WHEN my Auntie Violet moved from London to Brighton, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. “If London’s Sodom, then Brighton’s Gomorrah,” she told me. Whether she would have said the same of Torquay, I don’t know, but I suspect she would, because for those who demonise, it is more about them than their target. Which brings us to Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs in Westminster diocese.
First of all, I hope Mr Adamus has a close circle of supportive friends, because so many high-profile Roman Catholics have been “distancing themselves from his comments” that he could feel quite alone. He recently described Britain — the same Britain that has given more generously than any other country to the Pakistan Flood Appeal — as a “selfish, hedonistic wasteland”, and “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death”.
I am interested in the inner climate that might create such an assertion. I wonder, for instance, what Mr Adamus does with his history. After all, it does not take much investigative work to uncover the appalling behaviour of popes down the years, who, at different times, have involved themselves in mass torture, mass murder, nepotism, and the repression of truth.
Pope Innocent VIII was the first pope openly to admit to having a mistress, while Pope Alexander VI fathered seven children, several of whom ended up as cardinals. Meanwhile, Meister Eckhart, one of the truly great servants of the Church, was declared by the Pope to be “rash and evil-sounding”; the Pope did this to maintain his political alliance with the Archbishop of Cologne. And does Mr Adamus reflect on the more recent crimes perpetrated and covered up by his Church?
Those people who demonise in extreme ways are usually those who feel thwarted by life. It is a way of imposing your frustrated will, and of dealing with unresolved anger that you would prefer not to turn on God, your parents, or yourself: instead, you lay it on a convenient scapegoat. Jesus nailed this condition in his “beam and speck” story, but clearly it lives on.
Demonisation is a two-way street, and the Pope is also the victim. Few state visits have produced the vitriol that we have seen in the build up to this one. A recent Mori poll revealed that only 41 per cent of the population regard the RC Church as a force for good, so there are bridges to be built; but this is not done by denying the good in your neighbour.
We are speckled people in speckled institutions; we each intend some good and some harm. Like my aunt, the Church becomes part of the problem when it forgets quite how speckled it is.
Simon Parke is the author of Conversations With Jesus of Nazareth (Whitecrow Books).