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.