In our first dual-author post, Jeff argues that the Pope should be welcomed with open arms while Malc… well, let’s just say he doesn’t agree.

Jeff: Has our Godless society sunk so low that we no longer wish to welcome the Pope to our shores?

It seems to be so with a palpable distaste for next week’s papal event throughout the media and the blogosphere.

With his state visit (which he was invited on we should remember) Pope Benedict has attracted more disdain and outrage than recent guests including Jacob Zuma, that thrice-married imbecile from South Africa, and King Abdullah II, overseer of human rights abuses in Saudia Arabia. ‘Not in my name’ they cry, ‘not with my tax money’ they jeer, as if the Devil himself will be touching down in Edinburgh this Thursday. He may wear Prada, but surely we can count the Pope as one of the good guys?

Do we not need a little perspective here? The Dalai Lama looked like he was having a hoot when he came to the UK a year ago and he is nothing more than a thoroughly likeable hereditary deity so perhaps we should be making more of a song and a dance for the Pope rather than nailing him to the proverbial cross.

The Catholic church has, of course, many crosses to bear, not least of which is the child abuse scandal that has rocked not just Ireland but many a European country in the past few years. The tremors even reached as far as the Pope himself, one aspect of the affair highlighting an alarming lack of judgement from the man.

While this issue of course deserves as close a scrutiny as possible, it should not be fixated upon. It certainly should not dominate the much wider question of faith’s place in society, particularly when that lack of grounding in a person’s life, for better or worse, is causing the greatest inter-generational change to society since, well, possibly ever. Many a family’s lineage will have seen a dramatic shift in attitudes, not to mention geography, since the middle of the last century.

To go forwards, perhaps we have to look backwards and, for several hundreds of thousands of Scots, that involves reconsidering a Catholic heritage that to a significant extent has helped shape who we are as a people and, consequently, as a nation.

Many people are complaining that not being Catholic is some sort of reason for not inviting the Pope here. One has to only note that being neither French nor American would keep neither Sarkozy nor Obama at bay.

The Pope may be a flawed leader of a flawed religion and there is of course no convincing reason for anyone to necessarily take his word as Bible but, amid the hustle and bustle of our post-recession lives, amid the attention-shortening gogglebox garbage that we all guiltily tune in to week after week and amid the community-loosening dispersal of increasingly individual lives, there is value in reflecting on what a man steeped in faith and well versed in Scripture has to say to us.

All I am saying is, give Pope a chance.


Malc: From the off, I’ll point out I have no Catholic family connection other than being a Celtic fan, and unlike most, I don’t conflate the concepts of football and religion.  Nor does my religious background (Church of Scotland, since you ask, although not slavish about it) inform my political views to any real degree.  This is by means of pointing out that I have no religious motive for the views I am about to espouse.

I think the Pope’s visit is an outrage.

First up, I recognise that the Pope is the key figure for the world’s Catholics.  And that his coming to visit is a big deal – for them.  But for me the importance of the position he holds is secondary to the views he holds – and in those views he can be viewed as bigoted at best, dangerous at worst.  He’s treated as a religious figure – and that’s right, to an extent.  But the position he holds is as political as it is religious.  And when someone who arrives on our shores with a political view that people strongly disagree with, they protest vociferously about it (witness – George W. Bush).  And its right that they do – it is a free society after all.  But the idea that we should all welcome the Pope with open arms is as naive as it is ridiculous.

Jeff raised the visit of King Abdullah II, citing his record as an ‘overseer of human rights abuses’ as evidence that we should be complicit in the visit of the Pope.  Now, Jeff pretty much covered the issue of child abuse – which I think comes under the purview of ‘human rights abuses’ – but in my view, just because we’re letting one man in whom we have identified as overlooking Western ideals of human rights doesn’t mean we should let in another.

And while I’m on it, let’s have a look at the Pope’s views shall we?  He preached a sermon that told the world he thought Islam was dangerous (which is basically the same thing Geert Wilders did, and we decided to ban him from coming).  He preaches against homosexuality and gay marriage which, while in line with Catholic dogma, hardly sits well with our anti-discrimination laws.  And he tells a continent ravaged with AIDS not to use condoms which, in my mind, is tantamount to encouraging the genocide of an entire continent.  Now that is an overstatement of my case, but think about it for a second.  Preaching against the use of contraceptives is a sure fire way of encouraging unsafe sex – and thus the spread of the disease.  Now obviously people are responsible for their own actions (the Nuremberg trials taught us that) but when a figure as powerful as the Pope is advocating unsafe sex, he is at the very least complicit in the suffering of an entire continent.

I haven’t mentioned the cost of his visit, but I have two problems with that too – the amount this trip is costing us (and for a country with a deficit of £158BN that is not insignificant) and the fact that WE are paying for it.  I disagree with the guy’s politics but surely if he’s coming to visit, he can pay for the bloody trip himself (maybe sell off some of that gold in the Vatican – something that I can honestly say turned my stomach when I visited).

So there we go – I’m on the same side of this debate as Ian Paisley and most of the left (and on how many occasions can you say they are on the same page?!) and disagreeing with my colleague and probably incurring the wrath of Catholics everywhere.  Jeff asks us to ‘Give Pope a chance’.  I’d ask the Pope to give anti-discrimination a chance.  Not as catchy, I’ll give you – but, in my view, apt.  Controversial?  Absolutely.