Thursday, 16 September 2010

Is the world getting fed up with the Pope, the Papacy, and The Vatican State?


The Papacy has had its ups and down, its vicissitudes, and even changes in location during the two millenia of its existence. Is it heading at this time for a 21st century black period?  In short, is the world fed up the with the Pope, the Papacy, and that peculiar entity, the Vatican State.

At the moment, it appears there may be emerging, intelligent voices explaining the case against the leadership and status of the Church of Rome.  Australian expatriate Geoffrey Robertson appears to be leading the charge with his book, The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse. A sharp review of Robertson's work by Terry Eagleton is published here.


It is not just the human rights abuses and sundry affronts to the human condition that has brought an outcry.  The latest round of voices raised comes from the UK protesting against the Pope's visit to Britain being funded by the British government and being accorded State visit (that means a Head of State visit) status - because of the status of that last remaining vestige (thanks to the Lateran Treaty deal done with Mussolini) of the medieval Papal States.

The letter outlining the case against the Pope's State visit together with its signatories is below.  It comes from here

We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:
Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.
Promoting segregated education.
Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.
Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.
The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties ("concordats") with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.
Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor Susan Blackmore, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Ed Byrne, Baroness Blackstone, Ken Follett, Professor AC Grayling, Stewart Lee, Baroness Massey, Claire Rayner, Adele Anderson, John Austin MP, Lord Avebury, Sian Berry, Professor Simon Blackburn, Sir David Blatherwick, Sir Tom Blundell, Dr Helena Cronin, Dylan Evans, Hermione Eyre, Lord Foulkes, Professor Chris French, Natalie Haynes, Johann Hari, Jon Holmes, Lord Hughes, Robin Ince, Dr Michael Irwin, Professor Steve Jones, Sir Harold Kroto, Professor John Lee, Zoe Margolis, Jonathan Meades, Sir Jonathan Miller, Diane Munday, Maryam Namazie, David Nobbs, Professor Richard Norman, Lord O'Neill, Simon Price, Paul Rose, Martin Rowson, Michael Rubenstein, Joan Smith, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Professor Raymond Tallis, Lord Taverne, Peter Tatchell, Baroness Turner, Professor Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA, Ann Marie Waters, Professor Wolpert, Jane Wynne Willson
Most if not all of the signatories are members of the British Humanist Association.  Miss Eagle is a practising Christian (an Anglican and a Quaker).  She has no difficulty in agreeing with the sentiments expressed.  You see she follows - as best she can - Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus of Nazareth said My Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:35-37).  As for abuse and human rights, he said Do to others as you would have them do to you.  (Luke 6:31). These are simple, easily understood statements.  The abuse within the Roman Catholic Church and what has followed from that abuse doesn't seem to qualify under the latter statement.  Certainly State visits from a tiny political entity don't qualify under the former.  I'm not sure that the fancy shoes and accessorising do, either.
The Pope would be more acceptable to the whole world - if they could see manifest more of the characteristics of Jesus.

Stephen Fry on why the Pope should not have a state visit

Related reading:
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse

Related listening:

Please go to the link below for a podcast
of a speech delivered by Geoffrey Robertson
at the LSE on 8 September 2010
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse

     You've got the wrong man! In defence of Pope Benedict XVI 
by Scott Stephens.  Scott Stephens  is the  Religion & Ethics editor for ABC Online.
Before joining the ABC he taught theology for many years, and even did a stint as a parish minister with the Uniting Church in Australia. He has written extensively on the intersections among philosophy, theology, ethics and politics, as well as on modern atheism's dependence on the Christian legacy.

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