Why Benedict’s visit to Britain tomorrow is a waste of time and money ... and Catholics need to realise he is not the right man for this job
IN the momentous year of 1968, one of the funniest pieces of graffiti appeared in Belfast: KEEP THE POPE OFF THE MOON.
How cruel. After Paul VI's 1968 ban on contraception, many Catholics would've paid for him to go there permanently.
Today, many Brits are saying KEEP THE POPE OFF OUR SOIL. When he arrives tomorrow, what sort of reception will he get?
From Catholics, a warm welcome. Not as warm as for John Paul in 1982. But then the world hailed him as the great foe of communism and he had spectacular charisma. Benedict wears his sleeve on his heart.
Polls show most UK Catholics say his handling of priest sex-abusers has shaken their faith in Church leadership. They disagree with him on moral issues and on women priests, which JP II forbade them even to think about. How drunk on power was he to say that?
Benedict will be met by David Cameron, who has said he doesn't agree with him on contraception or homosexuality and that his Church has very serious work to deal with some of the appalling things that have happened.
"But I do think we should respect people of faith" -- if they can deliver votes.
Catholics have paid for ads on buses for women to have a bigger role in the Church. Other buses will proclaim GOD PROBABLY DOESN'T EXIST. As Groucho might have said, If God existed he'd probably be an atheist.
There'll be no attempts to arrest the Pope for crimes against humanity. Nor any public burnings of books on canon law, alas. Protests will chiefly centre on the £12m taxpayers are forking out on a visit most people don't want. Even convert Tony Blair, who dreamed up the visit, says he's not contributing. Taxes on his massive earnings are enough.
Tomorrow, a constitutional monarch will host the world's only absolute monarch. The last Pope to deal with an English Queen, Elizabeth I, was Pius V In 1570. He called her a heretic. He excommunicated her and whoever supported her, "took from her" her realm of England and absolved all subjects from fidelity.
Catholics who obeyed the Pope were declared traitors. Within 30 years, 120 priests and 60 laity were executed. Even when I was a boy I had to bear the slur that Catholics are not patriots.
Benedict hasn't done anything that stupid. He'll be polite to the queen as if nothing had ever happened between Rome and England.
He'll preside at a frosty ecumenical meeting in Westminster Abbey with Dr Roman Williams, who, he decided, is not a real archbishop and whose Anglican Church is not a real church.
Forgetting to tell Dr Williams, he invited his male chauvinist clerics to convert to the one true Church of Rome and become non-celibate priests able to say a real Mass.
He'll meet a few victims of priest abuse. English bishops are saying he has done more than any other pope on this issue. It would be impossible to do less. But a Catholic support group has said they want no more nice words but tough action. They won't get it.
He still hasn't made reporting to the police mandatory. He hasn't automatically excommunicated priest sex-abusers. He hasn't ordered zero tolerance.
He extended the statute of limitations to 20 years, when everyone knows many victims take much longer to find the courage to complain.
Catholics had better face it. He's not the man for this job. He's like a snail that sticks its head out, has a quick look round and pulls it in again.