Guest post from Peter Tatchell of the Protest the Pope Campaign
Text of Peter Tatchell’s speech at the Protest the Pope public meeting at the Old Town Hall, Richmond, on 12 August 2010:
Pope Benedict comes to Britain next month. As democrats, we believe he has every right to come here and express his opinions. But we also have a right to protest against his often harsh, extreme views. We have a right to say that he is not welcome.
The Protest the Pope campaign is calling on the British government to disassociate itself from the Pope’s intolerant teachings on issues such as women’s rights, gay equality and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. On these and many other issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including most Catholics.
We also object to his visit being funded by the taxpayer. Much of his itinerary involves religious and spiritual events. It is not appropriate that these are paid for by the public. After all, we don’t fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Israel.
On so many important social issues, the Pope rejects human rights.
Pope Benedict opposes women’s ordination. Women are deemed unfit to preach the gospel. This is an insult to the whole female sex. The implication of the Pope’s teaching is that women have no moral capability or capacity for spiritual leadership. This is pure patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.
The Pope says artificial contraception is a sin. He condemns poor parents to having large families that they can’t care for adequately. In some countries, priests spread the lie that contraception makes women sick.
Pope Benedict opposes IVF fertility treatment, to give childless couples the chance of parenthood. This is odd. The Catholic Church says having children is God’s will but denies this option of parenthood to infertile couples.
The Pope rejects potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research, which could help find cures for terrible illnesses like motor neurone disease – saving lives and improving people’s quality of life. Surely this research is fulfilling Christian values and ideals?
Benedict XVI has denounced the use of condoms, even to stop the spread of HIV. He has also claimed that condom usage may “increase” the rate of HIV infection. His dishonest teachings discourage a proven way to reduce HIV transmission; thereby putting millions of lives at risk.
The Pope has colluded with the Vatican’s promotion of the lie that condoms spread HIV because latex is porous to the virus (sic). This is an outrageous falsehood and has been condemned as untrue and irresponsible by scientists and medical professionals.
In 1992, When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.” Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no “right” to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination, suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be “legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.”
The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as “evil” and vilified supporters of gay equality as “gravely immoral.” He has also denounced homosexual equality as a “deviant trend” and condemned same-sex love as being “without any social value.” He even threatened to excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws.
While condemning loving, consenting adult same-sex relations, the Pontiff played a role in shielding Catholic clergy guilty of child sex abuse from prosecution.
In 2001, Pope Benedict wrote a letter to all Catholic Bishops, which ordered Papal silence concerning allegations of child sex abuse. He instructed the Bishops to report all such cases to him in Rome, so the idea that he did not know about sex abuse by priests is nonsense. His letter did not tell Bishops to report the abusers to the police.
The esteemed Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, said the Pope bears co-responsibility for the cover-up and that Benedict has failed to apologise for his own personal shortcomings during the child sex abuse scandal.
For more than two decades, as a Cardinal and as a Pope, Joseph Ratzinger has attempted to reverse the liberalising trends of the Second Vatican Council – pushing the whole church back to a more orthodox, conservative agenda. He’s strengthening the hierarchy and autocracy of the Vatican and the Papacy.
This has prompted a grassroots Catholic revolt – the “We are Church” movement – which seeks a more democratic, transparent, accountable church.
The Pope has condemned liberation theology, as espoused by Catholic theologians such as Gustavo Gutierriz and Leondaro Boff, and he has opposed the worker priest movement. He preaches social justice but attacks those clergy who advocate political action to reform society and make it more just.
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict rescinded the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson who, in 2008, denied key elements of the Holocaust; claiming that a maximum of 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps and that none were gassed by the Nazis.
Benedict has also paved the way for eventual sainthood of Pope, Pius XII, despite the war-time pontiff’s failure to speak out publicly, either during or after the Holocaust, against the Nazi mass murder of six million Jews and millions of others, including Russian, Polish, disabled, gay and Roma people – and many more.
Pius XII was no saint. The fact that Pope Benedict wants to makes him a saint shows how far he has strayed from the moral and ethical values of most Catholics and most of humanity.