Saturday, September 18, 2010

John Allen on Papal Protesters: "Secularists and Atheists, Gay Rights Activists"

As a quick addendum to what I said earlier today about the constant refrain running through John Allen's reporting about the papal visit to Britain--the insistence that "secularists" and "secularist gay-rights activists" are contesting the claims of the head of the Catholic church:

Here's Allen's latest report on the huge protest rally against Benedict in London today, the biggest public protest against Benedict anywhere in the world to date:

At roughly the same time that some 80,000 pumped-up youth thronged Hyde Park for a prayer vigil with Benedict XVI, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 secularists and atheists, gay rights activists, victims of sex abuse and others marched through the city for a “Protest the Pope!” rally.

Ah, those "pumped-up" centrist youth so beloved of the mainstream Catholic talking heads!  But those nasty secularists and atheists, along with gay rights activists and victims of clerical sexual abuse: nary a Catholic among them, in John Allen's reading of Benedict's visit to Britain.

Catholics on one side.  Gay rights activists on the other, where the nasty secularists reside.

Allen's journalism spectacularly (and quite deliberately) misses the point that many Catholics and many other people of faith want to make about the ecclesiology of this pope and about his treatment of women and gay and lesbian people, his handling of the abuse crisis, and his pastoral acumen.  As Dan Wooding reports at, the ecumenical Christian think tank in London, Ekklesia, has called on Benedict to adopt a posture of listening more carefully and lecturing less freely.

Ekklesia specifically addresses Benedict's attack on British legislation outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace, including in faith-based workplaces, noting that many Christians (including many Catholics, one would assume) back the legislation, because our faith calls on us to combat discrimination and to love our neighbor:

It is not clear what the pontiff means by ‘aggressive secularism’. This makes discussion difficult. The equality legislation he criticizes is backed by many believers and invites the church to practice what it preaches about non-discriminating love of neighbour. As for cases of alleged discrimination against Christians, the overwhelming majority of these have been found to hold no water.

But you wouldn't know, would you, that people of faith are richly represented among those crowds protesting the papal visit, if you relied solely on John Allen for interpretation?  Or that many people of faith--including many Catholics--find the pope's attack on legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace immoral and a betrayal of gospel values.

The graphic for this posting is a picture of a sign supporting women's ordination in the Catholic church, which a group called Catholic Women's Ordination has placed on London buses for the papal visit.

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