In case you have missed today’s news, I can tell you that Pope Benedict XVI has started a three day visit to extend his ‘hand of friendship’ to all in the UK.
Word of his arrival has caused great excitement in some people and complete apathy - and even anger - in many others.
He is, of course, the figurehead of what is, to many, a historically controversial church comprised of many layers. It is secretive and has little tolerance of those who disagree with its doctrines. It has resisted embracing changes in the modern world: It does not accept homosexuality as being an acceptable lifestyle choice; it will not condone birth control (even in a continent like Africa where the use of condoms would help to eradicate the AIDS epidemic that blights the lives of millions) and it has, allegedly, for years, been covering up the sexual abuse of youngsters by many of its priests across the globe.
You may argue that the Pope is not personally responsible for any of these actions and therefore should not be tainted by the ‘sins of the past’ It is an argument that has some substance, until you remember that he has been in a senior position within the Catholic hierarchy for many years and must have been a party to the decision making process.
It is now generally accepted as fact, that his church has attempted to cover up the many sexual abuses on children by its clergy and has always denied such events even occurred. Whenever a priest has been accused, he has been quickly spirited away, relocated by the church and given counseling, or hidden within the depths of its vast organisation. The victims, meanwhile, have been left suffering by the massive guilt and stigma associated with all sexual abuse cases.
The Pope cannot, therefore, pretend he is not accountable by simply making belated apologies to the victims and appearing ‘shocked’ such things have been permitted to happen when he talks in public to the masses.
It seems that before accepting his ‘hand of friendship’ we should be cautious; it is his other hand we should really be watching !