Saturday, 7 February 2009

Morality as a 2nd Language

Whilst lots of newspapers and blogs continue to vent steam over Carol Thatcher, there was an interesting addition to the Guardian's long-running strand of negative stories about the Roman Catholic Church.

Liberal cradle-Catholics like myself are often awkwardly grateful for the Graunaid's dogged persistence in printing bad news about our faith. It's pretty clear that the Guardian as a community would be extremely pleased if the last bishop was strangled with the entrails of the last pope. I can't share that sentiment. But I am grateful that their secular motivation leads to the publication of stories which wouldn't ordinarily see the light of day in a relatively popular newspaper.

Catholicism and Holocaust denial

Bishop Richard Williamson doesn't sound like a nice man. My only evidence for this is the Guardian's allegation that Williamson denied the fact of gas-chambers in concentration camps; challenged the numbers of Holocaust dead; and also, by the by, claimed that the US planned 9/11 and that there really is a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. WTF? Seriously, what has got to go wrong in the neural pathways of someone's brain to make it misfire like this? Maybe Williamson was dropped as a baby, beaten as a child, or suffered some other socially transformative episode. Either way, the man is weirdly and wickedly screwed in the head.

It is unfortunate that such moral degenerates can hold exhalted positions in religious or indeed any other organisations. From a Catholic point-of-view, Williamson's reported remarks fan the all-too-familiar flames of Catholic anti-Semitism. Hard questions need to be asked of any faith, meant to be devoted to peace and love, which has such a chequered history in this regard.

Lowest common denominator editorial policy

I would have liked to have seen the article focus more on the issue of excommunication - distinct and separate from the racism - and the divisions within the Catholic fold. But I guess most people are more interested in freak-show tales of turpitude. Especially those involving bishops.

How about some Good News?

In my experience, there isn't anything innate to Catholicism nowadays which makes these views likely. For every Williamson there are millions of regular decent guys. But of course, reporting on millions of regular decent guys, each of whom lives a decent life wouldn't exactly fit the Guardian angle on the Catholic Church. Sad, but true. Stories like these, and all other awkward truths, deserve to be told. But there are lots of positive and laudable tales to be told; is it too much to ask that editorial balance leans the other way, from time to time?

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