Catholic voices


Two views on the Pope's visit

Bianca Jagger is founder and chairwoman of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and a Council of Europe goodwill ambassador

“As a human rights advocate who campaigns on behalf of children, I unequivocally condemn child abuse. It is my hope that the pope will take the opportunity of his visit to address growing public concern over the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice, provide reparations for victims, and respond to requests from victims to meet with them.

But I despair at the attitude of many in the media towards his visit. Earlier this week, Channel 4 broadcast a programme called The Trouble with the Pope. Presented by Peter Tatchell, it was a virulent personal attack on Pope Benedict that portrayed Catholics in a biased and bigoted way.

How can Tatchell justify his statement at the end of the documentary, that “the pope should not be welcome in this country” when, in the past, dictators and controversial figures with a history of human rights abuses, such as Robert Mugabe, George Bush, and Chilean general Augusto Pinochet, to name a few, have been welcomed on official visits to the UK?

It is unacceptable for him to use the pope’s visit as an opportunity to promote religious hatred and intolerance.

Gavin Plumley is a cultural commentator and writer who blogs at entartetemusik. He converted to Catholicism at 18

“I’m rather conflicted about the visit, especially as it’s a state event rather than a pastoral one. Pope Benedict has made the difficult things about being a Catholic more and more apparent, particularly the seeming obsession with sexuality.

One of the great aspects of the church here is the way British Catholics have always been very open-minded; you can live a kind of National Trust-style Catholicism with a firm sense of liberalism attached. You try and lead an idealistic life, but if you can’t ascribe to the ideal, as long as your sense of conscience kicks in, you’ll be fine. But that seems to have been damaged . . . the pope seems to be berating people about how they live their lives.

I certainly don’t want people burning effigies; that stoops to the Terry Jones level of objection, but I’m not surprised by the general ambivalence towards the visit. I would love to be in a world where the pope would be welcomed with open eyes, but that’s impossible given his response to British liberalism. My husband will be going to the ecumenical prayer service in Westminster Abbey, but I’ve declined the opportunity to go."