From NSS newsletter - 27 Aug 2010 - Part 1

Tuesday 7 September 2010
popularity : 1%

- Pope should keep his unpleasant opinions to himself while he is a guest in this country
- Radio 4 is choked with religion, but greedy CofE wants even more
- After the Chesney revelations, Ireland must finally divest itself of the Catholic yoke - Editorial by Terry Sanderson

Pope should keep his unpleasant opinions to himself while he is a guest in this country

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, leader of Catholics in England and Wales, has high hopes for the Pope’s visit to the UK next month. He even thinks it can stop the secularisation of society by demonstrating that religious faith "is a gift rather than a problem". He said he hoped the state visit from September 16 to 19 would mark a "new phase" in relations between Britain and the Catholic Church. Writing in the Vatican’s own "newspaper" L’Osservatore Romano, Nichols said that faith was increasingly being seen as a private matter which, he suggested, many Christians were tempted to hide away from others who were hostile to the notion of the existence of God.

His comments come after a period in which the Church has had to "fight bitterly to retain its rights" in education and to govern its charities in accordance with its teachings. This period has been paralleled, he said, by a rise in an aggressive form of secularism which dictates that religion should have no public role. As a result, the papal visit has met with hostility since it was announced in the spring. He claimed "anti-Catholic activists" were threatening to disrupt events or even arrest the Pope for alleged "crimes against humanity".

The pope was invited to Britain first by Tony Blair and then by Gordon Brown. Ever since, there has been an outcry at the taxpayer footing much of the £20million bill. Worshippers, even priests, have since been asked to contribute from their own pockets. This is after pressure from the despised aggressive secularists prompted the Catholic Church in England and Wales later to cover the costs of the purely "pastoral" events, estimated at about £7million. This does not of course include the massive security cost of these events seemingly planned without the least concern about the cost to be borne by the taxpayers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "The arrogance of these priests knows no bounds. Mr Nichols talks of the ’rights’ of the church to practise discrimination. No Church has such ’rights’ in Britain, nor should it have, and the Pope should respect that. If he comes to our country and rails against the equality laws he so despises, it will be seen by many as an impertinence and an insult to the state of which he is supposed to be an honoured guest. The only reason this massive cost is being bankrolled by the taxpayer is that this is, nominally at least, a state visit by a head of state. The protocol of such visits is for the visitor not to engage in the politics of the host country. So, not only do we have to pay for what is largely a religious visit, but the thanks we are likely to get for our largesse is critical interference in our domestic affairs and there will not even be an opportunity for a Right of Reply. As usual for the Vatican it is "heads they win tails we lose". We appeal to the Pope to stick to religion while he is here and keep his unpleasant political opinions, which even many Catholics find hard to stomach, to himself."

Radio 4 is choked with religion, but greedy CofE wants even more

The Church of England is continuing to press the BBC to appoint a "religion editor" to ensure that the Corporation’s religious output is what it calls "a trusted guide for people of faith and those without". The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester and the Church of England’s senior spokesman on communications, made the call in a response to the BBC Trust’s review on BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and digital station Radio 7, which is to be rebranded as Radio 4 Extra. Usually the Church of England’s tactic is to condemn the BBC for its neglect of religious issues, but on this occasion it praises its commitment to "high quality radio that explores ethical and religious themes". Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: "No wonder the Church is happy with the amount of religion on BBC radio, it is quite disproportionate. The amount of Radio 4’s resources that are poured into religious programming, both directly and indirectly, probably outruns any other genre, except perhaps news. There are religious programmes every single day of the week – sometimes several in one day. This does not reflect the nature of the society that these channels are supposed to serve. "Religion has Radio 4 in a headlock and it isn’t going to let go. But enough is enough, and the BBC is looking to make cuts. It should not spend another penny on religious programmes and, indeed, it should be looking to cut some of them back." The NSS has made its ownsubmission (pdf) which may not go down so well in the "there can never be too much religion" national broadcaster. Submission for the BBC Trust service review of Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 7.

After the Chesney revelations, Ireland must finally divest itself of the Catholic yoke Editorial by Terry Sanderson

The emergence of the truth about the Claudy bombing in 1972 and the almost certain involvement of a Catholic priest Fr. Chesney has been much commented on. It seems Fr Chesney was a well-known republican and his direct involvement with the IRA was long suspected by the authorities. After the Claudy bombs — in which nine people died — the finger of suspicion fell inevitably on Chesney. But such was the hair-trigger sensitivity of ’the Troubles’ at that time, the authorities feared what the arrest of a Catholic priest would do to an already seething atmosphere. So, the state, the police and the Church colluded to cover up Chesney’s involvement. As with so many other wrong-doers within the church, he was moved from one parish to another where he continued his nefarious activities unchallenged. Now the Scotsman reveals a similar story of another Irish Catholic priest who was sent to Scotland but rapidly became involved in terrorist activities. Once more, the Church ensured that he escaped unpunished. These episodes are an object lesson in the dangers of allowing religion too much influence over the state. In Ireland in the 1970s, the state was still very much at the beck and call of the Vatican. The government could hardly move in any area without church approval. The result of this over-weaning power granted to the Church? Abominations such as unchecked child abuse, the enslavement of women in the so-called Magdalene Laundries/Asylums and the involvement of priests in murderous political groups. As the MEP and chair of the European Parliament Committee on Separation of Religion and Politics (and NSS honorary associate), Sophie in ’t Veld told Newsline : "The facts emerging from the report in the Claudy bombing shed light on the abuse cases as well. It is yet another demonstration that the problem was not individual ’sinners’ who were abusing little children, but the fundamental problem is that the Catholic Church in general was almost considered to be above the law." The Irish government must take the Chesney case in tandem with the Ryan report and commission an independent and rigorous full-scale enquiry into its relationship with the Catholic Church. For too long the Church has behaved like an arrogant, unaccountable arm of the government and of the law aided at every turn by a fifth column of Catholics whose primary, indeed seemingly only, loyalty is to their Church. Having so comprehensively abused its place in the corridors of power, it now needs to be banished from them. The Church must now confine itself to attend to its flock, and abide by the same law that everyone else is required to do. History has made the incontestable case for the Irish constitution to be made entirely secular, something that would have seems risible just a decade ago. It is a move that would not be unpopular in a nation that has suffered more than most under the yoke of a theocratic regime that has abused its citizens without mercy.


“Secular views in bioethics” Review and Prospects


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