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7 September 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:14am

Let’s not disrupt the Pope

Can we just ignore or deride him instead?

By David Allen Green

For those of us who are merely secular or anti-clerical rather than militantly atheistic, there is something rather off-putting about the possible scale of the impending protests at the papal visit.

It would appear that there is a fear that the protests will be such that the papal tour will be disrupted.

This fear is so serious that it is reported that there is to be a meeting at Scotland Yard between the police, the Archbishop of Southwark, and representatives of the Protest the Pope campaign.

If this fear is well-grounded – if it is plausible that the effect of the protests would be to either prevent or inhibit the course of the papal visit – then perhaps the strategy of mass protests is misconceived.

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Not only would the rightful freedom of expression of the Pope and his followers be unfairly undermined by a noisy and determined group; it is likely that such protests would be counter-productive.

It is not as if the Roman Catholic church hasn’t got a track-record of converting hostility into claiming an undeserved victim status. After all, they’ve been doing it since the Romans.

None of this is to deny the seriousness of any of the reported scandals as to the abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests; nor does it mean that the the papal opposition to contraception in the developing world is anything less than an incredible evil.

All those things need to be addressed.

But protests which may lead to disruption simply do not seem an effective or efficient response to the visit. There is no rational link between disrupting the visit and the policy and operational changes which most sensible people want the Roman Catholic church to adopt urgently.

So if there is a real risk of disruption, then perhaps the visit should be ignored.

Or, even better, we can just deride the Pope instead.

We can all sing along with the Pope Song by Tim Minchin.

We can enjoy the superb and scathing internet satires of Crispian Jago.

We can meet the head of this dysfunctional organisation not with hatred and intimidation, but with laughter and intellectual subversion.

And we can use the appropriate governmental and legal channels to put an end to the wickedness of some of its priests towards children, and to offer redress to those who have already suffered.

Priests should always be treated like any person suspected of a crime and face due process for their alleged offences.

I am not saying that there should be any limit placed on any person’s peaceful protest. There is nothing wrong with Protesting the Pope.

But surely there is no need to disrupt the Pope as well.

David Allen Green is a lawyer and writer. His Jack of Kent blog was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2010. He will now be blogging regularly for the New Statesman on legal and policy matters.