The tolerance paradox
Later this month Scotland will see the start of the first papal visit to this island in many, many years. Understandably this has stirred up a hornets nest of controversy.
With various calls to ignore rather then disrupt him and accusations that people criticising the pope are being naive of Catholicism (see the exchange on twitter between @gimpyblog and @johannhari101 for one.)
On the subject of disruption – given the major travel chaos expected when the Holy Father visits later this month I find it hard to think that anyone could conceivably believe that protesters could cause much more disruption than we currently do expect simply by receiving this state visit. For one thing they could just stick him on the number 16 bus and have done with it: But I do find the follow sentence interesting:
Not only would the rightful freedom of expression of the Pope and his followers be unfairly undermined by a noisy and determined group; it is likely that such protests would be counter-productive.
I intend to return to this sentiment shortly.
Now I intend to protest the Pope’s visit – not because of the cost or because of any militant anti-catholic or anti-religion sentiment (although I have no love of the sins of the Catholic church in the spread of AIDs in Africa and recent remarks about Islam that can to my mind only be described as bigoted, ignorant and wouldn’t be out of place in a BNP election pamphlet) but purely and simply because I don’t believe it is right to honour someone who is widely regarded as being complicit in the covering up of decades of child abuse across Europe.
One should rightly, to my mind, protest a state visit by someone who put their church above the safety of children. Just as we should protest someone like Mugabe or a state visit from the Israeli government or any other such event. To my mind ignoring these things borders on tacit acceptance that such people should be allowed to enter our country and not face any opposition for the wrongs they have committed.
To do so under the guise of “tolerance” of religion or that it might disrupt those who wish to see the Pope is to my mind misguided – although understandable.
Religion is not an issue here – the fact that the Pope could have been complicit in the cover up of heinous crimes against innocents is. Apologies for using “loaded” language – but it is hard to be entirely dispassionate about such an issue.
The issue at hand is the Popes actions not his faith.
However it is easy to see why people find the idea of protesting the Pope distasteful – essentially there exists a tolerance paradox. We should encourage the tolerance of other cultures and faiths and not be seen to denigrate them or try and force our own culture upon them (with one important caveat as long as the beliefs are consensual (a can of worms in of itself) and cause no harm (again another can of worms)). Given there is a long history of anti-catholic sentiment in Britain this makes it all to easy to dismiss genuine protest as bigotry.
To digress slightly I experienced this myself when I imagined that Tim Minchins “Pope song” could be adopted by Rangers fans…
However there is a sharp difference between tolerating some ones faith and tolerating some ones actions.
Essentially we suffer from a tolerance paradox – we want to been seen to tolerate the Papal visit as we don’t want to be seen as some sort of anti-catholic mob and because people have the right to hold whatever beliefs they should wish to. But we can’t tolerate brushing his actions under the carpet?
So what can we do?
Which value system will win out?
That to my mind is a tolerance paradox.