Humanist think-tank blast ‘a secular witch-hunt’ against Pope Ratzinger

TAKE a very deep breath before you read this. A press release just received from the humanist think-tank, the Institute of Ideas, is not a windup.

The Institute accuses fellow secularists of engaging in:

A New Atheist witch-hunt – in stark contrast to their own professed views on tolerance.

Speaking to launch a series of religion-themed debates at this year’s Battle of Ideas festival, Institute of Ideas Director Claire Fox said:

Clare Fox

While many reacted with horror at France and Belgium with their intolerant ban on the burqa, the response of some secular campaigners shows that such demonization of religious groups is alive and kicking in the UK.

The Institute argues:

Hysterical, oft-repeated arguments such as that the Pope is ‘a leader of the world’s largest paedophile ring’  have more in common with contemporary heresy-hunting than the free-thinking spirit of Enlightenment secularism.

Fox added:

There are many reasons to criticise religious leaders, and plenty are coming from within the Church itself, but secularists really should take the opportunity to remind themselves of the Enlightenment values they claim to stand for –  such as tolerance, freedom of thought and conscience and a human being as a rational subject – rather than focusing on what they hate about the Church and, by extension, Catholics.

Fox was speaking at the launch a series of religion-themed debates at this year’s Battle of Ideas festival, which aims to:

Create a more clear-thinking and rational debate on the role religion plays in a secular society.

The festival features a range of debates across the UK and beyond on the question of secular tolerance and religious freedom.

One Battle of Ideas debate to be held at the Royal College of Art, London, will be The Catholic Church: more sinned against the sinner? where humanist lawyer (and Catholic-born) John Fitzpatrick and US-based libertarian commentator Wendy Kaminer will be joined by humanist philosopher Peter Cave and Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh.

I received the press release shortly after a British woman, Sue Cox, who was raped as a child by a priest, told ITV news how outraged she was by Ratzinger’s visit. She said she had three reasons to oppose the state visit:

As an abuse victim, the proud mother of a gay son, and a taxpayer.

36 responses to “Humanist think-tank blast ‘a secular witch-hunt’ against Pope Ratzinger”

  1. Duncan says:

    Yes, let’s be tolerant of the intolerant.

  2. Prime Numbers says:

    Now humanists condoning the leader of a corrupt organization that covered up cased of child rape that it’s members had inflicted upon the children of our society?

    Tolerance is a great idea, but it only goes so far. There are things I’m not tolerant of – abuse of power, child rape, lies and deceit.

    I think what we’re asking for is a fair trial for Ratzinger – that he be investigated, along with his organization and members, and where there is evidence of wrongdoing, that they go on trial. That is not a witch hunt.

    Their website says:

    “The Institute of ideas is committed to:
    Freedom. To think, to act, to say what needs saying – even if it offends others”

    Well, it needs to be said that Ratzinger has caused much harm and a criminal investigation is needed. It’s intolerant to say so, it’s just right.

  3. andrea says:

    Just watched the Peter Tatchell documentary about the pope and it reminded me very much of a Panorama documentary in 2003 which examined the vatican’s policy on birth control and the spread of HIV.

    Although I was already an atheist and opposed to the church, it shocked me that people who supposedly dedicated their lives to helping others would cheerfully peddle lies which blatantly reduced quality of life for millions of people and condemned generations to poverty and disease and suffering. It was the first time I realised the church was more than just deluded, that it was actively evil in a way which – if it wasn’t done in the name of christianity would be condemned as a huge crime against humanity.

    There’s a transcript of the programme here for anyone who didn’t see it.

  4. Sarah says:

    Tolerance of the intolerant is not really tolerance at all.

  5. tony e says:

    What’s the modern equivilent of 30 pieces of silver?

    There are only 2 things I really have no time for, religion and apologists.

  6. Marcus says:

    The last thing we need is for those with secular views to start falling out with each other over how vocal we are in our criticism of religion.

    However, I personally am all for calling a spade a spade. Or in this case, calling an abhorrent apologist for the sexual abuse of children the pope.

    By the way, if you want to leave a comment about Peter Tatchell’s Channel 4 programme, you can do so here:

  7. barriejohn says:

    She sounds like the atheist equivalent of Stephen Green. I’d never heard of her little “think tank” before. This is from her Wikipedia entry, for what it’s worth:

    Claire Fox (born 5 June 1960, Barton-upon-Irwell), also known as Claire Foster, is the director and founder of the British think tank, the Institute of Ideas, and a prominent former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
    Claire was born into an Irish Catholic family in North Wales, the daughter of John Fox and Maura Cleary and the older sister of Fiona Fox and Gemma Fox. After attending St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School, Flint, she went to study at the University of Warwick where she graduated with a lower second class degree (2:2) in English and American Literature.

  8. The intolerant church tolerates paedophiles in its ranks…and is getting exactly what it deserves.

  9. Godless not gormless says:

    Yep, this is nonsense.

    “The Institute of ideas is committed to:
    Freedom. To think, to act, to say what needs saying – even if it offends others”

    Kind of contradicting their own policy.

