David Quinn: So-called liberals have now joined the Paisley crusade
IAN Paisley is in Scotland, protesting against the Pope's visit. No surprise there. We all know that Paisley is a rabid anti-Catholic of longstanding, so what else would you expect?
But Paisley is a throw-back. His hard-line anti-Catholic Protestantism hardly exists in Britain any more and is fading even in the North. But it is being replaced by something else. Instead of Protestant anti-Catholicism, we now have secular anti-Catholicism.
The modern successors to Ian Paisley are militant atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and militant gay activists like Peter Tatchell. Their contempt for Catholicism (and all orthodox religion) knows no bounds.
Tatchell's programme on the church the other night on Channel 4 was a model of one-sidedness, a piece of propaganda worthy of Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11'.
A couple of weeks before, the station gave Richard Dawkins a wad of cash to take aim at faith-based schools. The usual hatchet job ensued.
Of course, Dawkins, Hitchens and Tatchell would recoil from the idea that they are in the least like Ian Paisley. They would imagine that they are his opposites in every way.
But while the sources of their complaints against the Catholic Church would differ from Paisley (he bases his attacks on his interpretation of the Bible, whereas most of their complaints revolve around sex), you'd be hard put to say which one loathes the church more.
The sheer hatred that some secular commentators are displaying towards the church has completely lost contact with reason and moderation.
Writing in the London 'Independent' last week, Julie Burchill, in the course of a generalised screed against the Pope, managed to bring in Wayne Rooney's liking for prostitutes and said he "had been acting exactly as Catholic men are expected to -- choosing one sort of woman to marry and another to have sex with".
So there you have it. Catholic men visit prostitutes because their church hypocritically encourages them to do so.
How do you top this? What Burchill has written about Catholics is the modern-day equivalent of 'Punch' magazine's merciless and notorious caricaturing of the Irish back in the 19th century. For good measure, her piece was accompanied by a cartoon of the Pope that depicted him as a vampire-like creature. 'Punch' would definitely have been proud.
Although John Paul II visited Britain in 1982, this is actually the first state visit by a pope to Britain since the Reformation. Now we know why it has been so hard for the British state to issue an invitation to a pope -- it remains the home of a very rabid form of anti-Catholicism.
How would the Pope be received if he was invited to Ireland? We could expect the same ultra-hostile reaction from secular opinion here.
If secular anti-Catholicism in Britain can be compared with old-style Protestant anti-Catholicism, here, the comparison is more with anti-English ultra-nationalism.
As we know, no reigning British monarch has come to Ireland since independence almost 90 years ago and we still don't know if or when Queen Elizabeth II will come.
SHE has not been able to come because we fear the kind of anti-English feeling it might provoke. Anti-English sentiment is obviously fading fast but if she had come here in, say, 1985, republicans would have taken to the streets in numbers.
Today, we pat ourselves on the back because a visit by the queen is far more likely than it once was. We praise ourselves for our growing 'maturity'.
But many of the same people who want the queen to come here and who decry crude, anti-English nationalism are the very ones most guilty -- in the name of 'liberalism' -- of the crudest anti-Catholicism.
Should this Pope come here soon, they will go into overdrive to stir up public feeling against him, just as nationalists did when Queen Victoria come here in 1900.
She was then called 'the Famine Queen'. Benedict will be the 'protector of child abusers' (and he is nothing of the sort).
The upsurge in anti-religious feeling in the Western world was sparked by the election of George Bush in 2000 and the September 11 attacks.
Of course, the scandals are also to blame for the explosion of anti-Catholic feeling. But as Ed Koch, the liberal, Jewish former mayor of New York said a few months ago, they are being used as an opportunity to bring down the church because of its opposition to abortion, its support for traditional sexual morality, its male-only priesthood and so on.
Although most Britons don't care about the Pope's visit one way or the other -- nevertheless, sizable crowds lined the streets for him in Edinburgh city centre yesterday -- such is the din created by his critics that the background noise to his visit is the worst of any country that he has visited to date.
But if he came to Ireland in the present climate, it would be at least as bad because over here contempt for Catholicism has replaced hatred of England in certain quarters.
The one-eyed secularist rules and his cry is Paisley's one: 'No Pope here!'