When being ‘offensive’ becomes the worst crime, the biggest offender is God

A woman holds a placard reading "Take off your rosaries out of our ovaries! Freedom of choice" during a pro-choice demonstration in Madrid (Getty)

It sometimes seems that every pro-abortion group in the world sees Catholicism as a target. Just recently, some Spanish feminists organised a procession to mock Catholic devotion – which may land the organisers in legal trouble, according to the Telegraph. Just recently we had a demonstration in Argentina on International Women’s Day which included a sacrilegious element, as well as an attack on the Buenos Aires cathedral. A few years ago the activist group Femen disrupted Christmas Mass in Cologne Cathedral.

In one way this is good: the pro-abortion movement sees the Catholic Church as its most serious opponent, which we are. But in another way, this is extremely tedious: the faithful who go to Mass, or who take part in Easter processions, want to do so without being disturbed by screeching protesters. Can you blame them?

All of this was foretold by the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who rightly predicted that the decline of a shared reason and the consequent collapse of public discourse would be replaced by a culture of protest. We no longer endeavour to talk to each other; instead we shout at the people who hold positions we judge offensive.

So if the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron is suspected of holding traditional (i.e. “offensive”) views about gay sex, he must be forced to recant them. (The case is reminiscent of the Buttiglione affair, where the Italian philosopher was barred from being a European Commissioner for his views on the very same sin.)

The Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev, is, as you would expect, a Zionist. Ergo, he must be banned from SOAS in case his presence upsets the more sensitive students on campus – rather as Pope Benedict was once barred from an Italian campus for his offensive beliefs.

The Church’s views (or rather teaching) on sin and other matters are well known, and presumably deeply offensive to all right-thinking people. So what is to be done? Protest, protest, protest….. and only stop when everything and everybody you do not like has been banned. What a day that will be!

That blissful state of affairs may be a long time coming. There is, however, a short cut. Why not just protest against the one single Person who is at the root of all absolute claims, and who is the one and only Person who impedes the absolute dictatorship of relativism? Why not simply attack God? After all, it has been done before now. The French Revolutionaries effectively made the Catholic Church illegal; the Mexican revolutionaries did the same (as Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory testifies), as did the Spanish anarchists at the time of the Civil War in Spain.

You might think it is stretch to link protesting about the presence of an Israeli Ambassador on a University campus to the policies of Jacobinism. But the difference is one of degree not category. Both are examples of the dictatorship of relativism. Once you abandon belief in rationality, all you are left with is the tyranny of the individual will, which longs to impose itself by force on others. At the heart of the modern university protest or the feminist protest is a barely concealed threat of, or overt recourse to, violence. After all, the irrationality of belief (something, ironically, that is often attributed by the secularist to the religious believer) has no other way of establishing itself.

One must urge those who are the object of protest, such as the Catholics of Seville as reported by the Telegraph, not to be bullied. (Perhaps this advice is redundant in the case of the Israeli Ambassador, who, sadly, is used to this sort of thing.) And one would hope that bystanders, who may have no strong views on these matters, will intervene to stop the bullying. That means all of us, but especially our governments. The British government in particular should withdraw funding from all universities that deny the right to freedom of speech and association.