Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Anne Applebaum: visit success showed benefits of religious freedom

Writing in the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum notes how vicious were the attacks on the Church -- but how the media gave plenty of airtime to the Church's defenders in response, so ensuring a success.

All in all, it was a huge success. But had the pope been treated politely from the start, I suspect he would have come and gone without a trace. The vast majority of Britons are not Catholic and would have tuned out deferential accounts of his sermons. The press would have relegated the whole thing to the religion section. Perhaps the faithful would still have gone to Mass, though maybe not so many: In the end, some 500,000 people probably saw him during his visit, which is quite a lot in a country largely composed of pagans and Protestants.
And thus did Benedict's visit to Britain turn into an advertisement for religious freedom -- the freedom to abhor religion and the freedom to practice it. Much to everyone's surprise, including the Vatican's, raucous discussion of Catholicism turned out to be good for Catholicism and interesting for atheists, too. The true aging theocrats -- in Saudi Arabia, in Iran -- should take note.