Monday, 20 September 2010

Frank Furedi: crusade against Pope is 'inquisition in reverse'

This was in Spiked last Thursday, but more indication of how many of the Church's critics feel the need to distance themselves from the anti-papal movement.

Un comando de oradores para defender la Iglesia

That's the headline over a profile of Catholic Voices in La Nacion, Argentina's establishment daily, following an interview with CV coordinator Jack Valero.

Post-Pope Monday papers (5): the Daily Telegraph

The newspaper of the Conservative establishment is the only one of the five papers reviewed to put the Pope on the front page, consistent with the paper's enthusiasm for the visit.

The front page carries a huge picture of the smiling, waving Pope under the headline "Pope's fond farewell to Britain" and inside dedicates three pages to the visit. A brilliantly written and witty sketch of Cofton Park by Christopher Howse is followed by reports by the paper's religious correspondent, Martin Beckford.

On p. 23 Peter Stanford's essay examines what has been changed by the papal visit. British Catholics, he says, "are certainly in better heart", not least because of the Pope's strong words on abuse. Stanford is impressed that "Benedict seemed much more concerned with rekindling the Church's dialogue with civil society than with making converts", and thinks that the aggressive secularists "may no longer find they enjoy such an exaggerated platform". He also thinks Anglo-Catholics pondering whether to cross the Tiber will be more encouraged to do so:

One of the worries of potential Anglican converts -- admittedly more real in Newman's age than our own -- is that they are putting themselves somehow outside the mainstream by becoming Catholics. One of the biggest achievements of Benedict's trip, though, was to show Roman Catholicism very much as a valuable and valued presence at the heart of this multicultural, mult-faith nation."
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wittily describes his brief meeting with the Pope at Heathrow Airport. "I felt," he said, "like a woad-painted savage suddenly confronted by an effulgent vision from Rome, and called upon to explain the religious back-sliding of the tribe". He also deals with the considerable dilemma of whether the Popemobile should have paid the congestion charge.

Post-Pope Monday papers (4) The Independent

In the lead-up to the papal trip, the Independent carved out a niche for itself as the voice of the secularist objections to the state nature of the visit, and  -- as readers of the Monitor will recall -- offered itself as a platform for some lurid atheist attacks on the Church.

Like the other papers, it gives over two pages to the reporting (on pages 8 and 9), with a report from its religious correspondent, Jerome Taylor, and Comment by Catherine Pepinster, the Tablet's editor. She says the visit served to unify Catholics and humanise the Pope, and sees in his remarks on clerical sex abuse a shift in Vatican language to describing abuse as a crime as well as a sin. She also thinks gay Catholics would be left wondering how the Pope sees them.

In an editorial, The Independent concedes that "this highly contested visit passed off better, even much better, than might have been expected", saluting the organising skills of the British state and the "the orderly protests that gave the critics a voice". But "it was thanks, in much larger part, to what the Pope said and how he said it", the newspaper says, noting that "there were times, too, when the Pope's words indisputably struck a chord". The editorial concludes, remarkably -- given this paper's previous editorials -- that "he may have left Britain just a little more broad-minded than he found it."

Post-Pope Monday papers (3) The Times

The newspaper of the Anglican liberal establishment ignores the papal visit altogether in its editorial columns but dedicates two pages to yesterday's events on pp 6-7. Ruth Gledhill reports on how Cameron "enlisted the Pope in his vision of Britain as a compassionate society", and in a box profiles Cardinal Newman. There follow two reports on the believers and the sceptics. Valentine Low with the former reports from inside Cofton Park, while outside the Park Will Pavia hung around with those on the outside. Neither report is interesting.

On p. 8 the paper's Rome correspondent, Richard Owen -- one of the VAMPs -- describes the atmosphere on board the plane back: "euphoric". He quotes the Pope's spokesman, Fr Lombardi, saying that "many, many people listened with profound interest to what he had to say". He thinks that the visit may not only change Britain, but the Pope too, noting that Benedict XVI had met in his four days a huge variety of races and beliefs. Owen noted the Pope's emphasis in his departure speech on Britain's "healthy pluralistic society" with its "many religious traditions". Owen adds: "This is not the language of the man who was elected Pope five years ago".

