måndag 9 mars 2009

No Popery

West Grinstead - the secret chapel

The Catholic Church in Britain is getting a rough handling from the liberal left at the moment. First there was the business with the holocaust-denying "Bishop" Williamson, whose excommunication has been lifted. I commented on the removal of the "Bishop's" excommunication a couple of weeks ago. Then there was the excommunication of the Brazilian parents who allowed their nine-year-old daughter to have an abortion, following rape by her stepfather and a pregnancy with twins. There was the case in Italy where someone in a persistent vegetative state had their life-support system withdrawn, against the opposition of the Church.

Piled on to this are accusations of mass-murder by the Crusaders, the Inquisition and the people who put down the Albigensians. for which present-day Catholics are held fully responsible. Murder of witches is also regarded as a Catholic aberration, though in fact it seems to have been more of a Protestant thing, for which Catholics are still held responsible as they are all Christians.

An article by Mary Kenny in the Guardian at the weekend drew attention to the statement by Cormac Murphy O'Connor, that it a great failing of our society today that Christians are marginalised and persecuted. There was, he had said, far less tolerance for Christianity today – or perhaps any form of religious belief – than there was a generation ago. In a mild and perfectly reasonable article, Kenny had gone on to argue that it is the Christian destiny to be a thorn in the side of a greedy, materialistic mainstream culture.

They are not wrong about the persecution. Nobody is being imprisoned for being a Christian but there is an ongoing barrage of ridicule from atheists who claim their intellectual superiority on account of their non-belief in the sky-pixie or flying spaghetti-eating monster. There is the atheist bus poster campaign. And at the time of writing, there were 180-odd comments on Kenny's article, many of which precisely proved the point she was making. The majority were hostile, a few in reasonable and well-argued terms but most with a virulent edge more in the spirit of the Lewes bonfire night celebrations when an effigy of the Pope is burnt.

It was not the sort of thing one would expect from the readership of a quality newspaper with aspirations to be the voice of British radical intellectuals. The tone of these comments amply confirmed the view of the Cardinal, that Christianity is, in some circles at least, marginalised and indeed hated with particular venom. Have been brought up Jewish, it is my personal experience that in Britain, prejudice against Catholics is stronger and more widespread than Anti-Semitism.

There is plenty to criticise about the Catholic Church. Catholics in my acquaintance have not suspended their critical faculties. Most of my Catholic friends can put up a better argument for atheism than the people who comment in the Guardian. Most of the criticism that comes from outsiders serves merely as a platform to display the ignorance and prejudice of the authors. What we are seeing here is good old-fashioned bigotry.

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