If you like debates about religion but were turned off by the uproar in the United States over Koran-burning and the New York Islamic centre, take a look at the rhetorical duelling that’s been going on in Britain ahead of Pope Benedict’s visit there starting on Thursday. For the past few weeks, the leading lights of secularist and atheist thought have been hammering away at the Catholic Church, playing up its sins like the sexual abuse crisis and arguing that the pope doesn’t deserve the honour of a state visit. A quick Google search digs out plenty of them.
(Photo: Mark Fabbro, Chris Daly, Sue Cox, Margaret Kennedy and Peter Saunders (L-R), who said they were survivors of abuse by Catholic priests, pose after a news conference in London September 15, 2010/Toby Melville)
Victims of abuse by Catholic priests urged the Vatican on the eve of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain to hand over lists of suspected offenders to the police to prevent further cases of clerical sex crimes.
Following the crisis of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Belgium is like watching a rudderless ship in a storm. The Church hierarchy seems overwhelmed by the scandal that has engulfed it. The state seems unable to intervene after its spectacular raid on Church offices last June backfired on it. Left hanging are at least 475 victims who have no idea what to expect next.
(Photo: Cardinal Keith O’Brien displays the papal visit plaid in Edinburgh, Scotland September 9, 2010/David Moir)
Pope Benedict this week makes a challenging trip to Britain — only the second by a pope in history — and his welcome in one of Europe’s most secular nations will range from polite to indifferent and even hostile.
Child sexual abuse was widespread in the Belgian Catholic Church and drove at least 13 victims to suicide, according to a report published on Friday. “Almost every institution, every school, particularly boarding schools, at one time harboured abuse,” Peter Adriaenssens, the head of a Church commission monitoring complaints, told a news conference.
The former head of Belgium’s Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, has admitted he made mistakes in dealing with a case of sexual abuse and should have demanded the resignation of the bishop involved.
One regular but regularly unannounced feature of papal trips in recent years has been the private meeting with local Catholics who were sexually abused as youths by priests. Journalists only find out about them after they’ve taken place. Just such a meeting seems to be on the cards during Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain next week, but of course it does not appear in his official schedule. Chris Patten, the prime minister’s special representative for the papal visit, said as much on Monday in an interview with BBC television (quote at the end of the clip):
(Photo: Cardinal Danneels arrives at federal police headquarters in Brussels July 6, 2010 for questions about allegations of sexual abuse by priests/Stringer)
Pope Benedict will be confronted by posters on London’s famous red buses during his trip to the British capital next month which will call for the ordination of women priests.