Ian Paisley and the Pope: The Return of Dr No?

image It’s been awhile since we’ve heard the Rev. Ian Paisley rail publicly against the pope, identifying him as an ‘anti-Christ.’ But in an interview with the BBC World Service, Paisley reverted to ‘anti-Christ’ mode as he voiced his opposition to the pope’s state visit to the UK in September.

On his blog, BBC religion correspondent William Crawley says that Paisley’s comments,

will grab some headlines precisely because this is the kind of public rhetoric he has resisted in recent years.

Yes, Paisley has refrained from anti-Christ language up until now, showing remarkably more verbal restraint in his opposition to the pope’s visit than, say, atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins.

Indeed, in joining the ever growing chorus against the visit Paisley is not just making common cause with the Orange Order or the Evangelical Protestant Society.

He’s also in the same camp as radical atheists Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, members of the LGBT community offended by the pope’s comments about the UK’s human rights policies, and taxpayers who wonder if the £8 million they are expected to fork out for the visit will be worth it.

Paisley: Friend of Catholic Abuse Victims?

In the interview, Paisley framed much of his opposition to the pope’s visit in terms of the way the Catholic Church has handled the abuse scandals in Ireland. Paisley said,

"We have had a terrible happening in Ireland with the priests and monks and nuns all taking part in acts of disgraceful behaviour with young people, and we haven’t seen the Catholic Church taking a strong stand on this.

A person, like some of the priests we’ve had, destroying the lives of young people and then going out and saying ‘I can forgive sins’, it’s only right that be called what it is. That is anti-Christ in teaching and in doctrine."

This is a much different approach than Paisley might have taken a generation ago, when his language would likely have been more like that used by the Evangelical Protestant Society in their July-September 2010 newsletter, the Ulster Bulwark:

‘It is important to raise our voice, and the visit presents us with opportunities to challenge the false spiritual and temporal claims of Rome and also to proclaim Christa as the only way of salvation. …

The pope is unique among world political and spiritual leaders in that he asserts that he is the temporal and spiritual ruler over all the earth. It is on the basis of such spurious claims that his visit must be opposed.’

I can understand the various perspectives of those who make up the motley crew behind the UK’s ‘no pope here’ campaign.

Their moral and/or religions sensibilities – for an impressive variety of reasons – are offended by the spectacle of the British state welcoming someone who they see as opposing all that they believe to be right and true.

But What do Abuse Victims Want?

That said, those – like Paisley – who are choosing to emphasise concerns about abuse victims as a reason for opposing the pope’s visit would do well to listen to what the victims want.

Back in April, it was reported that victims of abusing priests were seeking an audience with the pope on his visit to the UK. It’s not clear to me at this point if the pope has managed to fit the victims into his busy schedule. His itinerary was reported today to feature meeting the queen in Scotland and the Archbishop of Canterbury in London.

Meeting with abuse victims – if they go ahead – could go some way towards redeeming his visit to the UK. If his visit is all pomp and no apology, I can’t see it being of much benefit to the Catholic Church and its followers in Britain.

2 Responses to Ian Paisley and the Pope: The Return of Dr No?

  1. Seamus Breathnach July 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    It is customary in the South of Ireland and elsewhere among Catholics to dernigrate the Rev. Ian Paisley — and I have no doubt that there are times when he presents a picture that is evocative of humour rather than passion; but I have heard him described as demogogue, false prohpet, rabble-rouser, etc..

    Personally, I have never found Mr Paisley to be insincere in anything he said — passionate by all means, and usually accurate to a fault. And when defending his latest book on the Anti-Christ I have never heard a word out of him that was not directly researchable and true.

    I do wish some Catholics would learn something about their own history. Their priests keep them in such awful ignorance. Even if they read Wylie, on the History of Protestantism, they might get a grounding in Irish history — a total non-entity to historians in the South.

    I heard him challenged on what the Pope does and has done in the world as to 1) creating sins: througout history, since its inception the Papacy has ordinary people — like the Pagan Gaels — appear as ‘sinful heretics’ and therefore executable, without ever having met one. How an Irishman could not know of this event is quite beyond me. ‘Sins’ are constantly being made by the Papacy in the same way as ‘crimes’ are being made regularly by Parliament. Not to know that is an affront to ordinary speculation.
    2) Distrusting the Jesuits. The entire Republic of Ireland is run by a small coterie of the most ignorant celibate Jesuits one could find anywhere. Quite recently I witnessed one castigating the civil party Fianna Fail for not breaking ranks and voting against the Taoiseach. The same wretch has been fulminating on RTE for over thirty years and has not once found fault with his Pope, his Church or his Jesuitical Order; but has enjoyed the infinite privileges of the barrack he inhabits for decades. One could go so much further, but one need not. Everyone knows that all the ‘universities’ in Ireland are run by Jesuits, whose real if not only expertise is that they pray to Rome. . .

    If people like Ian Paisley had not written about Croatia, how would we find out about the depths of depravity the RC Church is capable of countenancing. They deny the holocaust, their earlier work in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany. They even deny ratlining the Nazis as they denied ratlining the clerical paedophiles. . .

    If we do not have people like Ian Paisley to resist the Roman Church, then we have no one who will or can do it. . .

    If one lives in Leprechaunland, how does one get out???
    Do we really want to remain in the DARK AGES forever???

    Seamus Breathnach

  2. Gerard Barnes July 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    I’ve always regarded the Jesuits as being very intelligent, cosmopolitan people, but am shocked and incredulous to hear from Mr. Breathnach that they have run Irish society and some universities for decades. In what ways, can Mr. Breathnach explain, do the Jesuits have more influence and control over the thoughts of Irish Catholics than the Dominicans, the Redemptorists or the secular clergy who have passed through All Hallows or Maynooth College over the past 80 years of Irish political independence?

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