    There’s no way we should remain silent about the kind of crimes religiots carry out, and definitely not in the name of tolerance. As others have said, tolerance only goes so far. Being intolerant of child sex abuse etc, is most definitely allowed!

  10. Anonymous says:

    “Hysterical, oft-repeated arguments such as that the Pope is ‘a leader of the world’s largest paedophile ring’ have more in common with contemporary heresy-hunting than the free-thinking spirit of Enlightenment secularism.”

    Who wrote this? Andrew Brown at The Guardian?

  11. Zelda says:

    ZOMG is this a meme now, calling “New” atheists (which is already an epithet) witch hunters? Or is Claire Fox a pseudonym for Jeremy Stangroom?

  12. barriejohn says:

    I posted a comment about Claire Fox earlier this evening. You can look her up here:

  13. Russell W says:

    Tolerance? Some behaviour is simply intolerable,Clare Fox’s opinions imply the usual special pleading for and from the clergy.Even apparently,’humanists’ think that members of religious institutions should receive special consideration-it’s a hard habit to break.
    The equation of the proposed burka ban with the moral repugnance shown towards paedophile priests( and their protectors) by the public is simply drivel.
    We are also supposed to be tolerant in regard to the totalitarian aspects of Islam because it’s a religion.

  14. JohnMWhite says:

    Is an argument really “hysterical” (in any sense of the word) if it is supported by a mountain of evidence in the form of police and church records, witness testimony and international scrutiny going back years? To invoke witch hunting and the inquisition is not only hysterical hyperbole, it’s flat out insulting given their history of persecution of women, Jews, gypsies and anyone else the Catholic Church didn’t like. That this would be lost on an apologist is not surprising…

    She is, as ever, entitled to her opinion, but to declare it intolerant to not tolerate wilful negligence and cruel apathy to the victims of abuse is just ludicrous. It’s not a witch hunt against the pope because he’s the pope, it’s a collective defiance of the audacity and cruelty of himself and his entire organisation. People with a conscience won’t tolerate watching the vulnerable be abused.

  15. Serai says:

    “Hysterical, oft-repeated arguments such as that the Pope is ‘a leader of the world’s largest paedophile ring’ have more in common with contemporary heresy-hunting than the free-thinking spirit of Enlightenment secularism.”

    Yes that boat might float if the oft repeated arguments didn’t also happen to be true! What a stupid politically correct bovine this woman is!

  16. sailor1031 says:

    “A New Atheist witch-hunt – in stark contrast to their own professed views on tolerance”.

    I have never professed to be tolerant of stupidity, evil, bigotry, superstition and liars. And yes, I do support a burkha ban – purely on grounds of public security. Recent crimes in France, NZ, UK, Pakistan and Afghanistan committed by thugs wearing burkhas demonstrates this need….

  17. Witch hunters!! Jeezis.

    Claire Fox and the Institute of Ideas and Spiked and the rest of the former “Revolutionary Communist Party” refugees are all notoriously kind of…eccentric in their thinking. From Communist to libertarian in one unified jump.

  18. pete says:

    What are we to be threatened by?

    Lets not be afraid of words., even
    though they are powerful.

  19. Ken Pidcock says:

    Opportunism knows nothing of metaphysic.

  20. Bubblecar says:

    This really does seem to be a pretty meaningless misuse of the term “intolerant”. The Pope is attracting harsh criticism from many quarters for many reasons, all eminently justified from a humanist perspective. Clare Fox sounds like one of those people who get too upset by free-flowing debate to be able to take part without mistaking her emotional reactions for rational responses. As someone noted above, Andrew Brown is another one.

  21. gsw says:

    @Andrea: who supposedly dedicated their lives to helping others

    Misconception. Firstly, the catholic church considers bodies irrelevant, they are supposedly dedicated to helping souls.
    This is how they justified torture and killing for 1500 years (300-1800CE). They were saving souls.

    Of course, since they did not actually have a god throwing lighting bolts when they screwed up, this gave them carte blance to do anything they wanted.

    Now they are a little pissed off that we question their authority to torture children. For lots of them, it’s the only reason they joined: megalomania.

  22. tony e says:

    I think this is a case of ‘you can take the girl out of the church.’

    Good to see the brainwashing still works.

    It’s thanks to apologists that the religions of the world have such sucess. I’m at the stage in my life where I’m not prepared to back down, compromise, meet with, discuss or any other appeasement waffle when it comes to religion. Not one inch.

  23. Angela_K says:

    Could the Institute of Ideas be a nice little earner for former Dave Spart types? [Readers of Private Eye will understand]

    It would seem Ms Fox has been unable to lose the shackles of her catholic indoctrination and has become an apologist for the World’s biggest crime syndicate. Such quaint language, “witch hunt” I’m certain there are many like me who want the Pope hunted down and charged with crimes against humanity.

  24. Marcus says:

    This from the BHA:

    “Andrew Marr felt the need to ask Archbishop Vincent Nichols if he was concerned that protesters would constitute a “security problem” during the Pope’s state visit this week. Others have presumed to beg for “tolerance” and “respect”. The effect has sometimes been to insinuate that the Protest the Pope campaign intended to be aggressive, disruptive, or was about upsetting religious followers. In fact the organisers have done everything they can to include reform-friendly Catholics in a peaceful and law-abiding protest.”

