Mary Kenny: One daft priest does not represent all of Catholicism
A man is entitled to hold any opinion he chooses, and when Richard Dawkins states that being raised a Catholic is worse than child abuse, he is free to say so.
"Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was," he said the other day, "the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place."
But atheistic scientists such as Prof Dawkins are usually keen on asking for "evidence-based" data to back up opinions.
There are more than one billion Roman Catholics globally, but Prof Dawkins rested his thesis on the experience of one person: a Protestant friend was told she would "roast in Hell" by some daft priest in America.
I dare say several events inflicted psychological damage in my childhood – being made to give away my doll's house by an insistent aunt, not being able to afford a pony, not being sent to ballet school – all linger in the memory as childhood scars.
Yet the form of Catholicism in which I was raised was basically warm-hearted, and I adored the rituals of our lovely Maytime processions, the sweet hymns to Our Lady and the general reassurance that my guardian angel would watch over me.
Far from thinking Protestants would roast in Hell, we believed Protestants were often better than we were. They had a reputation for being honest in business and were charitable. We did pity them for one thing: Irish Protestants weren't allowed to go to the pictures on Sunday.
There were abiding rules, based on the 10 Commandments, but there was also tolerance for "the sinner", as the just man falls 77 times a day.
You were told "judge not, that ye be not judged"; but if you steal, you must make restitution. You should never let the sun go down on your anger and if you're having a rotten time, offer it up. None of this had a psychologically damaging effect on me, and I trust that Prof Dawkins will factor my witness, too, into any "evidence-based" future pronouncements.