Let's elect a British pope

The Economist holds forth on the "future of the church" in its latest issue and decides that the new pope should be an Anglican. In the leader (a.k.a. "editorial"), the editors argue that religious faith -- at least of the "uncompromising form which John Paul professed" -- has contributed to a "new rancour" and a "spirit of mutual demonisation" when it comes to issues of euthanasia, gay marriage, and abortion being hammered out in Western democracies.

The editorial finishes on the issue of the Catholic Church in the developing world, where the church offers charitable assistance, but where "it seems obvious that the rigid application of the church's teaching on contraception has contributed to many deaths."

The editors opine, "everyone who cares about humanity, whether in God's name or in the name of reason, will rejoice if, under a new pope, the church seeks new ways to affirm the sanctity of life" (by saying that condoms are A-OK).

In the issue's "Special report," the analysts sharpen this criticism. Very few reasonable people, we are told, take Catholic teaching seriously. Granted,

Thanks in part to the pope, and the appeal to some of his intense form of mysticism and piety, there are minorities in many western countries who freely choose to live by rules that are stricter than most citizens can accept.

But those people don't read The Economist, so never mind them.

That isn't snarky exaggeration on my part. Later in the piece, the anonymous essayist argues that the persuasive power of the church is such that it can easily sway the "decisions of third-world governments" in re: abortion. Cue the harrumphs:

As a direct result of this, critics say, the number of women who die as a result of botched, amateur terminations goes up.

No evidence or anything, just "critics say."

The essayist even imports an imaginary everyman poor Catholic cleric to make the case that the church is living in a fairy-tale world:

To many a Catholic priest working in third-world slums, certain things are obvious: it is morally impossible to tell a Brazilian mother who already has a family of six that she must go on bearing children indefinitely -- and it is plain wrong to tell a couple when one or both partners have AIDS that they must avoid condoms.

Look, you can argue that it's ineffective and retrograde and all that, but if you are going to do an article damning the Catholic position on contraception, at least mention natural family planning.

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