Simply put, the purpose of this article is to explore whether the out-going pope was a good one. Life in the modern 21st century, although it has evolved rapidly and gone through great social development, it still feels, when it comes to discussing important issues like this, people shy away and prefer to stay quiet, just because it is a difficult religious topic. When really we should openly debate and discuss weather religious leaders served their job well. They are looked upon by billions of people and therefore should be openly criticised; just because they’re religious do not mean that our right to criticize and evaluate them should be taken away.
Our outgoing pope, Pope Benedict XVI, should be judged just as a prime minister is judged; he is not above the law just because he is supposedly god’s representative on earth. However, you only have look at the past to see how many people who publically stick their heads above the water and criticize supposed messengers of god’s are targeted by extremists and given death threats. One of the obvious examples of this fear to speak out is at Question Time. I have watched it many a time, seeing the topic of certain religious leaders come up and it’s almost like a few of the audience members want to speak up and the rest of them are just too shy, they are fearful of how they will be perceived if they support the brave few. This has to change, we in the western, liberal, democratic world, exist in a society where the fabrics of our society are discussion and learning- in order for our civilisation to grow and expand, this culture of discussion must extend to religious leaders.
I am an atheist but that doesn’t mean I hate religions, I respect people’s opinions, I know my beliefs may differ to a theist but that doesn’t matter because in society we are all working towards the same thing, a goal that when we die, we leave the earth knowing that our planet is now a safer and better place. Now, being an atheist also doesn’t mean you automatically dislike popes, when I evaluate how well someone like the pope has done, I don’t just think about his beliefs which I completely disagree with, I think about how he has worked with modern society, how his beliefs have fitted and conjoined with the beliefs of the rest of society and more importantly the direction of where our civilisation is going in. For example, you could have a really right-wing, anti-women pope, living in a world where these beliefs are perceived as right, now even though I disagree with the beliefs of this example pope, the pope is no worse than the society he is in.
This is why our outgoing pope, in my opinion, is a complete failure. He is incredibly anti-women and has openly stated that the ordaining of women as priests is the most ‘serious of crimes’. He has put this ‘supposed’ crime alongside paedophilia, which are now both handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. How ignorant can you be, to not allow women to even be bishops, let alone priests? Women are increasingly and rightly so pushing further ahead in profession and career, they are increasingly getting more responsibilities in life, more opportunities, some of the best business people, writers, leaders and role models, are women, yet somehow the Pope disagrees.
This Pope’s attitude towards other religions is also intolerant and extremely offensive. For example while delivering a lecture at the University of Regensburg, he stated and I quote, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. In this one piece of text he has insulted billions of people across the world; he has documented their faith as being evil. Now I would sadly expect this behaviour from an uneducated person who shows no connection with the wider world, the wider world view being that the majority of Muslims are peace loving people, but sadly we heard these words come out of the pope’s mouth, the supposed messenger of god, the man who is probably one of the most followed men on earth. I accept Islam does has its faults, but you would be quite arrogant to say Catholicism doesn’t also have faults and that everything is fine in the Church of Rome and not in Islam. Because, from the past few years, due to corruption cases and the recent sex abuse scandals, we know that the Church of Rome has many obstacles to get over- the pope simply has no right to criticize other faiths.
He has also been extremely homophobic, for example, in 1992 he signed a document declaring that homosexuality is a disorder, and he has made many other hurtful comments which many gay rights groups have found homophobic, and offensive. In 2008, the Pope gave a message to the Roman Curia, in which he described homosexuality as a “violation to the natural order”. Because of his views on homosexuality, it is quite obvious that he opposes same-sex marriage, but it is the way in which he does oppose it that shows how he is completely out of touch with the western democratic world, the world where gay rights are improving all the time and where same-sex marriage is becoming an increasingly bigger issue in parliaments. In March 2012, he stated that heterosexual marriages should be defended from "every possible misrepresentation of their true nature", and at a Christmas 2012 speech he made remarks about same-sex marriage, and although he never said the exact words, sources close to Benedict said he would have called it a threat to world peace similar to abortion and euthanasia. How is a threat to world peace in the same league as same-sex marriage? Some people assume that all Catholics hold these views on homosexuality, but again that’s not the case- Argentina a majority Catholic country, has gay marriage, and opinion polls show that a good chunk of Argentinian Catholics support the law. Spain and Portugal and parts of Brazil have same-sex marriage, and they are majority Catholic countries, all this shows that a large proportion of Catholics actually support gay rights movements and same-sex marriage, so why not the pope? After all, he is meant to lead the Church of Rome, yet for some reason he is being left behind, his beliefs having less in common with his own people.
So, overall this Pope has been far from good. His attitudes on homosexuality are bigoted and you would sadly expect these beliefs in the mid-20th century, but never in the 21st century. Most people in the western world support gay marriage; he doesn’t even support people who are homosexual. His comments about Islam are childish and amateurish, and he had appeared as though he has no consideration for the other billions of people who are not Roman Catholic. The only thing he has done to connect to young people is to commission someone to make him a Twitter account, something that can be done in a mere few seconds. That kind of sums his reign up, in that everything he has done is too small and far too late. His views have put the Catholic Church in a worse place, almost proving that the false stereotypes are correct. For the Catholic Church to really embrace the 21st Century, they needed a pope who can connect to the views of young people, who could have more liberal views and really strengthen society. Instead, we have had a pope who has criticized homosexuals, and said some really dangerous comments, including comparing ordaining women to paedophilia- that speaks for itself really.
By Gabriel Dobrashian-Yates