Thursday, 16 September 2010

Should the left support protests against the Pope?

There's an excellent critique of Pope Benedict XVI's reactionary politics, especially on the vital issues of contraception and HIV, published today on Counterfire. It includes this:

'In order to have enjoyable, consenting and safer sexual relationships, people need information about both risk and pleasure, and how to negotiate and use condoms and other forms of contraception to protect themselves.

The Vatican's position on condoms is damaging as it spreads false information about the fact that condoms are effective - if used correctly and regularly. Research into regular use of condoms for vaginal intercourse has found an 80% reduction in HIV transmission (these studies were not able to examine whether condoms were used correctly). Most of the research looking at whether availability of condoms increases sexual activity finds that availability of condoms does not increase sexual activity.

Pope Benedict XVI represents a damaging view of sexual safety that affects millions of people's lives as health agencies attempt to provide accurate information and services across the world. We should make a stand during the Pope's visit in favour of comprehensive, accurate and consistent sex education and provision of adequate contraception globally.'

My only real disagreement is on the level of tactics - I'm unconvinced by the advocacy, in the title of the article, of targeting the Pope for high-profile protests. As I say in the comments thread:

'I agree strongly with most of the article's content - and it's very refreshing to read something highly critical of the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy's sexual politics that doesn't swerve into Dawkins/Hitchens territory, i.e. wrongly polarising the world between secular (aka 'rational', 'enlightened') and religious (aka 'backward' 'irrational').

But is it tactically wise to organise or support protests directed at the Pope during his visit? Probably not, no.

Partly because this space is dominated by those who I've already disparaged, who lack any perpsective on the role of religion or any analysis of why it persists in the world today. And these people often veer into unsavoury prejudices and simplification. It would seem sensible to keep a good distance from them.

It's also important to consider what you want to achieve, who you seek to persuade, etc. Many ordinary Catholics who are far more liberal than Ratzinger will be put off by protests, seeing them (rightly or wrongly) as generalised criticisms of Catholics. This is especially problematic if Catholics are not involved in protesting themselves.'

Also: Liam Macuaid has an interesting take on things



  1. "who lack any perpsective on the role of religion or any analysis of why it persists in the world today." Absolutely; it really distresses me that so many leftists think that religion is fair sport for ridicule, whatever the context.

  2. As Lenin said: Religion must be of no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with governmental authority. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion he pleases, or no religion whatever, i.e., to be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule. Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated... It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.