I have just got back from watching the movie of Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”. Unlike the Da Vinci Code, I had not read the book and so didn’t know the plot. I think that both movies were fast paced and very entertaining, but is the portrayal of sinister catholic priests fair?
“For Jesus, the inability to believe in God and to live by faith is the greatest of evils”. These are the words of the outgoing leader of the Catholic church in the UK as reported in an article in the Times on Friday entitled “Archbishop of Westminster attacks atheism but says nothing on child abuse”. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor also recently said that “atheists are less than human”. This kind of rhetoric should give cause for concern. Given the history of the twentieth century where millions of people were treated as sub-human and brutally murdered by totalitarian regimes, it is surely unacceptable for a church leader to be saying these things.
Unfortunately it appears that the new leader Vincent Nicholls is going to continue in the same vein. On the occasion of his enthronement he chose to launch an attack on atheists and the secular society. Whilst commenting on the report published last Wednesday exposing decades of child abuse by Catholic priests and nuns in Ireland, the Archbishop said that it took courage for religious orders and clergy to “face the facts from their past”. He also warned that the report threatened to overshadow the good done by the religious orders, chiefly the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy.
I have catholic friends who I like and respect. I’m even friends with a catholic priest I met through the local interfaith forum. I know them all to be thoughtful and pleasant people, so why is it that they tolerate this unreasoned attack on us atheists - we don’t run institutions which turn a blind eye to child abuse and child rape. These are the facts and they are worse than imaginings of Dan Brown.