Bishop is playing with fire
LOOKING AFTER VALUES? Pope Pius XII meets the man himself. Maybe the Bishop should think carefully before questioning others' rights to remember Holocaust.
AS though the ex-Hitlerjugend Pope wasn't enough, quoting 13th century fulminations against Muslim violence (not bad in between the Crusades which his predecessors launched and the Holy Inquisition with its ingenious tortures), a leading Catholic bishop has discovered a "huge and well-orchestrated conspiracy" against Christian traditions.
The conspirators apparently are gay people.
According to the Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, lecturing at St.Aloysius College in Glasgow, the "gay community" has cunningly aligned itself with minority groups, including Holocaust survivors, to make it appear they were under persecution.
"We neglect the gay movement at our peril," he warned.
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It's not the first time this clerical gentleman has made the news with his views. In September he was calling on people to show appreciation of the courage of Britain's armed forces, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier, about this time last year, he announced that was not voting Labour - nothing to do with the government's lies taking us to war, or letting the moneychangers into the temple, so to speak, with loans and Private Finance Initiatives. No, the question on which he urged Catholics to examine their consciences and the candidates was the family, and liberal adoption laws - those gays again.
In a country where many of the poorest working people have been Catholics, and where right-wing and far-Right politicians have often made use of anti-Catholic sectarianism, it now seems there is a competition to beat the drums against a new 'enemy'. It was Stagecoach transport boss Brian Souter, a member of the Protestant Church of the Nazarene, who sponsored a campaign in Scotland to keep the Tory-introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act, making it a crime for schools to "promote homosexuality". Many teachers had said they felt inhibited, even intimidated, from teaching enlightened attitudes in schools and defending youngsters from homophobic bullying. In the end the Scottish public rejected Souter's well-funded campaign, though the transport privatiser has seemingly been more successful in another field. Since he donated £500,000 to the Scottish National Party, it has modified its opposition to bus deregulation.
It is two years since Bishop Devine, who is president of the Catholic education commission, issued a charter for Catholic schools, insisting there could be no place in them for teachers who were openly gay, because their lifestyle contradicted Chistian values.
In September 2006, the Bishop condemned legislation allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt children as a "violation of family life". In January that year, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head of Scotland's 860,000 Catholics, accused the government of undermining marriage by legalising same-sex civil partnerships.
Considering that the Church still requires celibacy of its priests and nuns, it is remarkable how it nevertheless considers them qualified to preach the virtues of maternity and family life to others, and indeed to have charge of young children, whom Bishop Devine and others would not have adopted by unmarried couples, let alone gays. That is without considering also the notoriously high incidence of child abuse cases that have occurred in Catholic institutions (though not unknown among other religions). The Church has been trying to put its house in order we are told, though for years it systematically tried to cover up the scandals, and some
hard-liners regard those bringing accusations as also part of a conspiracy.
That the Bishop is anti-gay is not that remarkable. But what strikes me is the sinister way he presents gay people - one in four of the population - as engaged in some giant conspiracy, and does so with reference to their forming links with minorities, and attendence at Holocaust commemorations. It is so much easier to persecute your neighbour if you can persuade yourself that behind his or her seemingly unobjectionable life and appearance, they are part of a huge conspiracy. It does not require much knowledge of history to know that it was precisely such conspiracy theories, as the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that were used by the Nazis to send millions to the extermination camps.
Ironically, in Scotland, the offshoots of the British far-Right have more than once adapted racism and antisemitism to local conditions by introducing a "Papist conspiracy" . I'll never forget the man in a Glasgow pub who told me the reasons for economic ills were obvious: "(then prime minister) Harold Wilson is a communist and he is in league with the Pope..." In troubled times such explanations can become more deadly than a joke.
Gays presenting themselves as persecuted? It is a fact that in Britain today, whatever the law might say, people can still be harassed, beaten up, murdered, for no other reason than that they, or someone else, say that they are gay. It is also a fact that during the Nazi period, even though some top Nazis had been gay, many people were persecuted and driven into concentration camps where they wore the pink triangle, because they were homosexuals.
It is also a fact that the Catholic church at the highest levels was prepared to co-operate with the Nazis and fascists, even when millions of Polish Catholics were suffering, just as it had refused to condemn the fascists' ruthless bombing of the devoutly catholic Basques. In one case, the concentration camp at Jasenovac in Croatia, where Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and others were killed, Catholic clergy participated in running the camp. Furthermore, after the war was over and the horrors were known, part of the escape ratline for the criminals ran via the Vatican.
Before accusing others of "conspiracy", or questioning their right to take part in Holocaust commemorations, the Bishop of Motherwell ought to exaine his own conscience, and face up publicly to his Church's record, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazi Holocaust.