On September 16th Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI, arrives in Scotland at the beginning of a state visit.
Normally I have little sympathy with the pope. The immaculate conception of Mary and her status as co-redemptrix, papal infallibility, transubstantiation; these and so many other unbiblical theological concepts militate against the gospel.
Further, when it comes to a state visit by the pope we enter the realm of the absurd. The idea of a church being at the same time a state is not only theologically bizarre but also simply ludicrous. Imagine the scene in Edinburgh; the Moderator of the General Assembly leaves the sovereign state of 121 George Street, jumps into the Modmobile and, accompanied by an honour guard of the Athol Highlanders, processes a few hundred yards to Charlotte Square to make a state visit to Alex Salmond in Bute House.
In this instance, however, I have some sympathy with the pope. From newspapers and other media, particularly the BBC, one would think a major criminal was about to touch down at Turnhouse.
Did we have this outcry with threats of a citizen’s arrest at the state visit of the utterly unbalanced Romanian dictator Ceausescu when he came to be awarded an honorary knighthood? What about the polygamist Jacob Zuma of South Africa who is busy preparing to muzzle the press because it criticises his corrupt kleptocratic regime? His state visit earlier this year passed without a demand from liberal trend setters for mass demonstrations and a prosecution.
Benedict has many searching questions to answer regarding the way in which the Roman Catholic Church failed to deal with child abuse and even sheltered predatory priests. However, for the fundamentalist atheist Richard Dawkins to accuse him personally of ‘crimes against humanity’ is over the top even for a foaming at the mouth bigot.
Such is the outcry that we are forced to the conclusion that the opposition to Benedict’s visit is the result of plain old-fashioned liberal selective intolerance. Sheltering amongst the ranks of mild mannered and reasonable secular humanists there is a nucleus of anti-faith zealotry which abandons rational judgement and liberal opinions when it comes to Christianity. Humanism has its very own jihadists.
Benedict’s actual offense is that, unlike too many Protestant church leaders, he speaks out clearly concerning his beliefs and uncompromisingly opposes secular liberalism. Not for him the fuzzy platitudes and search for ‘consensus’ at any cost. We may not agree with much of what he says, but at least we know what he says and stands for.
It is this which draws the ire of liberals, a church leader who refuses to cede the moral high ground to those who would dismantle society to remake it in the image of the Sunday supplement.
I won’t be at Turnhouse to welcome him, nor at Bellahouston for the mass, but I have to admit that I am glad that he has come. My regret is that we Protestants lack leaders of his intellect and clarity of commitment to the traditional teachings of his church.