Thursday, 16 September 2010

Pope: I Was Only Following Holy Orders (2)

Catholic church officials are grudgingly conceding fewer people than expected will watch Benedict XVI beatify Cardinal John Newman at Birmingham on Sunday. They blame the early start, with pilgrims having to board coaches for the venue in the middle of the night, rather than the £25 ticket price. The church is defiantly confident that the Pope's visit to Britain will be successful and, ever optimistic, is marshalling volunteers to man phonelines for all those wanting to convert following this week’s event.

The British Government has set aside £10million to pay for the pontiff's brief trip, excluding security. All tax-payers are therefore contributing, whether or not they're Catholics. The church has been obliged to chip in a further £10m to cover costs of the three outdoor 'pastoral' events, but has so far only scraped up £6.2m. Of course, the gap could easily be bridged by parting with some minor art treasure snaffled away in the Vatican. In the meantime, with ticket take-up vastly overestimated, thousands of excess 'pilgrim passes' are being given away to schools and rest-homes.

Britain's most senior Catholic official, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said the moral value of Benedict's visit "far outweighs any cost value." For practicing Catholics, perhaps. The Cardinal continued: "It improves morality in the Catholic Christian community. It will outweigh any fears, any worries, any depression that folk might feel about the cost. I look forward to it very, very positively." Well good for you, old son.

Meanwhile, many grave issues within the Catholic church remain unresolved. Benedict XVI has underlined traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception. He took the opportunity to emphasise his beliefs during a trip to Africa, a continent that desperately needs every effective method to combat the AIDS pandemic. The Pope's recommended solution is abstinence. On top of that, he's attacked gay unions, abortion, and IVF treatment.

The Catholic church has also failed to surrender to the proper authorities its ranks of paedophile priests. Instead, we're assured of the church's sorrow, that the 'situation' will never be the same again. But of the loathsome culprits there is no sign; no Catholic custodian of decency has handed over these vile people to be punished by the law. While police operations have lead to prosecutions, the church has not co-operated in a drains-up, transparent investigation. Very reassuring, as ticket sales for Benedict's visit deservedly reflect.

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