Quit picking on that nice Mr Pope fella

Melanie McDonagh doesn’t want to hear that old dreary stuff about the Catholic church, thanks all the same.

The old gibe, that anti-Catholicism is the antisemitism of the left, looked like being given a new lease of life.

Is that an old jibe? (I don’t get out much.) Well if so it’s a very stupid one. Leftish anti-Catholicism is about real actions and commands by the Catholic church and its clergy. It’s substantive – it’s about something. What is anti-semitism ‘about’? Catholicism has a lot of substance to get to grips with. It has a hierarchy, and a state, and a long history of official actions and institutions (the inquisition, the index, wars, corruption – little things like that). It gives us its official thoughts at frequent intervals. It applies pressure to governments and politicians. It is an institution. It has power. It runs schools and orphanages and charities, and it doesn’t always run them well, or kindly. Is any of that true of ‘semitism’? No. Some of it (though not much) applies to Judaism, but ‘semitism,’ no. So McDonagh’s ‘old gibe’ is not worth much.

What’s to say about Africa and Aids? Except that if the pope were as omnipotent as people make out, he’d be able to make individuals subscribe to the whole package of Catholic teaching on sexuality, on fidelity within marriage and chastity, not just condoms. I’ve never quite been able to believe in Catholics – Africans or otherwise – who are so scrupulous that they couldn’t possibly use condoms, but will resort to prostitutes.

But that doesn’t explain why the pope is trying to get people to obey his instructions not to use condoms. And it ignores the obvious fact that men don’t want to use condoms anyway and the ‘church teaching’ provides a handy excuse. Has McDonagh never heard the term bareback? If not she should pay more attention, if she’s going to write about the church and condoms. And she doesn’t explain why a slow nasty death is the appropriate punishment for people who don’t ‘subscribe to the whole package of Catholic teaching on sexuality.’ And she doesn’t explain why people – mostly women – who don’t have sex with anyone but their husbands should be punished for their husbands’ sex lives combined with refusal to use condoms; nor does she explain why children should be included in the punishment. She explains pretty much nothing – she just makes a smug crack and lets it go at that.


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