2:25:27 PM

Tatchell’s cant

Peter Tatchell

On Monday evening, shortly before Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit to Britain, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell scrutinised his beliefs and policies on the UK’s Channel 4. Here we present two reactions to the widely publicised program. 

‘The Problem With The Pope’ narrates a fascinating tale which begins in 1962 when the Second Vatican Council kicks off and the Church experiences the spritual equivalent of Britain’s first Isle of Wight Festival. Joseph Ratzinger was headlining, blasting out ‘Talking ‘Bout Your Liberation’ and the whole of the Catholic Church was smoking Peace and Love.

As an advocate of ‘democracy, liberty and social justice’ Tatchell’s imaginative introduction takes on a highy interesting psychological analysis - perhaps commissioned by Oprah or Jeremy Kyle - of a significant turning point in the Pope’s life, which scarred him forever. Although Joseph Ratzinger had lived under the brutal Nazi regime in Germany and the Second World War, according to Peter it was in fact some scary student protests at the University of Tubingen that made a lasting impression on the Pope. So deep were the scars, Ratzinger ripped off his Vatican Two wristband and ‘developed an aversion to anything democratic.

In order to contrast himself with the Pope therefore, Tatchell feels the need throughout to repeatedly remind us that he likes fundamental democratic freedoms. So passionate is he for example about the freedom of religious expression, that he is horrified to find that when interviewing a Catholic woman named Vilma in the Phillipines that “she takes the Pope’s opposition to birth control very seriously.”

It would seem that the concluding point of Peter’s conversation with Vilma is that he will defend everyones right to freedom of expression-providing they express his views. Peter’s most moving soliloquy,  which he describes as an ‘interview’ with Fiona O’Reilly of Catholic Voices, is a beautiful manifestation of this particular conviction and commitment.

The Problem With The Pope is that he dares to disagree with Peter Tatchell. But Tatchell cottons on to something from the very beginning, which in fairness I did not anticipate. His eagle eye can see from a mile off that allegedly the Pope only ever consults like-minded people in order to push through his own personal agenda. It is deeply moving to witness Tatchell follow the Pope’s example with such fidelity and obedience.

Madeleine Teahan works as a parliamentary researcher in the House of Lords. She read Social and Political Sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

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