Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, April 08, 2005

Empathy flounders at The Guardian
The Guardian has once again wasted no time in showing their seeming obligation to deliver moralistic rantings in the face of mourning. This time the papacy is under fire, on the day that they're lowering Pope John Paul II into the crypt below St Peter's, with a caustic editorial by Guardian journo Polly Toynbee. Toynbee castigates the papacy for his Catholic conservatism, stating that he has "caused the death of millions of Catholics and others in areas dominated by Catholic missionaries, in Africa and right across the world."

She goes on to state:

"He was a good, caring man nevertheless, they say, as if it were a minor aberration. But genuflecting before this corpse is scarcely different to parading past Lenin: they both put extreme ideology before human life and happiness, at unimaginable human cost. How dare our prime minister go there in our name to give the Vatican our approval for this? Will he think of Africa when on his knees today? I trust history will some day express astonishment at moral outrage wasted on sexual trivia while papal celebrity and charisma cloaked this great Vatican crime."

What editor commits these rantings to print on the day a world leader is buried? As much as the Guardian deplores George Bush, one doubts that they would have the fibre to publish such vitriol the day he was buried. I am an absolutist on free speech, but moral empathy should be given some thought, none the least by editors, in times like these. Religion has always drawn criticism from the far left, none more so than Catholicism, and it is perhaps for this exact reason that Toynbee feels the need to reach for the extremes of criticism. Antecedent or not, and whether I support th papacy views on contraception (I don't), this article is misguided and mistimed.