Johann Hari gives an excellent summary of why Catholics should protest Ratzinger's visit to the UK.
It’s a nicely written article and it’s hard to complain about its ‘tone’ (although I don’t have the slightest doubt that someone will manage to). It reminds me of Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation because it is trying to engage a set of believers on their own terms. I welcome it.
In my more tolerant moods, I can understand that Catholics might be inclined to support their pope despite his horrific actions. I understand they’ve been brought up under threat of eternal torture to believe that this man is infallible or at least that he or the church as an organ are beyond criticism. So I understand why Catholics might be conflicted.
Their actions are another matter. I have no tolerance at all for any Catholic who defend the church over these matters. I have no tolerance for Catholic fence-sitters. Their actions will be taken as tacit or explicit approval of the church’s – and the pope’s – actions. They will be agreeing with the practice of systematically covering up child rape in a global conspiracy. They will be agreeing with the church’s condemnation of and discrimination against homosexuals and women. They will be endorsing the practice of lying about the efficacy of condoms in the prevention of AIDS and thereby be complicit in condemning thousands, perhaps millions, to suffering and death.
I understand why Catholics might feel conflicted, but their actions must show that they do not condone Ratzinger’s actions and those deplorable parts of the Catholic church. Protesting the pope’s visit seems a good start. Pushing for church reform locally and globally would be another. Forming groups to lobby the church at all levels to change its practices and encourage transparency and reform would be better still. But turning out to support Ratzinger seems worse than unhelpful; it carries the danger of showing solidarity for awful acts.
It’s more of a mystery why non-Catholics – and particularly non-believers – support Ratzinger’s visit. Believers of other stripes might feel a little of the internal conflict that Catholics do, but they don’t suffer from anything like the enormous pressure. What they feel at worst is a conviction that religion is generally a good thing and is somehow off-limits. This is not a viable position in any case, but we’re speaking of tacitly condoning child rape here. I rather think this horror trumps vaguely unsettling feelings. Nevertheless, there are plenty of non-Catholic believers who vocally support Ratzinger’s visit. And plenty of atheists too. We atheists have no excuse at all to support this man or the corrupt church he represents and any non-believer who feels we ought to lay off the pope and his minions should be deeply ashamed.