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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd at the end of a papal Mass

The Pope’s visit shows that modern Britain remains gripped by its old anti-Catholic hatreds

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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd at the end of a papal Mass

Did he report this to the police? No, instead he contends that “it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.”

Nine years old.

Or witness the comments by prominent agony-aunt and former nurse Claire Rayner that, “I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature….The only thing to do is to get rid of him.”

This prompted speculation as to whether by “get rid of him” she meant “kill him”. Ms. Rayner has in the past recommended that Down’s syndrome children be killed before birth. Perhaps it is the pope’s opposition to such eugenicist policies that irks her: In fact, in 1941 one of the pope’s cousins, who had Down's syndrome, was murdered in the Nazis' "euthanasia" campaign.

Yet “anti-pedophiles” who want to legalize child sex and members of the “caring profession” who want to eradicate people with Down’s syndrome are typical enough of the thinkers that inform a great deal of the criticism of Catholicism in modern Britain.

We all know that Church has been deeply flawed and it has done wrong. We all know about the recent scandals; however the anti-Catholic hysteria that has enveloped Britain is not motivated by that. The recent abuse scandals serve merely as an excuse to open the floodgates for an ancient national hatred, and to air the shrieking grievances of multiple activists and fringe groups with radical and often-dark agendas.
 
Brendan O’Neill, a compelling humanist-atheist writer, says: “These pope-protesters threaten to drain the last drop of decency from old-fashioned humanism, turning a once-principled outlook into little more than a requirement to hate religion… Today it is a powerful sense of lack within modern-day so-called humanist circles – a feeling of directionless and soullessness – that leads them to invent religious demons against which they might posture and pontificate. That is why they talk in such religious tones (ironically) about the Catholic Church’s ‘clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel’ – because this is about cynically cobbling together some sense of their own goodness and mission. And in the irony to end all ironies, they make use of the very religious tools that secularists once hoped to supersede with reason – intolerance, fear-stoking, demonology – as part of their self-serving campaign.”
 
As well as this sense of “lack” there is also perhaps a sneaking sense of shame behind much of the anti-Catholic sniping:
 
For one of the sad truths about modern British society is that it is falling to pieces: It has amongst the highest European rates of divorce, single parenthood, teenage pregnancies, abortion, alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and violent crime.
 
All this stems from Britain’s abandonment of its shared heritage, values and community - the ineffable loss summed up in Prime Minister Cameron’s phrase, “the broken society”.
 
Only 50 years ago Britain was widely admired as one of the most gentle, civilised, safe and harmonious societies in the world. This civilisation was underpinned and sustained by the very Christian-derived values that the anti-Catholic commentators now so viciously attack and mock. The secularist experiment in Britain has failed: It has become a chaotic, fragmented, decadent nation that increasingly resembles Rome after the fall.
 
In their bones, many British people I have spoken to feel that a shadow has passed over their country in recent years. They mourn deeply for what it once was. There is something indefinable in the British air these days: a sense of tension, fear, unease and foreboding. It is no longer a pleasant land. There is little warmth: society has broken in to bickering ethnic, religious and ideological factions. Some quarter million of its citizens flee every year (mainly those who can afford to). They, by choice, are emigrating to America, Australia, Canada, Italy, France, Ireland and Spain – places where some basic sense of shared values, (which Catholicism in many ways represents) remains a part of the social fabric.
 
Perhaps the pope, for all his faults, uncomfortably reminds many British people of the values that once held their nation together. In doing so, they are reminded of what they have lost, and that their society is now falling apart before their very eyes.
 
Maybe that’s why they hate him so much.
 
Or maybe it’s just because he’s a German. Either way, the idea that modern Britain is a tolerant nation is dead and buried: Britain’s “aggressive secularism” has killed it.

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