Now it seems Richard Dawkins didn't fancy being left out of the game, as in his contribution to the Washington Post's On Faith column, he picks up where Fry and Hitchens left off. Offering his views on the Vatican's offer to disaffected Anglicans, he begins:
"What major institution most deserves the title of greatest force for evil in the world? In a field of stiff competition, the Roman Catholic Church is surely up there among the leaders. The Anglican church has at least a few shreds of decency, traces of kindness and humanity with which Jesus himself might have connected, however tenuously: a generosity of spirit, of respect for women, and of Christ-like compassion for the less fortunate. The Anglican church does not cleave to the dotty idea that a priest, by blessing bread and wine, can transform it literally into a cannibal feast; nor to the nastier idea that possession of testicles is an essential qualification to perform the rite. It does not send its missionaries out to tell deliberate lies to AIDS-weakened Africans, about the alleged ineffectiveness of condoms in protecting against HIV. Whether one agrees with him or not, there is a saintly quality in the Archbishop of Canterbury, a benignity of countenance, a well-meaning sincerity. How does Pope Ratzinger measure up? The comparison is almost embarrassing."He continues in a similar vain, and I urge you to read the full piece. Dawkins, of course, has a point (admit it, if you had to choose, you'd join the C of E rather than follow Benedict and his boys), and he's very funny with it, especially when he states that, in opening its doors to Anglicans, "the Roman Catholic Church, is dragging its flowing skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp". His tone, however, has not impressed Catholic Herald editor and Telegraph blogger Damian Thompson who, under the heading "Richard Dawkins's latest attack on the Catholic Church is vicious and crazy. The man needs help", declares:
Richard Dawkins’s latest attack on the Catholic Church is worthy of a dribbling loony on the top of a bus. He calls the Church “the greatest force for evil in the world”, “an institution where buggering altar boys pervades the culture” and describes it “dragging its skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp”. (Pimps in skirts – that’s a new one.) And all in The Washington Post.
The peg for this piece? The Pope’s offer to make special arrangements for Anglicans converting to Rome, a matter I would have thought was none of Prof Dawkins’s business. But I’m not going to bother to argue with any of his points, because these are the ravings of a man who appears to have lost all sense of proportion. Seriously: is there something wrong with him?
Fortunately, the irony of Thompson referring to an opinion piece as "vicious and crazy" was not lost in the blogosphere, with the Heresiarch (I think that's his real name...), who runs one of my favourite blogs Heresy Corner, articulating what anyone who knows Thompson's work was thinking. Here's a sample:
Thompson's house style of triumphalist, sneering, ultra-papalist camp - in which he is joined, day after day, by a claque of equally mean-spirited groupies and hangers-on - does more damage to the image of Catholicism than Richard Dawkins ever could. I've never been as offensive about any Christian as Damian manages to be, virtually every day, about his fellow Roman Catholics who happen to have different views to his about the liturgy, or politics, or the status of Joseph Ratzinger as the greatest being to occupy the throne of St Peter since the days of Gregory the Great. His reaction to the prospect of Anglo-Catholic defections to Rome has been very much in character: catty, obsequious towards the Vatican, vainglorious, snidely dismissive of both Rowan Williams and the "liberal" (by his standards) Catholic hierarchy in England, and crudely self-promoting.
Great work - pay Heresy Corner a visit and read the rest.