As Pope Benedict climbs into his hyper-protective pope mobile and rolls around England and Scotland meeting the great and the good, he’ll be aware of the controversy stirred up by his presence.
There are – let’s see – the Catholics, who by and large like him. The other religions who by and large, probably, don’t. The agnostics, who don’t really care. The atheists, who think he’s frankly deluded. (I’m in that group myself.)
And then there’s a mixture of atheists, scientists, journalists, agnostics and others who’ve vociferously campaigned against his state visit. They’re not against Ratzinger visiting Britain, as they believe in freedom of movement and religious freedom, but they don’t believe he should be given “the honour” of a state visit.
Here’s a letter they recently wrote to the left-ish English newspaper The Guardian explaining their thinking.
“We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:
opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.
promoting segregated education.
denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.
opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.
The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties (“concordats”) with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.”
The signatories were as follows:
Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor Steve Jones, Sir Jonathan Miller, actor and comedian Stephen Fry, Professor Susan Blackmore, writer Terry Pratchett, children’s author Philip Pullman, Ed Byrne, Baroness Blackstone, Ken Follett, Professor AC Grayling, Stewart Lee, Baroness Massey, nurse and journalist Claire Rayner, Adele Anderson, John Austin MP, Lord Avebury, Sian Berry, Professor Simon Blackburn, Sir David Blatherwick, Sir Tom Blundell, Dr Helena Cronin, Dylan Evans, Hermione Eyre, Lord Foulkes, Professor Chris French, Natalie Haynes, journalist Johann Hari, Jon Holmes, Lord Hughes, Robin Ince, Dr Michael Irwin, Sir Harold Kroto, Professor John Lee, Zoe Margolis, journalist Jonathan Meades, Diane Munday, Maryam Namazie, David Nobbs, Professor Richard Norman, Lord O’Neill, Simon Price, Paul Rose, Martin Rowson, Michael Rubenstein, Joan Smith, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Professor Raymond Tallis, Lord Taverne, Peter Tatchell, Baroness Turner, Professor Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA, Ann Marie Waters, Professor Wolpert, Jane Wynne Willson.