The people who run the Protect the Pope website are to be congratulated for their loyalty and diligence and perhaps also for their apparent unwillingness to allow the security of the Pope to be left in the hands of the police, the security services and the agents of the bishops of England and Wales. All the same, there is something rather worrying about them.
What troubles me especially is that they seem to encourage a ghetto mentality among the faithful. They place far too much faith in the rightly derided 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act, as well as the other hate crime legislation. On their website they encourage frightened and intimidated Catholics – when was the last time you met a Catholic who was genuinely frightened and intimidated? – to register complaints about hate crimes with their local police force. “Each police force,” they tell us, “will usually have an online form on their websites to record acts of hate crime.” The thought of teary-eyed Catholics filing complaints on a police website is not one that will please all Catholics.
The Protect the Pope website declares: “Of course people in this country have freedom of expression, but this does not mean they have the right to create a climate of hostility and fear.” But that, of course, is precisely what it does mean, in practice. It is by creating a climate of fear and hostility that press barons sell newspapers, political parties win votes and Boots the chemist sells deodorants.
It may be true, as the website maintains, that unprecedented levels of hostility towards Catholicism are being disseminated by the media, but that only means that we should react with unprecedented levels of contempt. If we were not loathed, after all, we’d be doing something wrong. The Pope is not Oprah Winfrey, and his message is not designed to make people feel good about themselves. At any rate, I hope and believe that most Catholics will refuse to behave like members of a victim group. Quite enough people whine about their “rights” as it is. We ought not to join them. We are free-born Britons, and have our dignity.
This taste for claiming victim status, incidentally, seems to be linked to the bizarre belief in the United States (especially) that Catholics now face a persecution similar to that faced by the Jews in Germany in the 1930s. That is simply not true. Catholics may one day be persecuted as Jews once were, in which case they will have two choices: either to be brave and die as martyrs or to deny their religion and join their persecutors.
The Jews of the Holocaust had no such choice.