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The prejudice that knows no name

As a homosexual indoctrinated into the dogmatic Catholic faith from a very early age, believe me when I say that I understand the considerable and often damaging pitfalls of the Catholic Church better than most.

As a child, I denounced my faith at the earliest and at every subsequent opportunity, and was dragged to church on a Sunday morning quite literally kicking and screaming.

Despite this, at 14 I chose to undergo my confirmation. This contradiction is difficult for many non-Catholics in our increasingly secular society to understand, so let me explain.

Being a Catholic is not synonymous with being a “Bible-basher” or even a habitual church-goer. Catholicism is not just a religion, but also a cultural identity; I am agnostic and non-practicing but being a Catholic is as much a part of who I am as my homosexuality is.

Catholicism stretches back over 2000 years; I see no reason why I should not be considered as such in much the same way that a non-practicing Jew is still considered to be Jewish. I implore you to accept that Catholicism and the Catholic Church are not the same thing.

This is why the potential reasoning behind a petition recently published on Downing Street’s website – to object to a State-funded Papal visit– caused me a certain degree of alarm.

Now let me be clear here: I do not support the intolerant and bigoted views of the Pope any more than you do. Indeed, the Pope has caused considerable damage to Catholics everywhere, since he is the first thing that many people associate with Catholicism, rather than with the Catholic Church.

This leads people to discredit, disregard and disrespect Catholics, practicing or otherwise, and this is why the petition alarmed me, having witnessed these things first hand by people who are not intolerant, but ignorant of what Catholicism actually is. The reason I am writing this is because I find this shocking and personally insulting.

Nonetheless, for various reasons, I do not support a State-funded Papal visit. However, I cannot help but wonder whether objection to it and indeed the petition itself is objection merely to the Pope, or to Catholicism as a whole.

Granted, a State-funded visit is a waste of taxpayers’ money, but it is not ongoing and it is far from the only or even the most prominent waste. I understand the principle, but it strikes me as a rather flimsy argument when I consider this in the context of the national budget.

So, is this objection to a Papal visit, in some instances at least, a thinly veiled guise for anti-Catholic sentiments?

The Pope and Catholicism are, after all, easy targets. I doubt that it would be very PC to object to a visit by a leader of any of the other major faiths, so why should Catholicism be targeted?

I’m not saying don’t sign the petition – call me stubborn, but I won’t on principle – but if you do so, please, if you can’t be consistent in your objection to taxpayers’ money being squandered then at least be careful to stand against prejudice towards Catholics which, although arguably not as widespread, deep-rooted or aggressive within society as Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, is still no more acceptable.

Do not let the Pope plant anti-Catholic sentiments within our society. He does not speak for us all and he is not Catholicism itself; he is a small-minded and bigoted old man who is a hindrance to us all.

Sign the petition at: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ProtestthePope/

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