What the pope said

I watched part of the pope’s speech at Westminster Hall on C-Span yesterday evening. He’s sure as hell not what you’d call charismatic, or even tolerable to listen to – fast, whispery, monotone – not fun. But the substance is what counts. The point is what he said.

Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law.While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God.

No it doesn’t. The Catholic church does not have an overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person. If it did it wouldn’t have let its priests fuck little boys in the ass, as Tim Minchin so elegantly put it. If it did it wouldn’t think it better for a woman to die than to abort a pregnancy. If it did it wouldn’t tell people not to use condoms during an Aids epidemic – if it did it wouldn’t tell people not to use contraception, period. If it did it wouldn’t have such scorching contempt for the notion that women should be allowed to be priests.

If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident…

Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person.

Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century.

But religion was around then, offering its “corrective” – but the Catholic church was perfectly fine with slavery at the time, and it didn’t do much to “correct” Hitler, either. So what is the pope thinking of? That’s not clear. Perhaps he’s just hoping no one will notice that, and instead people will just think the Catholic church is just the ticket for a “corrective” now. That would be a stupid thing to think. The Catholic church has an absolutely terrible record of “taking full account of the dignity of the human person.” It’s been taking full account of the dignity of the Catholic church, but that’s not the same thing.

 I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere.

He says, talking to a hall full of former prime ministers and other movers and shakers. He says, in the middle of a news-dominating trip to a mostly secular and/or Protestant country. He says, having received an amount and quality of deference and attention that would have made an emperor blush.

 there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience.These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.

“Their conscience” being the bit of them that thinks gays are icky and wants to treat them as different from and worse than other people. “The rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion” being the rights of people to treat certain sets of people as inferiors. That’s what this reactionary theocratic bastard is telling the British state – and complaining about being marginalized while he does it.

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