For all I bang on about religion, I understand that grassroots churches do great things – the example that comes immediately to mind is the aid and succour that many UK clerics and congregations give to asylum seekers. Today Johann Hari appeals to the better angels of UK Catholics:
I want to appeal to Britain’s Catholics now, in the final days before Joseph Ratzinger’s state visit begins. I know that you are overwhelmingly decent people. You are opposed to covering up the rape of children. You are opposed to telling Africans that condoms ‘increase the problem’ of HIV/ AIDS. You are opposed to labelling gay people ‘evil’. The vast majority of you, if you witnessed any of these acts, would be disgusted, and speak out. Yet over the next fortnight, many of you will nonetheless turn out to cheer for a Pope who has unrepentantly done all these things.
I believe you are much better people than this man. It is my conviction that if you impartially review the evidence of the suffering he has inflicted on your fellow Catholics, you will stand in solidarity with them – and join the protesters.
I know that for many British Catholics, their faith makes them think of something warm and good and kind – a beloved grandmother, or the gentler sayings of Jesus. That is not what Ratzinger stands for. If you turn out to celebrate him, you will be understood as endorsing his crimes and his cruelties. If your faith pulls you towards him rather than his victims, shouldn’t that make you think again about your faith? Doesn’t it suggest that faith in fact distorts your moral faculties?