Marchers – many of them gay – will assemble in Hyde Park at 1.30 p.m. British time, and among the leading speakers will be Catholic priest Father Bernard Lynch, president of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson and LGBT human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, one of the leading lights in the Protest the Pope campaign.
Other speakers include biologist and God Delusion
author Richard Dawkins, science writer Ben Goldacre, sex-abuse survivor Sue Cox, Iranian secularist Maryam Namazie and Asian feminist campaigner Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.
Tatchell said: “In 1986 and 1992, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an ‘objective disorder’ and a strong tendency towards ‘an intrinsic moral evil.’ Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no ‘right’ to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination, suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be ‘legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.’ He said discrimination against LGBT people was justified in professions such as teaching, youth work and the military.”
Thatchell said the Pope had attacked same-sex marriages as “evil” and had vilified supporters of gay equality as “gravely immoral.”
He went on: “He has also denounced homosexual equality as a ‘deviant trend’ and condemned same-sex love as being ‘without any social value.’ He even threatened to deny mass and excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws.”
The protestors are urging Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, to disassociate the British government from the Pope’s often harsh, intolerant views.
“Pope Benedict XVI does not deserve the honour of a state visit,” said Tatchell. “He says women are unfit to be priests, childless couples should be denied fertility treatment and potentially life-saving embryonic-stem-cell research ought to be banned.
“The Pope insists that rape victims should be denied an abortion, using condoms to stop the spread of HIV is immoral and gay people are not entitled to equal human rights. On all these issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including many Catholics.
“Most shockingly, the Pope is accused of covering up child sex abuse by clergy. In 2001 [as Cardinal Ratzinger], he wrote to every Catholic bishop in the world, ordering them to report all child sex abuse cases to him in Rome. They did. He therefore cannot claim that he was unaware of sex abuse. Moreover, his letter to the bishops demanded that they observe ‘Papal secrecy.’ It did not advise them to report abusers to the police.
“Even today, the Pope refuses to open the Vatican’s sex abuse files and hand them to the relevant police forces worldwide. Many people see his inaction as collusion with sex crimes against children. Such a person should not be fêted by our government,” said Tatchell.
A further protest is planned for Cofton Park near Birmingham in the English Midlands tomorrow from 9 a.m. till 2 p.m., organized by a former Catholic, Mark Rawlinson, now a secular humanist.
“We believe that is inappropriate that the Pope be given the honour of a state visit to Britain,” he says, “given his harsh and intolerant views on contraception, abortion, equal rights for women and gay people, not to mention his attempts to cover up the numerous cases of child abuse within his church.”