The Pope is resigning. Happy days for every news organisation around the world with a website, or a twenty-four hour news channel. This will give them enough fodder till the white smoke, arising from the chimney of the Vatican Palace, dissolves into the air around St. Peter's Square. The BBC has already started a live page, as have the Guardian and the Telegraph.
Tributes have started flooding. Mario Monti has already claimed to be "greatly shaken" by this "unexpected news." The German government, quick to cash in on native attachments, feels "moved and touched" by the resignation. Apparently, Angela Merkel has the "highest respect for the Holy Father, for what he has done, for his contributions over the course of his life to the Catholic Church." Even the Church of England, which the Catholic Church, to put it mildly, considers as a heretical establishment, has been quick to sing his praises. (Read any of those live blogs for the precise statements.) Oh, the hypocrisy of it all.
Look what Damian Thompson, a nasty right-winger who has trivialised mental illness, celebrated the shutting down of a church service in Soho for gay Catholics, and demonstrated an alarming lack of sympathy for drug and alcohol addicts, has to say: "The achievements of Benedict XVI have been subtle, above all in renewing and purifying the way the Catholic Church worships its Creator. He will be intensely missed by those of us for whom he was, in his quiet way, the most inspiring Pope of our lifetimes."
What utter tosh.
Even the most neutral of observers would have to agree that his popedom has been a PR disaster for the Catholic Church. He restored the Tridentine Mass, so that "Jews may be delivered from their darkness", and lifted the excommunication of at least one bishop who is a Holocaust denier. He came close to celebrating the colonial invasion of South America under the rubric of Christian faith, and described Muhammad's teachings as purely "evil and inhuman," as if his own were any better.
This is the man who has endangered millions of lives in Africa by suggesting that, far from managing the HIV/AIDS crisis there, condom use actually increases the rate of infection. Every year, especially over Christmas, he has used his public sermons to condemn homosexuality, gay rights, and equal marriage. Homosexuality, apparently was "an intrinsic moral evil", "an objective disorder", and it was not "unjust" to discriminate against gay people. Transgender people were also an aberration in his eyes, and he has muddled postmodern preoccupation with gender, which is often problematic, with gender malalignment, which blights the lives of millions around the world. And we have to mourn his resignation?
Oh, look at all the good he has done, the apologists claim. Forgive me, but the lie-filled vitriol he has spread among the innocent against gay people, and the lives he has condemned through his message on condoms, and worst of all, if evil has tiers, his active involvement in the cover-up of sexual abuses in the Catholic Church, outweigh all those cries of peace and brotherhood. Merely shaking hands with Jewish and Hindu representatives, or decrying capitalism and nuclear bombs will not do. That is merely the same opinion spouted by beauty pageant hopefuls. If actions do speak louder than words, his actions show far greater prejudice lurking within than tolerance. Some say he has integrity: but no person of integrity would seek and obtain diplomatic immunity in cases lodged by victims of sexual abuse. A person of integrity would have testified in a court room, and grovelled at the feet of the victims to apologise.
This is not a man who inspires or purifies. This is a man who sows prejudice and intolerance at people's hearts.
So, while the politicians celebrate his reign, and his apologists and fans pay their tributes, let me say, with no qualms whatsoever: I'm glad he's gone. Good riddance.