The amount of anger that seems to have poured out as a result of the election of the new pope has left me feeling both slightly confused and a little pissed off.

As a Catholic (who doesn’t go to church very often) the very people who would object to all people of a single group being tarred with the same brush are leaping on the anti-Catholic bandwagon and venting their anger about things that they appear to have very little understanding of.

I am not even going to pretend that there is nothing wrong with the church. Its institutional attitudes toward women, homosexuals and contraception require an overhaul that will bring them out of the 1800s and into the 21st century.

The church is also not innocent of general wrongdoing, any institution that has been around for close on 2000 years is going to build up some serious baggage and I challenge critics to name any organisation that has been around for more than one generation that has not had to deal with scandals within its ranks.

I would not propose that the current scandal regarding child abuse should be swept under the carpet, it needs to be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. Those guilty should be thrown in jail and those guilty of having covered it up should suffer similar fates.

That has, however, nothing to do with the current pope, who has just taken on the role.

According to the Guardian he has not been tarnished by the child-abuse scandal. He has, by most reports, been doing good work in his previous job. There appear to be a few skeletons regarding his relationship to the previous military government in Argentina and I don’t like his attitude towards gay marriage (where he strongly opposed a law legalising it in Argentina). That said, given the group of men that were up for the post, it appears that we got one of the best of the bunch.

What I have a problem with is insinuation that a 76-year-old man is somehow a paedophile simply because of the job he had. If you consider that there are about 400 000 priests ministering to 1.2-billion Catholics across the world the number of priests that have committed these heinous acts is a tiny number.

The other chirp that I have seen is that any pope is a bad pope. That is an attitude that is just as tainted by personal bias as the previous one. You may as well say that any politician is a bad politician, but without people willing to run organisations we would be living in a society that descends rapidly into anarchy.

The problem is that many of the people that are now ranting against the pope and the church in general are opposed to the idea of religion in general.

They are perfectly entitled to that view, but assuming that all religion is bad simply because they disagree with it shows a severe disconnect with reality.

The fact of the matter is that a huge amount of people believe in religion of some sort, be it a vague belief in a god, or a specific belief religion pervades society at all levels. It is a key part of providing the population of the world with a set of guidelines for how to behave and for setting standards for what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.

Religions need leaders, some leaders are good and others are crap. And on the whole the leadership of the Catholic church is focussed on doing what is right.

They are not focussed on personal enrichment or on sowing hatred or violence and typically the message they preach is one of peace and tolerance.

Once those spewing intolerance and hatred towards the church wake up they might just realise that everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves and Pope Francis deserves that just like everyone else.

Otherwise the haters might want to take a leaf out of the good book and “treat others as you want to be treated”.


  • Ben Kelly is surveys editor at the Mail & Guardian. He moonlights as a technology pundit and is a regular contributor to the ZATech Show podcast. He can fake knowledge about almost anything, apart from theoretical physics because that ended badly the last time.


Ben Kelly

Ben Kelly is surveys editor at the Mail & Guardian. He moonlights as a technology pundit and is a regular contributor to the ZATech Show podcast. He can fake knowledge about almost anything, apart...

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