Anglican Samizdat

April 13, 2010

Another anti-Pope diatribe from Dawkins

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 11:38 am
Tags: , ,

Richard Dawkins is still at it:

The pope should stand trial.

Why is anyone surprised, much less shocked, when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope, if he goes ahead with his proposed visit to Britain? The only strange thing about our proposal is that it had to come from us: where have the world’s governments been all this time? Where is their moral fibre? Where is their commitment to treating everyone equally under the law? The UK government, far from standing up for justice for the innocent victims of the Roman Catholic church, is preparing to welcome this grotesquely tainted man on an official visit to the UK so that he can “dispense moral guidance”. Read that again: dispense moral guidance!

A few obvious questions:

  • What law is the Pope supposed to have broken?
  • Assuming he has broken an international law, where is the presumption of innocence for the accused?
  • Much of what Dawkins writes in this article is based on the Kiesle letter which appeared to imply that the Pope favoured the Church’s reputation over exposing an abusive priest. This contention has been refuted convincingly enough to introduce at least a reasonable doubt here. Where is Dawkins’ scientific detachment in all this?
  • If, as some claim, the predominant problem turns out to have been one of homosexual priests in the Catholic Church, would Dawkins approve of a ban on homosexual priests before or after admitting that the sun revolves around the earth?

Dawkins and Hitchens, for all their moralistic posturing, have no basis for their self-appointed positions as ethical arbiters of how the Roman Catholic Church should cope with the child abuse scandal. As atheists, not only can they not appeal to moral absolutes, but the principles that fire their affected indignation are not even their own: they were derived from the very institution they are out to destroy, the Christian Church.

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15 Comments

  1. In answer to your questions:
    1) The Pope has broken laws against conspiracy to commit child abuse and to cover it up.
    2) The presumption of innocence means that someone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That is where Dawkins and Hitchens are suggesting he should be.
    3) If there is a reasonable doubt, an impartial jury would acquit the Pope.
    4) The problem is not homosexual priests, but child molesters.

    Comment by Dave W — April 13, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  2. 1) conspiracy to commit child abuse. That is pretty far fetched – not even the most enthusiastic anti-Papist has accused the Pope of conspiring to abuse children.

    2) Why then does Dawkins presume guilt: It is completely clear that, …. the reason he refused to unfrock Kiesle (who went on to re-offend) was “the good of the universal church”. It’s not completely clear at all. Hitchens is worse with preposterous remarks like “The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it.”

    3) Doesn’t answer the question; for Dawkins this appears personal. He constantly harping on about science and evidence – where is his detachment here?

    4) But what if the problem is homosexual priests? Would Dawkins still be on his crusade?

    Comment by David — April 13, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  3. […] thought David over at Anglican Samizdat sums it up nicely: Dawkins and Hitchens, for all their moralistic posturing, have no basis for […]

    Pingback by The Pope, Dawkins, Hitchens, Robertson, Police, Arrest, Trial, Crimes Against Humanity, Blah, Blah, Blah. | eChurch Christian Blog — April 13, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

  4. What basis is there for claiming that the abuse was NOT the actions of homosexual priests? I wish someone would take out a prosecution of Dawkins, it’s well needed – but making him a martyr would play right into his hands …

    Comment by John Thomas — April 14, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  5. 1) If perhaps that charge is too strong, would you concede that the letters he signed implicate him in the cover-up?

    2) It doesn’t matter whether Dawkins presumes guilt. A court would grant the Pope the presumption of innocence. However, he is invoking immunity to avoid court.

    3) Again, why does it matter what Dawkins thinks? The point is whether the Pope should stand trial.

    4) Being a homosexual priest is not against the law; being a child molester is. What do you propose prosecuting Dawkins for? Your responses were rational and thought-provoking up to the point that you said that.

    Comment by Dave W — April 14, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  6. It’s interesting to me, by the way, that you want to make this about Dawkins instead of the Pope. The fashionable tactic among the Pope’s defenders seems to be to deflect attention away from him rather than present a coherent reason that he shouldn’t show up in court.

    Comment by Dave W — April 14, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  7. Dave W [#5],
    1) From the link I included in that point, no, I don’t think it does. Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ attacks on the Pope have been out of all proportion.

