I write in reply to Alessandro Cowley’s letter from last week’s edition, in which he outlines how offended he is by Honi Soit mocking the Pope. Alessandro draws comparisons to racism, classism and ableism. The difference is that a person can’t choose to be black and there is nothing wrong with it anyway. One does choose whether to be part of a religion and they should bear some responsibility for its crimes and quirks.
The Catholic Church is one of the richest, most powerful institutions in the world. Complaining about people mocking the Pope in a student paper is like me complaining about “misandry”. Throughout most of its history the Church has been the oppressor, not the oppressed. Critiquing the powerful is not discrimination. It is integral to civil society.
Whilst in some circumstances like the workplace Catholics people deserve the same protections against discrimination as genuine marginalised groups, that is not the case for Honi Soit. Debating or mocking religious beliefs in public discourse at a university is not unusual or wrong.
Considering the crusades, inquisitions, slaughter of Native Americans, witch hunts, the film Noah starring Russell Crowe, helping spread AIDS in Africa, collaboration with Fascists in Spain, telling people they will go to hell for sodomy, institutional child abuse and of course believing the world goes around because of magic, making fun of a silly hat the Pope used to wear is letting Catholics off lightly.