Catholics in England are worried about the level of anti-Catholic hostility that has exploded in their country months before a planned state visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
A week ago, Telegraph blog editor Damian Thompson noted the a Tweet sent out by a columnist at the Times of London: “The Catholic Church: They hate women and gays, and f*** kids. On a day-to-day level, that’s a tough sell.” (I saw it pop up on Tweetdeck, too, and saw it get retweeted dozens and dozens of times.)
That is a revolting slur on hundreds of millions of members of the Church, including the overwhelming majority of Catholic clergy. I’ve never encountered this intensity of hatred before. It doesn’t bode well for the pope’s visit.
Of course, there's also the news this week that Britain's government has pulled from its website a petition started by a gay activist group to pressure the prime minister to denounce Catholic teachings on sexual morality, criticize Pope Benedict for his handling of clerical sex abuse, etc etc etc.
Then there was the flap earlier this year about a leaked Foreign Office memo that mocked the pope and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
And that's just from secularists. How about from Britain's sizeable Muslim community? A Muslim group has called on its correligionists to show up at a papal Mass for 80,0000 Catholics in Birmingham to "take this duel opportunity to give Da’wah to these 80,000 travelling disbelievers, whilst at the same time telling the pope in no uncertain terms what Muslims think of his evil slanders against the last Prophet of God and his message." Some worry that could be interpreted as a call to violence.
So a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Lancaster is standing up to "protect the pope." Deacon Nick Donnelly has created www.protectthepope.com. He explains:
When I talk to other Catholics about the Holy Father’s visit in September, most express concern about his safety. The unprecedented level of hostility, ridicule and ill-will from certain public figures and sections of the press has got some Catholics genuinely worried that Pope Benedict is going to be embarrassed or even hurt.
The goal of the website is threefold: