Saturday, 6 February 2010

Round-Up: Equal Opportunists

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK later this year was bound to cause controversy given recent arguments over the role of faith in society that have sprung up as a consequence of the 'war on terror', and this has been reflected in the local blogosphere too as all sides felt able to contribute.

Freethinker Elizabeth Thomas complains that UK taxpayers are funding the visit, while atheist Steve Borthwick clearly says 'Nope to the Pope' and the £20m cost to put up with someone who is ruffling feathers over his intervention in the debate over the Equality Bill currently passing through Parliament.

The hardline Pope has encouraged believers to fight against new legislation with 'missionary zeal' protecting homosexuals and people of transexual gender from discrimination which would force the church to abandon centuries-old doctrine on the grounds that the bill "violates natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed," adding that it "imposes unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs."

Tim Trent is particularly incensed, he says the Pope is "an old bigot preaching his hatred" who "protects paedophile priests and nuns."

Ever the opportunist, local Labour MP Martin Salter uses the occasion to exercise his peculiarly divisive way of making an argument by accusing the head of the Roman church of 'reprehensible hypocrisy', by attacking the church of intitutionalised corruption in covering up abuses and saying that it "could possibly be the first time that a bloke in a dress has complained about equality legislation."

Berkshire Humanist Rob Ager diplomatically describes this debating method as 'interesting'.

Jane Griffiths offers some insights into Mr Salter's thinking.

Such button-pressing was obviously going to cause a reaction and it appears the controversy has provided the local print media with exactly the excuse needed to provide Mr Salter's blog with some exposure (satisfied now Jane?) as Adrian Windisch (who is Jewish) felt it necessary to defend Christians against the perceived slight.

Adrian obviously senses an opportunity to attack the man he has stood against in elections, as he's attempting to coordinate a response saying "the millions [of] Catholics in this country should rise up against [Mr Salter]."

Linda Fort dutifully picks up on the manufactured controversy, ironically identifying Mr Salter's "deliberately misleading" quote.

A leader article from the Reading Chronicle is grateful for the 'good copy', but suggests Mr Salter is "a little demob crazy, or his party's given up hope of retaining the Catholic vote," while an unsigned article stirs the pot further by reporting the overwhelming and negative reaction to the his words.

Martinsnottheone enjoys taking pot-shots at his enemy, insinuating that only hypocrites make accusations of hypocrisy.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat opponents have also spotted an opening to launch attacks.

Cllr Richard Willis claims the outraged response of believers has overshadowed the debate as it descends into 'schoolboy' insults and states Mr Salter has scored a "spectacular own-goal."

Taking a slightly more detatched view, Cllr Warren Swaine thinks the Pope will probably rise above such electoral nonsense as Mr Salter's tactics are not the best way to win hearts and minds ahead of an election in which Labour is fighting a desperate rearguard action.

In the wider frame David Blackburn sides with the Pope saying that the bill is fundamentally un-British in its inappropriateness as "it ignores that toleration and freedom in Britain were derived from the right to religious observance free from state proscriptions."

Thinking Anglicans blog collects a range of sources, identifying the key passage from the papal speech: "Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others."

Meanwhile The Catholic Herald provides some background context.

The speech was given before English and Welsh RC Bishops on their five-yearly ad limina vist to Rome - the first since religious authorities lost control of its adoption agencies and only a week after the House of Lords rejected parts of the Bill that would have forced the traditionalist church to make ordinations against its' doctrines.

But the final word must go to the Pope himself, who said:
"In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate."

Oranjepan says:

I'm sure Benedict XVI would find a hungry audience for his contributions here in Reading!


More equality issues


  1. A good round up thanks. Religion and politics a mixture that will continue to create fools out of the most sensible people..

  2. I love your blog roundups. It saves me so much time when you trawl through them and summarize for us! :)

  3. Thanks, that's too kind. I really enjoy trying to find the narrative of what's going on, so it's a real boost to know you enjoy reading them too.

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