Belfast-born author and journalist Leo McKinstry has said an anti-Catholic mood before the papal visit to the U.K. is comparable to the sectarianism of Northern Ireland. He blamed the antagonism upon the “politically correct spirit of our age” which emphasizes moral relativism and self-gratification.
McKinstry, a conservative who has written several books, announced his own impending conversion to Catholicism in The Daily Mail on Tuesday. He told how he had a sudden insight into religion in a Venetian chapel when he realized that the “poetry and symbolism” of Catholic ritual are metaphorical devices to evoke a spiritual reaction.
His conversion might seem “extraordinary” because he was raised as a Protestant in Ulster. However, his conversion also runs counter to the “aggressively secular, anti-Christian” nature of modern Britain where the Catholic Church is believed to be “outmoded, reactionary, irrelevant and superstitious.”
“This anti-Catholic mood has been at its most palpable in the run-up to Pope Benedict's state visit this week, much of it led by militant atheists who, in the name of tolerance, have become utterly intolerant of manifestations of traditional Christian faith,” McKinstry wrote.
He added that he sees a similarity between Northern Ireland sectarianism and anti-papal feeling in Britain today. The Protestant minister Rev. Ian Paisley’s announcement of a demonstration against Pope Benedict’s visit to Glasgow is an action “no different from the noisy army of frenzied secularists,” McKinstry remarked.
Atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins has described the Pope as “a leering old villain in a frock,” while the author Claire Rayner has declared she has never felt “such animus against any individual as I do against this creature.”
“His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us that the only thing to do is to get rid of him,” Rayner has commented.
In McKinstry’s view, these opinions are “alarming but hardly surprising” in a society where Catholicism is “marginalized and despised.”
While some of this hatred was inspired by the Church’s “shameful role” in failing to respond to sexually abusive priests, he said it was “absurd” to use the child abuse scandal as an argument for destroying the Church.
He also countered claims that the Pope conspired to cover up child sex abuse in Germany, saying these are “unsupported by documentary evidence.” Some of the cases from the U.S. appear not to have involved him at all, he noted, but were “entirely the responsibility of suspect clerics in America.”
“Indeed, I believe the Pope is a man of decency, integrity and great intellectual strength,” McKinstry wrote in The Daily Mail.
Antagonism against Catholicism goes “far deeper” than a reaction to child abuse.
“The fact is that Catholicism is completely out of tune with the progressive, politically correct spirit of our age, with its fashionable emphasis on moral relativism, multi-culturalism and self-gratification,” he continued, charging that civic leaders cannot bear the existence of an alternative to their “state-dominated, anti-family, diversity-fixated vision of the world.”
Rather, they become frenzied over the Church’s opposition to condom distributions in Africa and blame the Pope for the deaths of millions of Africans from HIV/AIDS. McKinstry contended that this ignores the heroic work of Catholic volunteers and the fact that the Catholic “ideal of restraint” has “often done more good than all the trendy sex awareness campaigns.”
The writer also criticized “tremendous hypocrisy” in anti-Catholic feeling, noting how many leaders are happy to appease “militant Islam” because they believe Muslims to be an oppressed minority.
“So they end up in the bizarre position of banning crucifixes and prayers from public institutions, while colluding with the spread of Sharia law,” he charged.
McKinstry said he was drawn to Catholicism because it is a “bulwark” in the defense of Christian civilization against secularism. “It is Christianity that gave us the moral code which built our great societies. Succumbing to the progressive agenda would just mean surrendering to further decline,” he added.
His Daily Mail piece concluded by saying that anti-Catholic commentators refuse to recognize that faith is about transcendence, not temporal politics.
McKinstry said he would take comfort and guidance from Jesus’ words: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.”