> Weeks after the the papal visit to the UK, opinion is still divided as to whether he should have come at all




*Not the actual pope

The Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom was clouded with controversy. Such controversy which has plagued Catholicism for years following revelations that members of the clergy used their positions within the Church, and subsequent power, to abuse young children.

Many have spoken up against Catholicism due to its unbending views on the use of contraception, abortion, gay rights and equal opportunities. Most people are finding the religion out of touch with the modern world. However, the Pope’s visit to the UK will be remembered for a long time as Benedict XVI publicly apologised for the sexual scandals, which have shaken the whole world.

However, just before the Pope made his visit to the UK, thousands of people took to the streets of London and protested. The overriding feeling was that apologies are not enough, and that global changes within the Catholic Church are necessary to end this culture of abuse and archaic system of power.

Many members of the Catholic faith felt privileged and honoured at the Pope’s visit. But abuse victims felt betrayed. Many have suffered further at the hands of the Catholic faith and their covering up of said crimes with a ‘wall of silence’.

Whilst the Pope’s visit was one which many did not agree with, it seems that many victims felt empowered in reacting to the visit, enough to share their experiences. Perhaps, in this light, the visit could be viewed positively; it was so enraging that it made people come forward, and there could be some healing of the hurt caused to them in their childhoods.

The instance of abuse supposedly covered up by the Pope was claimed to have occurred in the early 1990’s, when he held the position of Cardinal and was head of the Vatican office. The defendant, FR Lawrence Murphy, pleaded ill health and stated that he should be allowed to live his remaining days in the “dignity of (his) priesthood”. A dignity he had apparently used to abuse innocent helpless children. His plea was granted and now the Pope is responsible for the injustice.

This culminated in a campaign which was led by scientist and Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins, in a bid to stop the Pope’s visit. Mr. Dawkins’ own webpage has discussion boards and links to other forums, where you can read accounts of painful childhood memories at the hands of priests and supportive responses to such terrible experiences. Present in these accounts is evidence which suggests that if not physically abused as a child you were mentally scarred by the promise of going to Hell for the smallest sin.

This abhorrent abuse scandal has rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church, with more victims revealing how they suffered on a world wide scale every day. In light of the Pope’s visit, a respected Queen’s Counsel and Judge, Geoffrey Robertson, has penned a persuasive book ‘The Case of the Pope, Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse’. The book questions the Pope’s accountability, stating that “the Vatican has run a secret legal system that shields paedophile priests from criminal trial around the world”.

Mr. Robertson suggests that by helping to cover for the priests who committed these horrendous crimes, the Pope should be held partly accountable and is not above the law, simply by virtue of being the residing iconic head of the Catholic faith.

Despite vast efforts made by Mr. Dawkins and others to stop the Pope’s visit, the papal holiday went ahead as planned. Thousands of non-Catholic taxpayers are footing at least half the bill. However, the Foreign Office were unable to predict the cost of the visit beforehand, and are yet to release the total cost figure.
People who wanted to get involved in this historical event needed to buy tickets, which were on sale at prices ranging from £5 to £25 (depending on time and place). This should hopefully have helped the British authorities with the financing and organising of the necessary safety precautions for the Pope’s visit.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmc6tR2V1Vc[/youtube]The costs escalated as it was alleged that UK citizens were plotting an attack against the Pope and security had to be stepped up. The suspects were later released without charge. The reaction by police to arrest on the grounds of a tip off, without any hard evidence, added support to the Pope’s feelings that some people wanted “the voice of religion [to] be silenced”.

The Pope stated that he felt “concerned at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly Christianity” in his address at Westminster Abbey. Amongst the audience were three past Prime Ministers: Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. Feelings of indignation rose amongst those already hostile towards the long awaited visit.

Catholicism dismisses homosexuality as a choice one does not have to make, showing a certain naivety or ignorance and a defiant lack of understanding. Tom Caddick, Vice President of OutUWE Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) society finds that in his opinion “the LGBT community has felt under attack by the Catholic Church”.

As stated above, the Pope asks that Catholics are not marginalised, yet is happy to condone the marginalisation of a massive community simply because of their sexual preference. The hypocrisy is clear. Tom also added: “The Catholic church’s position on contraception, particularly in relation to Aids-affected Africa, is also anathema to our community’s general view on safe sex.”

Endless suffering is dismissed because of old doctrine and a lack of modernity. The Catholic faith is an old religion which has presided in England for centuries, and yet it continues to let down those who need it the most. Religion is used by many to aid those in need of guidance and to give strength to those who require it. A person’s choice in religion is a massive undertaking and one which is not taken lightly. You should be able to stand proud of your religion and know that you are part of a good community, not feel ashamed at its hypocrisy and disappointed in its leader.

By Sophie Hall