiritual proletariat. I cannot match the far left’s communalist skills. They’ve bought into our culture’s condescending assumption that we shouldn’t challenge superstition because its illusions are all that the working classes have to live for. To quote former neocon Michael Lind: ‘Religion becomes what Plato called a noble lie. It is a myth which is told to the majority of the society by the philosophical elite in order to ensure social order’. And there was a time when far leftists would have tried to help exploited workers rather than just canvass them.

In any case, many Catholics are also incensed about the crimes. Read Andrew Sullivan on the Kiesle case. The scandal was broken by the Boston Globe, newspaper of the largest Catholic city in America, by an investigative team of mostly Catholic reporters. Journalist Michael Rezendes agrees that: ‘it was quite courageous of the editors – we could have alienated a lot of readers.’

Instead: ‘The Globe reporters were also quietly told of many dozens of cases over the previous decade or so, in which the church had settled claims against molesting priests privately, often including a clause that barred the victims or their families from ever talking about it.’ A typical case:

The Globe‘s first story also featured a heartbreaking interview with Maryetta Dussourd, whose three sons, and the four sons of her niece Diane, had been abused by Geoghan years earlier, in the 1970s, and with whom the church had settled privately. ‘She’d written this incredibly painful and poignant letter to the cardinal at the time,’ [religious affairs correspondent Michael] Paulson recalls. ‘You could feel all her passion for the church, her deep respect for the cardinal – and her shock and pain that despite her dozens of complaints, he was still continuing to work with children. That was what really got to people, I think.’

Paulson also identifies: ‘a kind of evolution of culture, a moment in history when people were willing to talk critically about religion. Often in the past that just hasn’t been possible.’

Despite Richard Dawkins’s best efforts I don’t sense the same evolution of culture in the UK. During this week’s Election 2010 debate, a questioner from the audience noted that: ‘The Pope has accepted an invitation to make an official state visit to Britain in September at a cost of millions of pounds to tax-payers’ and asked candidates if they would ‘disassociate your party from the Pope’s protection over many years of Catholic priests who were ultimately tried and convicted of child abuse’.

Instead of answering, all three candidates delivered identical pro-faith blather. ‘I think faith-based organisations, whether they are Christian or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, do amazing things in our country,’ said David Cameron, ‘whether it is working in our prisons or providing good schools or actually helping some of the most vulnerable people in our country.’

The truth is that we have no reason to believe that vast numbers of people have to labour under worthless delusions and accept everything their leaders tell them. There’s every reason to believe that people are capable of looking at the facts and making brave decisions for themselves.


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