Pope’s Detractors Have No Room to Talk

Pope’s Detractors Have No Room to Talk
Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Pope Benedict XVI will land in the controversy-torn UK today for a four day state visit to a nation that has been bitterly divided over his trip, thanks to a hostile secular press and a variety of protest groups.

The Holy Father will begin his historic visit to the UK today, during which time he will conduct a range of meetings and engagements with the Queen as well as other politicians and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the severely fractured Church of England. The highlight of the visit will be the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman on Sunday in Birmingham.

As anxious as the faithful are to see the Pope on this first papal trip since John Paul II visited in 1982, there has been a steady drumbeat of hostility coming from the country’s elite and its notoriously vitriolic press.

In addition to a rash of unfavorable television documentaries about the Pope and the Church in the days preceding the visit, the Catholic League is reporting that more than 50 British notables have signed a letter published in the Guardian newspaper criticizing the visit.  Signatories included Philip Pullman, author of the infamously anti-God book and movie, Golden Compass; atheist Richard Dawkins and gay activist Peter Tatchell who once claimed his friends who admit to having had sex with adults beginning at the age of nine say they never felt abused but welcomed the experience with “great joy.”

In response, Catholic League president Bill Donohue says the pope’s leading critics are not only imbued with hate, but they “even associate with advocates of child rape. And they have the nerve to point fingers at the pontiff.”

The Rev. Ian Paisly, leader of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster is also among the Pope’s critics.

” . . . (W)hat is not widely known is Paisley’s duplicity,” Donohue writes. “He recently said he is opposed to the pope’s trip because of the failure of the Catholic Church to take cases of priestly sexual abuse seriously. Yet the record shows that his own role in dealing with such matters is disgraceful.”

In 2006, two sisters went public claiming they were previously abused by a lay preacher in Paisley’s church. One of the sisters met with Paisley and two senior ministers about this issue in 2003, only to be told that it was best to “leave this in [our] hands.”

In 2002, a Sunday school teacher in Paisley’s church in Toronto was found guilty of sexually abusing a 13 year-old girl. Four years later, the victim’s father was livid that the offender was still a member of the church; he demanded an apology and requested a meeting with Paisley. Paisley refused to meet with him.

In 1973, a missionary from Paisley’s church provided him with evidence that a homosexual house warden was having sex with boys in the home. Paisley ignored her plea and refused to investigate.

“Paisley is not the only embarrassment. Before Gordon Brown left office as prime minister, he elevated Paisley to the House of Lords. Nice to know the Brits are still conferring titles on anti-Catholic bigots.”

Donohue reminded that when Pope John Paul II made his visit in 1982, he was pelted with missiles and an arsonist armed with a gallon of petrol sought to light a fire.

“Given the current wave of militant atheism, we hope the authorities are well prepared to deal with these secular fanatics this time around.”

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