Tuesday, February 02, 2010

give 'em enough pope

Some really tremendous lunacy from the upper echelons of the Catholic Church this week, starting with the top man, head honcho, numero uno, the Oberkirchenf├╝hrer himself Pope Benedict XVI. It's about sex, as it pretty much always is, and the gays in particular - it seems to have been triggered by the upcoming passage (ooer) of Harriet Harman's Equality Bill.

Read these various articles outlining the dispute, and marvel at the head-spinning cognitive dissonance demonstrated by statements such as this one (by the Pope himself):
[...] the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.
- and this one (by the always reliably out-to-lunch Ann Widdecombe):
This isn't a debate about homosexuality, this is a debate about religious freedom. If a faith teaches, as major faiths do, that something is wrong, then quite clearly you cannot have somebody who believes that it's right actually occupying a very senior position. That we have accepted as natural justice for a very long time.
Basically the argument is: your being granted the ability to exercise your basic human rights infringes my basic human right to believe (and indeed insist) that you should not be granted the ability to exercise your basic human rights.

There really is a sort of magnificence to this mule-headed unwillingness (or inability, I'm not sure which it is) to engage with reality, or think about the implications of what you're saying. If what those quotes say is true, on what basis do we condemn Islamic "honour" killings of one's own sisters? Female genital mutilation in Africa? The activities of the Ku Klux Klan? In each case the perpetrators could argue that the proper practice of their religion requires that they (respectively) kill those women who choose to demand sexual autonomy, hack young girls' genitalia off and set fire to black people, and that restricting their freedoms to do so is a violation of some sort of fundamental human right. And if you're going to argue that no, that's different because those people are evil and misguided whereas our religion is the truth, well then you have to pony up some convincing evidence that this is indeed the case, don't you?

Essentially what this boils down to is: if you don't want people enacting equality legislation that conflicts with your beliefs, consider having less evil and bigoted beliefs.

One of the reasons this is news (the Catholics having barkingly illiberal views on a whole range of topics not exactly being a surprise) is that the Pope is due to visit Britain in September, the first Papal visit to the UK since the previous Pope popped over in the summer of 1982 (the first ever UK Papal visit). I have some recollection of cuddly old JP2's visit as it was heavily televised - including an interminable speech at a "youth rally" at Ninian Park in Cardiff. I suspect that this visit won't get quite that level of TV coverage - we've come a long way in terms of unthinking deference to authority in 28 years. Indeed it seems likely that there will be organised protests - the National Secular Society has some details if you fancy going along and shouting at a celibate ex-Nazi in a funny hat.

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