    2) Well, I think it does matter that Dawkins presumes guilt because it exposes Dawkins’ motive as one of wishing to bring down the Catholic Church not protect children.

    3) Dawkins wrote the article; I commented on it because I disagree with what it says.

    4) You’ve missed the point: it is seems not unlikely that the abuse has been largely at the hands of homosexual priests. Would Dawkins advocate banning homosexuals from the priesthood?

    Comment by David — April 14, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  8. I’m not sure about Dawkins’ pretentions to truthfulness, but at least he is a lot of fun. He is erratic to the extreme, almost a caricature of himself. Atheism is a boring outlook on life, but Dawkins manages to insert a bit of madness and hilariousness into it.

    Comment by renebreuel — April 14, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

  9. What I’m getting from all of this is that you’re going to defend the Pope despite all indications that he knew about the abuse of children when he was Cardinal and did nothing to report it to authorities, correct?

    As for Dawkins and homosexuality, I think you’re deflecting attention away from the real issue here: the systematic abuse of children by priests and the ignoring (at best) or covering up (at worst) of these offenses by church leadership. I could really care less what you think of Dawkins, but your equating of homosexuality with child abuse is absolutely horrible. It’s as offensive as the Pope’s willingness to blame people who want him brought to justice for the problem his organization caused.

    Comment by Dave W — April 15, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  10. Dave W,

    What I’m getting from all of this is that you’re going to defend the Pope despite all indications that he knew about the abuse of children when he was Cardinal and did nothing to report it to authorities, correct?

    Not at all. I am not a Roman Catholic and I don’t have a vested interest in defending the Pope. If, hypothetically, it was clear he himself had abused children, I would be all for prosecuting him. As it is, even the allegations that he covered up abuse are based on extremely tenuous evidence. Even the Guardian is saying that.

    As for Dawkins and homosexuality, I think you’re deflecting attention away from the real issue here: the systematic abuse of children by priests and the ignoring (at best) or covering up (at worst) of these offenses by church leadership.

    I don’t think so. Anyone who abuses a child should be prosecuted. That being said, although I am not equating homosexuality with child abuse, why would it be “horrible” to point out that most of the abuse was by homosexual priests if that were indeed the case?

    Comment by David — April 15, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  11. So are you suggesting, then, that the church leaders who knew child abuse was happening and transferred the abusers to different jurisdictions shouldn’t be held accountable for doing so?

    The problem with your bringing homosexuality into the discussion is that it gives the appearance of blaming the church’s abuse scandal on gay people, who are not even allowed to be members of the church in the first place. It’s totally irrelevant to the issue, so there’s no point is bringing it up.

    Comment by Dave W — April 16, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  12. gay people, who are not even allowed to be members of the church in the first place

    You really should do a little reading in order to avoid making such ill-informed comments.

    Comment by David — April 16, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  13. Way to ignore my question, David.

    Comment by Dave W — April 19, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

  14. I’m not sure what question you want answered that I haven’t already answered in [10]. As for the homosexual priest issue, here’s another reference:

    Homosexuals are about three percent of the population yet male priests preying on boys account for eighty percent of clerical sex crimes. However, you claim that clerical sex crimes is not caused by homosexuality in the priesthood. Aren’t you being dishonest? The truth is that once homosexuality is cleansed from the Roman Catholic Church, the problem of clerical sex crime will be solved.

    If you are as concerned about child abuse in the Catholic Church as you claim to be, you would support removing homosexual priests from the Church.

    Comment by David — April 19, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  15. It seems from [10] that your answer to the question is that the Pope would only be culpable if he himself abused children. I disagree. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office was notified about many instances of abuse and failed to act. He should be made to answer for his inaction.

    As for your continuing to blame this problem on gay people, I still say it’s horrible. It’s clearly a tactic to divert attention away from the real issue. The overwhelming majority of child abuse in the world is committed by straight people, often the child’s own biological parent or parents. So your argument just doesn’t hold water.

    The solution is not “cleansing” the church of homosexuality, a choice of words that reveals a bigoted attitude. It’s holding leaders who covered these crimes up accountable in a court of law.

    Comment by Dave W — April 20, 2010 @ 11:42 am


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