Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Catholic change or no change

I meant to draw attention earlier to an interesting story I noticed last weekend. The Daily Telegraph, always a reliable way to take the pulse of UK religious right cretinism, reports that the current Bishop of Leeds is being lined up to replace Cormac Murphy O’Connor as UK Catholicism’s fuhrer.
Judging from the Telegruff article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5067037/Bishop-of-Leeds-favourite-to-become-next-Archbishop-of-Westminster.html you can see why.
Funnily enough, I’ve come across Roche before, when he was closing more than just churches in Leeds.
One of his duties as the Leeds Bishop is to sit on the management committee at my old college. Even in my day priests interfered with student life at what was, to be fair, nominally a Catholic college. Then it was a refusal to allow condom machines in the lavatories, or guarantees of firsts and jobs after graduation to media students who helped with church PR as part of a ‘religious communication’ final year course.
But human rights campaigners might remember a couple of years ago when Amnesty International’s UK branch debated their stance on abortion. There was an attempt by religious groups to force a change from principled neutrality to outright opposition on spurious ‘childrens rights’ grounds.
To read the rabid right religious press you wouldn’t know that Amnesty held to their neutral stance after long debate at the annual national conference to which all local groups sent representatives. Catholic bishops and the evangelical lunatic right in particular lied through their teeth (nothing new there then). They tried to make out Amnesty was in the grip of militant feminism and atheism and supported abortion.
The worst casualties were student Amnesty groups in Catholic schools and teacher training colleges. An ex-course mate and fellow Amnesty member from those days, now teaching, tells me Roche used his position to close youth groups in Leeds schools and the student group in my old college.
This was nothing short of sick. School Amnesty groups are a rare and excellent way to teach teenagers to run campaign groups, including negotiating with adults over tricky issues. And the student group at my college not only let students in on the ground floor of an important NGO, it was the start of a career in such groups for some.
So, watch out for Roche if he does take over from the notorious hider of kiddy-fiddling priests himself, Murphy O’Connor. Looks like unprincipled business as usual.
While we’re on the subject of O’Connor, it has been mooted that he be offered a place in the Lords as a sort of honorary Lord Spiritual – something to do with Gormless Brown buttering up Benny the Boy Nazi for his UK invasion at vast public expense.
If, like me, you think ‘No Way’, there’s a Downing Street petition against it at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/nocormacpeerage . Sign up now and stop at least one more superstitious bigot getting power without a public mandate.

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