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Comment: Our leaders must question the Pope’s teachings in person

PinkNews September 17, 2010
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While many in the UK are angry at the Pope’s poor record on gay rights and outrageous statements on HIV prevention, our political leaders appear to be showing him undue reverence.

This publication believes that they have a golden opportunity to argue that the Vatican must adapt and respond to the changing beliefs and social identities of its 1.1 billion believers.

Anger over the visit has come from many quarters – gay groups, health charities, child abuse survivors and feminists – while the average British taxpayer appears to have concerns over why the visit should be funded partly by the state.

Celebrities are signing angry letters and thousands of people will march through London tomorrow

Although many Catholics do not agree with the Pope’s visit, he remains their spiritual leader and a degree of respect is polite. believes in religious freedom, so long as it does not present a barrier to the rights of others. But the voices of those who attack the Pope’s teachings are too many to ignore.

This week, well-regarded charities such as the National AIDS Trust and the Family Planning Association voiced concerns that the Pope’s teachings put the lives of the vulnerable in danger and those teachings must be robustly criticised.

The most controversial of his statements have been on LGBT people, condoms and HIV.

This spiritual leader of one billion active and lapsed Catholics tells his followers that condoms “aggravate” rates of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa and that trans people and marriage equality are as big a threat to the future of humanity as climate change and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

On Sunday, the Pope will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, a man believed by many to have been in a platonic gay relationship. The beatification will take place in a Mass which may well attack non-“traditional” forms of sexuality, yet the man elevated to sainthood lived with and loved another man.

A recent survey suggested that the majority of British Catholics do not adhere to the strict Papal teachings on sexuality but it is crude to suggest the church should just “get with the times”. It doesn’t work like that. Ancient, lumbering organisations such as this always take far longer to adapt new outlooks than their followers do.

That’s not to say criticism is futile. The Pope met with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg yesterday and is due to meet prime minister David Cameron tomorrow. They should raise concerns about the teachings which have caused pain to so many. This is a golden opportunity to challenge a man considered to be infallible by some, but as the embodiment of evil by others.

They must not fear the loss of the religious vote and actually stand up for what they claim they believe; in the rights of women, the right to use contraception, to actively fight the spread of HIV and AIDS, that homosexuality is not a sin and that same-sex couples deserve to have their relationships recognised by the state.

If they do not, then they are doing a disservice to our community in order not to offend the minority of Catholics who continue to believe the discriminatory teachings of the Pope.

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