Why I will not, after all, protest the pope.

Yesterday, I spent half an hour trying to concoct some witty slogan to print on a t-shirt or placard for the Protest the Pope event in Hyde Park tomorrow. As I cut and pasted quotes from the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s highly offensive take on homosexuals from his 1986 letter to the bishops, I dragged at the corner of the text box to make it bigger to accommodate the words. It looked a bit ranty so I chopped out words; it was unrepresentative and sensational. I deleted it and put ‘Instrinsically disordered’ instead. Not pointed enough.

I looked back on my Facebook wall at the plethora of links, images and comments bashing Pope Benedict that I had contributed, spawned and reacted to. I watched his arrival in Edinburgh and his reception on the streets. Rows of happy, smiling ordinary people waving little Scottish and Papal flags. A chap from the Salvation Army positively beamed with pride as he was interviewed just after he exchanged a couple of words with the Pope. A Sikh representative similarly glowed as he spoke about the honour of having met the pontiff. Another woman who represented various charities spoke modestly of the important work Catholic and other groups do with the homeless, the poor and the disabled.

I felt vaguely ashamed of myself.

This is no Wildean deathbed conversion. I am as convinced of my rejection of all religion in general and Catholicism in particular as I ever was. The Vatican houses a corrupt and powerful cabal with a hugely destructive cult of secrecy. Benedict and many others like him in the Holy See are just plain wrong on many things and have blood on their hands and the unnecessary suffering of hundreds of thousands of people in Africa and Asia on their collective conscience. They anger, repulse and exasperate me.

I reject Catholicism but I am not anti-Catholic. Too many of my family, friends and community are Catholics. They are often as bemused and ashamed by the antics of the hierarchy as I am. But many Catholics and others are inspired by their beliefs to do things like volunteer to help the elderly, care for the ill and disabled, to teach and to create – ordinary, noble people who don’t ask for anything in return. Maybe they’ll be on the streets on London tomorrow to get a glimpse of Benedict. Maybe they’ll feel comfort in numbers, tacit support for their efforts, whatever small kindnesses they do inspired by their faith.

I’m going to leave them to it.

What I will do is download the form from Count Me Out and formally leave the Catholic Church. There’s my protest. Then I’ll pop down to the pub where two friends are celebrating their engagement and I’ll have a think about priorities.



  1. alan

    you sum up, EXACTLY, how I’ve felt about the catholic church over the past number of years.

    Obviously i’m appalled at the (lack of) actions the church has taken against some of the horrific scandals that have come to light over the years, and I am no fan of the Pope whatsoever. Their stance on homosexuality, women and celebacy amongst priests are the complete opposite to my views.

    But my family still hold some connection with the church. My sister christened her adorable two children over the last few years, and even asked me to be godfather to one of them. Our good friends are getting married in a church soon, and I can’t wait to celebrate their day.

    The church has always and will always leave me, and many others, in a complete state of flux. But I think I’m learning to reconcile that flux.

    All the same; +1 on count me out.

    • eguinan

      Cheers Alan, I think that the Irish/gay/Catholic combo will always put us in a bit of flux regarding the Church.

      Time for me to let it go though (shame as I *love* incense!)

  2. Seven Star Hand


    Too bad you lost the inspiration required to seek truth and justice for those who have and still suffer because of certain ancient lies and those that use them to dupe and oppress billions of souls.

    When you talk about the current scandals facing the Vatican and Church, you should also point out to people that there is now stunning and comprehensive proof that the New Testament is a Roman deception. Furthermore, religious leaders in Rome have always known this.

    I am the proverbial horse’s mouth and I am now gifting you with the Vatican’s worst nightmare, now realized. Christian Rome oppressed and massacred myriad souls over the previous age to prevent you from ever understanding what I have just made available to everyone.

  3. Ernst

    No no no ! Obviously I respect your views, but wrong is wrong. Hezbollah also helps the poor. Hitler was nice to children and shepherd dogs, he had many many enthusiastic fans. Even Nick Griffin will make some people feel good and safe. There is safety in numbers, but you as gay being regarded as intriscally immoral and me as atheist being linked to nazism is unacceptable coming from the mouth & pen of the ambassador of christ on earth. Amen. Dance on !

    • eguinan

      Hi Ernst,

      I think I might not have been clear in the post.

      I find Ratzinger’s writings and beliefs about homosexuality, women, condoms etc completely abhorrent. As an atheist, I don’t understand why people believe in gods at all.

      I have no respect for Ratzinger on these issues (he actually has some interesting things to say about consumerism, ecology and other aspects of social justice though).

      I’m happy to take a step back this time and let the Catholics enjoy their party.

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  5. Feargal


    When you talk about the recent scandals affecting the church it is indeed puzzling that you ignore the “stunning and comprehensive proof that the New Testament is a Roman deception”
    Perhaps your efforts are merely to distract attention from that deception and far from being a call to arms you are an instrument of the status quo?
    Or maybe Dan Brown should find some outdoor hobbies?

  6. Jon

    came across your blog via a tweet about music. very interesting to read your thoughts on the pope’s visit to the UK.

    as an ex-catholic drifting somewhere on the sea of agnosticism, occasionally drifting towards the beach of atheism, i see the merit in a lot of the anti-pope protests that went on over in the UK.

    what disturbed me slightly was the tone of some protestors, which really sounded like traditional anti-catholicism dressed up, so often directed (in generations past) at ordinary catholics like my family. it was interesting how certain unjust sectarian prejudices were rolled out by some in the guise of (just) campaigning for equality/freedom etc.

    cheers 🙂

    • eguinan

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      That ‘tone’ that you describe was what I was afraid of. As the event approached, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with the type of language/abuse that was being used. It’s absolutely fine to tackle the pope on his misguided notions about homosexuality, condoms etc but calling him a Nazi and calling Catholics stupid is not what I wanted to be seen to support.

      There’s so much that the Catholic Church (and all religions) can be called out on that there is nothing to be gained from puerile name-calling. It just makes us sound like narrow-minded zealots!

      Anyway, it’s done with and I think all sides got what they wanted more or less.

      Do pop back for more music n musings!


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