    I guess Clare Fox falls squarely into the category of ‘others’. And she isn’t helping.

  25. valdemar says:

    Note Clare Fox doesn’t bother addressing boring old issues, the role of Catholicism in killing lots of Africans. Or is that an example of her Enlightenment and tolerance – not actually engaging with facts? She always struck me as thick and loud in those long-ado days when I could stand to listen to the Moral Maze.

  26. Mo'rons says:

    It is possible, of course, that what she is trying to say is that responses based on belief are not restricted to religion. By all means seek out and rid our society of paedophiles and terrorists (burka wearing or not), but do not allow it to become an intolerance of difference. Many muslims do not support the ‘fundamentalist’ interpretation of their religion, just as many christians reject the stupidity of some fundamentalist groups. Priests in the catholic church are individually responsible for their actions, as are islamic terrorists. Both ‘churches’ are involved in the dissemination of (corrupt and misguided) belief systems, but to suggest a group responsibility is to empower them and to weaken our position. It is the individuals that make up the group that we must critique. Ratzinger (gotta love that) is PERSONALLY responsible for his decisions, as are the 9/11 terrorists…but so are we, that is what rational humanism means.

  27. Psimon says:

    @Mo’rons – I’m not entirely sure what you were trying to say there. That “But so are we…” line at the end seems to imply that there is something wrong with protesting the Pope, an idea reinforced by making the obvious distinction that not all Muslims are terrorists, and that not many Christians reject fundamentalism.

    These protests are not against Catholicism. They are against the Pope, a man who is responsible for crimes committed personally, and crimes committed under his leadership.

  28. The Woggler says:

    ‘Secular witch-hunt’? I thought witch-hunts were the preserve of the Catholic Church.

  29. The protests are against “Catholicism” as an institution, at least. They are against the Vatican and the way the Catholic church is run; they are against the culture of secrecy and impunity and the assumption that clerics have special rights to be shielded from the law. They are perhaps implicitly a protest against the authoritarian hierarchical misogynist nature of Catholicism. They’re definitely not just about Joe Ratzinger as a guy.

  30. Marie-Thérèse O' Loughlin says:

    Welcome, all ye gnu atheists, to the ‘witch-hunt clan.

    The same ‘witch-hunt’ tag was employed by Catholic apologists to victims-survivors of institutional and clerical abuse.

  31. valdemar says:

    Note that a German cardinal has just pulled out (arf, arf) of the Papal visit because he called Britain a Third World country. I suppose one can see that as calibrating the insult level – I suppose Benny will come up with something at least as contemptuous to say about us in the name of love and peace.

  32. Barry Duke says:

    The cardinal goofed big time with this comparison. If we were a third world country we’d be mired in superstition and be standing in rapt attention with hands clasped in fervent prayer to welcome the rancid old goat .

  33. barriejohn says:

    So we’ll all be the same colour in Heaven then?

  34. Neuseline says:

    Clare Fox has been a member of Radio 4’s “Moral Maze” for some time. She used to be quite left-wing, but I have noticed a shift to right of centre recently. If this continues she will soon be taking holy communion with the Carmelites.

  35. SingleStrandOfSilk says:

    “Sue Cox, who was raped as a child by a priest”. That simply cannot be proven. Sue Cox waited fifty years to make her allegation. She waited until all the “witnesses”, the Priest, her mother and her father were dead – despite a lifetime of work as a therapist.

    She is a self-publicist who runs an “internationally recognised therapy training business” from a single room in Leamington!

    She accepted a no-fault admitted, out of court settlement for just £25,000. The Catholic church bought her off because it was cheaper that way. Not much compensation for rape, but just enough to give a mouthy woman a platform to push her lies.

    Google “Sue Cox Leamington” and hear the truth.

  36. Sue Cox says:

    Don’t usually take any notice of such ignorance, let alone reply to it, but the last comment was quit appalling.
    I most certainly did not wait fifty years to make an allegation, although anyone who has any understanding of this kind of abuse would know that it often takes even longer for some people to speak out, and some never can.You have no idea how many witnesses were able to support my claim,or how these things are proven.Clearly your vitriol comes from complete ignorance of these matters.

    How you could imagine someone would lie about such a horrific event, beggars belief, and to suggest that it was easy to talk about it is sickening.
    My sole reason for speaking out was to enable others to do so. It is often because of people like you that victims are reticent to come forward. The Church did not “buy me off” I decided, against legal advice, to accept 20% of what was calculated, because I wanted, and deserved a moral victory.
    I have no need for self publicity,I have a very large clinic,(with several rooms!) and have taught several thousand healthcare workers, I received a lifetime’s achievement award this year for my contribution to the addiction treatment field.
    I would urge anyone who is wavering about talking about their own abuses, to talk about it,and disregard anyone like this who seems to delight in adding insult to injury.
    Sue Cox