A lot of nonsense has been wafting about recently such as the silly claims that Richard Dawkins compared Roman Catholics to Nazi’s. Its complete bollocks of course. Tempting as it might be, especially in the context of the pope labeling non-believers as Nazi’s the moment his feet hit the ground in the UK, it never happened. However, my words are not enough, we need solid proof … so here it is. The Guardian today published the edited text of his speech, and ere it all is. I highly recommend reading it. Should anybody label this as simply an Atheist rant, then I challenge you to identify anything here that is factually incorrect.
Should Joseph Ratzinger have been welcomed with all the pomp and ceremony due to a head of state? No. As Geoffrey Robertson has shown in The Case of the Pope, the Holy See’s claim to statehood is founded on a Faustian deal in which Benito Mussolini handed over 1.2 square miles of central Rome in exchange for church support of his fascist regime. Our government chose the occasion of the pope’s visit to announce their intention to “do God”. As a friend remarked to me, presumably we should expect the imminent handover of Hyde Park to the Vatican, to clinch the deal?
Should Ratzinger, then, be welcomed as the head of a church? By all means, if individual Catholics wish to overlook his many transgressions and lay out the red carpet for his designer red shoes, let them do so. But don’t ask the rest of us to pay. Don’t ask the British taxpayer to subsidise the propaganda mission of an institution whose wealth is measured in the tens of billions: wealth for which the phrase “ill-gotten” might have been specifically coined. And spare us the nauseating spectacle of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and assorted lord lieutenants and other dignitaries cringing and fawning sycophantically all over him as though he were somebody we should respect.
Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, was respected by some as a saintly man. But nobody could call Benedict XVI saintly and keep a straight face. Whatever this leering old fixer may be, he is not saintly. Is he intellectual? Scholarly? That is often claimed, although it is far from clear what there is in theology to be scholarly about. Surely nothing to respect.
The unfortunate little fact that Ratzinger was in the Hitler Youth has been the subject of a widely observed moratorium. I’ve respected it myself, hitherto. But after the pope’s outrageous speech in Edinburgh, blaming atheism for Adolf Hitler, one can’t help feeling the gloves are off. Did you hear what he said?
“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews … As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century …
You have to wonder about the PR skills of the advisers who let that paragraph through. Oh but of course, I was forgetting, his senior advisor is that cardinal who takes one look at the immigration officials at Heathrow and concludes that he must have landed in the third world. The poor man was no doubt prescribed a bushel of Hail Marys, on top of his swift attack of diplomatic gout – and one can’t help wondering whether the afflicted foot was the one he puts in his mouth.