Post-Pope Monday papers (2): the Daily Mail

The voice of conservative middle Britain waits until page 6 to report the Beatification Mass.

In a comment piece, Stephen Glover, thinks "this was a much more successful visit than the Roman Catholic hierarchy had dared to hope", but said it was "much more than that": "the Pope spoke to the soul of our country, affirming eternal moral verities which our own political and religious leaders prefer to avoid". He goes on:

"Pope Benedict's declarations over the past few days have been remarkable and, in modern Britain, unprecedented. They were delivered in the calmest, meekest, least ranting way possible, and yet they carried a great authority that comes, I think, from the Pope's sense of holiness and evident goodness, as well as from the dignity of his office."

He goes on to lament that in the Church of England "there is a sense of defeatism in the face of an incoming tide of secularism, as congregations dwindle and parish churches close". Can they not learn something, he says, from the enthusiastic young people who lined the streets to greet the Pope?

Glover goes on to lambast the "atheist extremists" who protested the visit; they "have nothing to offer by way of hope to the young or anybody else" and showed "mean-spiritedness borderning on lunacy" in their calls.

The Mail's editorial continues Glover's line, saying the Pope in four days has done more to stimulate debate about the role of religion in public life than Archbishops of Canterbury have achieved in many decades. 

On p. 17 Peter McKay was struck by "the gentle, almost uncertain expressions of the Pope and the hard, cynical certainty on the faces of those decrying his visit".

Post-Pope Monday papers (1) The Guardian

Although the Sunday papers yesterday did wrap-ups, today's papers have the advantage of being able to report on the Newman Beatification, the address to bishops at Oscott College, and the send-off by the prime minister, David Cameron, to weigh in the balance of their assessments of the trip overall.

The Guardian, voice of the liberal left, consigns yesterday's events to p.14, but dedicates a two-page spread. The paper's former religious correspondent, Stephen Bates, describes  Cofton Park as a "Catholic Glastonbury", recording the excitement of the damp pilgrims, while Riazat Butt, the paper's current correspondent, gives an overview of the Catholic gatherings throughout the trip. "The real success story of this historic trip was not Benedict XVI but his flock, who defied expectation and adverse publicity to welcome the Pope to Britain, and in so doing raise their own morale." She says there is a "consensus about turnout" which agrees that 250,000 attended the events with around 90,000 on the streets. But the police estimates of the "spontaneous" turnout on the streets put Edinburgh's Princes Street at 125,000 and Whitehall before the Hyde Park vigil at 200,000; Butt's "consensus" must have been reached in the Guardian's editorial offices.

John Hooper, the Guardian's Rome correspondent, reports on the Cameron meeting with the Pope at Birmingham airport, but rather more interestingly describes in a box what it is like as a VAMP -- the Vatican-accredited journalists who are "embedded" with the papal entourage on his trips. It is a place where, as he puts it, "serene pontifical spirituality bumps up against the frenzy of journalism".

In the paper's Comment section, a leader reminds readers why the Guardian supported the visit "despite Benedict XVI's unbending and sometimes cruel conservatism" - -because there was some serious diplomatic business to do. The editorial doesn't think the Pope overcame the religious-secular divide, but has some critical words for the protesters, who "may not see any connection between themselves and the anti-papist mobs of the past, but there is a failure to afford faith the sincere respect it is due".

In 'Open Door' the papers "readers' editor" - -who represents readers' views in the paper -- reports on some harsh criticism for the Guardian from many of its readers on its coverage of the trip. And he quotes an unnamed member of the Guardian's staff journalists who criticise the paper's "instinctive hostility to religion" and its "pompous, self-satisfied triumphalism" which underpins the paper's failure to recognise the growing place of faith in the world. Elliott defends the paper by pointing out the extensive coverage the Guardian has given to the trip.

Jack Valero commentates on Beatification Mass on BBC WM