The Plastic Hippo

September 16, 2010

Hate Mail

Filed under: Uncategorized — theplastichippo @ 10:58 pm

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Notes for editors – this front page mock-up is not actually genuine; but satire/parody.

Twitter made its breakthrough into the national consciousness when it was revealed that Stephen Fry was being “followed” by almost all of the inhabitants of heaven and earth. Having become all but synonymous with the 140 character bon mot, the name of our national treasure is inveriably evoked when the printed media cover a story that they have gleaned from Twitter. But, that pillar of respectable journalism and voice of the the people, the Daily Mail, has taken umbridge at some of Mr Fry`s activities.

Stephen and 54 of his prominent chums signed a letter to the Guardian questioning the propriety of “honouring” the Holy Father, Bishop of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State and God`s true representative on Earth with a state visit given the somewhat chequered reputation of the Catholic Church. The signatories pointed out that they had no objections to a visit from the Pope and offered his holiness a welcome. But they also wished to highlight the Catholic Church`s stance on the prohibition of contraception as protection against the scourge of Aids, the denial of basic human rights and the abomination and subsequent cover-up of widespread sexual abuse of children committed by Catholic priests. The Vatican City, they point out, was only ratified as a “state” in 1929 with a treaty signed by Benito Mussolini and they further question the estimated £12million cost to the British tax-payer in these times of savage cuts.

The Daily Mail, not noted for its rationality or welcoming attitude to foreigners, described the letter as an “atheist hate campaign led by Stephen Fry” and an insult to the Pope and to Catholics. A man with the wit, erudition, intellegence and humanity of Stephen Fry was more than capable of dismissing this outrage with a devasting post on his excellent blog. As Fry pointed out, if heaven does actually exist, he is more likely to be allowed in, whereas reporters on the Daily Mail and some Catholic clergy will definitely not be issued with halos, harps and wings.

Even before the Papal Airbus touched down in Edinburgh, things were not going well. Described in the Daily Mail as a “liberal”, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a former senior aide to the pontiff, was reported as describing an arrival at Heathrow as being like arriving in a “third-world” country. A later clarification stated that this was not an observation of the British economy, but a comment on ethnic diversity. Phew, not a insult to Gideon Osborne then, just a teeny-tiny bit racist. He also spoke of an “aggressive atheism” in Britain and the Daily Mail seized on this comment and issued dire warnings of Godless, Bolshevik, atheist celebrities “whipping-up” hatred towards frail, old theologians. Cardinal Kasper was forced to withdraw from the state visit after being struck down with gout. God clearly moves in mysterious ways.

By the time Benedict XVI got to Holyrood, “aggressive atheism” had morphed into “aggressive secularism” somewhere along the Corstophine Road. In front of the Queen and the world’s press he said:

“Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.”

At 14, the future Pope was forced to join the Hitler Youth against his will and so has some real experience of the evils of tyranny. At his advanced age, though, one might expect the occasional lapse of memory even if we take into account his God-given infalliblity. Hitler claimed to be fighting for Christianity against the atheism of Marxist doctrine and the Catholic Church in Germany, in those dark days, were happy to support the Nazi Party. The logical implication of his address in Edinburgh, and a probable theme for the rest of his visit, is that if you do not believe in God, then you are fascist.

There will be many devout and pious Catholics who will feel that this unique and significant visit has been spoilt by the controversies and may feel that their genuine faith has endured an unwarranted attack. Even the most aggressive atheist will acknowledge that the faith of individuals is real and important to that individual regardless of sub-faith, creed or orthodoxy. There will also be people of faith, be they religious or secular, that realise that compassion, virtue and humanity are not the exclusive privilege of the doctrine that they subscribe to. The right of worship is a basic human right – so is the right not to worship.

It is clear that the Pope is most welcome in our country and is an honourable and wise shepherd to his flock. But one might question his earlier pronouncements that homosexuality is an “objective disorder” that is “an intrinsic moral evil” and that the “distribution of prophylactics” will actually increase the threat of HIV/Aids rather than reduced it. As Cardinal Ratzinger, the Pope persuaded his predecessor John Paul II to allow him as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate allegations of the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church. Sadly, God is not available to comment on the success of the investigations.

The Daily Mail described Stephen Fry as a “quizmaster”, but anyone who has read his work or heard him speak will know that he is much more than that. Those that have seen the BBC footage of the Intelligence Squared debate at the Westminster Methodist Central Hall in 2009, where Fry took apart and hung out to dry the motion that the Catholic Church was a force for good in the world, will realise that we are not dealing with Bruce Forsyth. One of his opponents on that day was Anne Widdecombe, currently cutting a dash on Strictly Come Dancing. One shudders to imagine her pas de deux to Tom Lehrer`s Masochism Tango.

People living on the papal motorcade route in Birmingham have been told to stay indoors from six hours before and for two hour after the Pope mobile passes amongst them. Unless they have the 25 quid to see the Pope, Anne Widdecombe showing the cameras what she will not show to God is the only option. Given the choice, faith might be better left to the intellect of St Stephen rather than that of St Anne.

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