Whether or not the Pope’s pending trip to London will be a success or not will depend on circumstances outside the Vatican’s control. There are rumors that the British tabloids are storing up a sex abuse scandal stories to coincide with the papal visit, just to site one possibility. Archbishop Vincent Nichols is hoping the people will flock to see the Pope when he arrives. The Archbishop can’t be serious.
There are areas where the UK Government and the Papacy will have some common ground. There is serious cooperation between the government and the Holy See in the provision of primary health care, for example, in the provision of primary education, in the fight against poverty, in the care of the environment. I mean these are major political arenas, policy areas in which the UK government wants to engage more fully with the Catholic Church, and ministers of state are already talking very positively about those things.
Should the Pope feel compelled to step outside of this framework, and focus on controversial area’s such as Gay adoption, abortion, contraception, women’s ordination, or the Equality Laws he will ignite a firestorm of debate primarily with the secular humanists of London who are more adept at this than I fear the Pope is. This may rally the Pope’s orthodox base, but will not help with winning the London man/women in the street support.
Will Benedict XVI meeting the Queen, visiting the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, standing in the spot in Westminster Hall where St. Thomas More was condemned, praying at the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor, and on and on overshadow the Clergy Sexual Abuse scandal? The Vatican is definitely hoping so.
Cardinal Seán Brady of Ireland has announced plans to accompany the pope in Scotland and England. Brady has been under fire for his role in the massive sexual abuse crisis in Ireland, including charges that in the 1970s he participated in putting the victims of a notorious abuser under a gag order. If Brady is spotted at the pope’s right hand, it could spark a new round of commentary about how Benedict “doesn’t get it.”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster recently said that “careful consideration” was being given to a meeting in England with those who were sexually abused by the clergy. If it happens, it would be Benedict’s fifth session with victims, after meetings during previous trips to the United States, Australia and Malta, and one in Rome with members of Canadian “first nations” abused in church-run institutions.
These meetings usually get mixed reviews. Either the Pope gets credit for reaching out, or he is criticized for attempting to cheep PR stunt.
The Pope will be entering environment where the Catholic Church has to be a creative minority, and engage the broader culture in the dialogue process that is both faithful and respectful. I won’t hold my breath.
Rainbow Sash Movement