50 British notables decry Pope's visit, Bill Donahue responds

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Writing in The Guardian, 50 British notables (including Richard Dawkins and Terry Pratchett) released a letter this morning decrying the fact that the Pope is being given "the honor of a state visit" to the UK this week.

The letter has sparked a response from Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League here in the U.S.

For your ease, here's excerpts from both.

From the letter:

We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:

Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.

The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties ("concordats") with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.

From Bill Donahue's response:

The pope is accused of (a) opposing condoms and thereby increasing the spread of AIDS (b) promoting segregated education (c) opposing abortion (d) opposing equal rights for homosexuals, and (e) failing to address the abuse of young people in the Catholic Church. These accusations deserve a response.

No one who ever followed the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality ever got AIDS voluntarily, but many who rejected these teachings have. Having separate Catholic schools for girls and boys has been one of the great educational achievements in the past century, providing unparalleled upward mobility for the poor and non-whites. The Catholic Church has always stood for the equal dignity of all persons, independent of sexual preference, but it will never lower its standards by putting every conceivable sexual relationship on par with marriage. No institution today is doing more to check the sexual abuse of youngsters than the Catholic Church, having learned its lesson when many seminaries lowered their standards during the sexual revolution.

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