Two of Northern Ireland's favourite people got together today (at a nice cost to the tax payer), the Pope and the Queen, two figure heads of religious institutions on a 'state' visit... and before long there was the Pope slagging our somewhat secular state and many people in it, the Queen being diplomatic bigged him up anyway. Today was the start of Popefest 2010 and I wasn't going to comment on it but whoever writes the Pope's speeches needs to be fired because the hand of friendship we've been offered seems to be only to his followers or other religious persons and as a tax payer and licence fee payer from my point of view it looks like I'm paying to be insulted. Hrmmm... and not just one but two insults from the pontiffs own mouth and this is only the first day!
The visit of the Pope to the UK does seem to be providing a sound byte glimpse into the real marketing campaign behind the brand smile and waves we see on TV, seemingly media training isn't able to overhaul sending an intolerant brand spokesman who is feeling threatened by a simpler and less restrictive product, aka reason. You don't need to look far into the Pope's speech to see there has been a realisation within the church that they are worried that people have realised what has been known for millennia, that ethics and morals can be found within the individual and are not based solely within participation in an institutionalised belief system.
In an opening exchange, the BBC reports that The Queen said the visit was an opportunity to "deepen the relationship" between Catholicism and the Churches of England and Scotland and also managed to praise the Catholic Church's special contribution to helping the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.
It seems like a suspiciously glowing reference from one leader of an institution that is above the democratic process to another institution which profits heavily in political sway and in the long run financially through its work with the poor and vulnerable. This might be forgiveable if it wasn't for the track record of the Church founded by a guy who never even met Jesus! Since there is a track record though, there are further questions the Catholic Church will likely never intentionally answer so I can only try and read into it.
In order to explain, take a multinational corporation, they could (and do) invest in similar projects for sililar reasons in the third world and they and the Church are not that far apart as entities. Both want a return on their investment and both sell hope for the future through their products, services and outlay. The difference being a company would get pulled up in court for being unethical if a condition of their service was likely to spread disease or to discrimiate against someone for their sexual orientation or finding its managers were abusing the public, but seemingly religious dogma has the power to circumnavigate that safeguard. If the dream means a few more have to die through aids or are driven to suicide to keep the brands image simple and clear, then so be it... so it seems.
Ethical integrity of the Church aside, we opened the doors and he gladly came to say hi and to "offer a hand of friendship"... but a hand of friendship to whom?
For some reason, this is a state visit, the UK taxpayer is paying millions for this already proven to be fallible spokesman to come to try and re-enforce beliefes which are quite frankly shockingly misguided and ill-informed. Many kind, honest people just happy to live their life as they choose are by this state visit, without choice, paying for someone to come and reinforce to others a narrow set of morals out of sync with an educated world. Is he offering a hand of friendship to those who don't share his views or has he just come to insult those people in order to rally his fans?
Which leads me onto the Popes comments of hope and ermmm hate?
I'm starting to think he has his view of secularism confused a little and was maybe just trying to state words that are opposite to his view of his own organisation:
His words: "Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."
My proposed subtext: "Today, the Vatican City strives to be an archaic and monocultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may you let it always maintain its disrespect for those modern values and cultural expressions that the Catholic Church no longer values or even tolerates."
He likely used the word aggresive to both create a feeling of them and us, of an aggressive enemy and to have a come back to the likes of me who might criticise with what I hope might be a reasoned disagreement.
I thought that was the worst of it but sadly the Pope has managed to land an even bigger misinformed insult - tying together Atheism and Nazis, a transcript of which can be read here. Maybe just an insult if it wasn't for the fact that the Nazi's related Atheism with their Communist enemy. And to make this insult in a country where many an 'atheist/agnostic/humanist' likely took part in the war effort to defeat the Nazi's further adds to the ridiculous relationship! He failed also in his random recreation of history regarding the Nazi's to mention the inaction of the Pope of the time to even speak out against that regime. Is it maybe that Atheism like a religion is a belief or lack thereof and cannot be forced to be held or withheld so the only way to convince is to associate that belief with something that has been proven to be evil? Sadly mine and many other peoples secular schooling taught us enough to know when we hear poop.
Unsurprisingly the PR machine seems to have kicked in and the news hasn't really touched on it with the church distancing themselves from the implied connection. It didn't stop him critising the media though in a quite hypocritical manner stating that "it needed to have a greater responsibility because its opinions reach such a wide audience". LOL.
What I'd really love to hear are the views the Pope holds regarding whether he believes morals and ethics are synonymous to faith alone, and if so, are they only valid if held with active participation in a Catholic Church? Also an explanation as to why he thinks secularism is somehow bad (other than to the Church's coffers) because his views so far have had a hint of the BNP's rhetoric about them in that they are intolerant and misinformed. Secularism does not infringe personal belief, it only limits a groups religions bias in state matters where it impacts on the greater society made up of every personal belief, religious or otherwise. Its not divisive, its inclusive... which is a lot more than can be said of Vatican City's 'State' Monarchy.
As my door is already open to the Jehovahs Witnesses (who incidentally never did return to my invitation) I open my door gladly to the Pontiff if he'd care to visit and answer those questions and explain himself but I fear if two JW's shunned my offer a Pope will have even less time for me, after all there are more vulnerable or worthy people to 'help' than I.
As the saying goes; what you hate the most in others may be what you hate most about yourself and maybe, just maybe, the Queen and Pope should take heed in words they claim to uphold since its a trend that spans not only their religion but those before and after. Maybe they can take heed from the golden rule that the Pope seems to have forgotten - simply to treat others as you would like to be treated - Its even there in so many words within in the bible so its about time they both read it or re-read it - whichever edition they're reading from.
On a side note, the Pope has mentioned Northern Ireland in what seemed to be a fellow big up to the Queen and all involved saying, "Your Majesty's Government and the Government of Ireland, together with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland, have helped give birth to a peaceful resolution of the conflict there". So at least there is some common sense coming out of this meeting. If only the words he uses to insult with were as diplomatic to those he didn't meet as they are to those he did.
No doubt more to follow.