Let’s pile on Phil Plait! He’s arguing against the whole “let’s bring the Pope to justice” idea. I will summarize his objections very briefly:
This is not necessarily a skeptical cause, unless they bring a supernatural defense to bear.
Need more tact: “We don’t always need warriors. Sometimes we need diplomats.”
We’re outnumbered and would be pissing off 75 million Catholics.
What do you know…I mostly disagree with all of those points.
It is a skeptical cause. The whole problem arises from the self-righteousness of an organization that believes its authority comes from a supernatural source. There is an assumption of privilege by the Catholic church that they believe justifies a cover-up (not the child rape; that’s deplored as un-Christian, fair enough, but there is a belief that the sanctity of the church must not be questioned.) It should be fair game for a skeptical organization to take on.
That said, though, there is a ton of crazy out there, everywhere. It is entirely reasonable for a given skeptical organization to excuse themselves from this fight — we don’t expect everyone to fight every scrap of woo out there, all at once. However, do not hinder a group that wants to reasonably engage the Catholics by suggesting that this is not appropriate for skeptics. It is.
Phil gets his modifiers wrong. We always need warriors, and we always need diplomats. Both have to be engaged. This is a conflict that has spurred a strong response by the “warrior” element of the skeptical community, but please note: every step of the way, what is being proposed is principled legal action. Not trial by combat. Not rampaging berserkers charging the Popemobile. Lawyers looking into justifiable legal options to address a great wrong being committed by a fabulously rich and arrogant organization.
We’re outnumbered? Crap, so what else is new, and when did we decide that what is proper and true will be decided by popular vote? The fewer men, the greater share of honor; let him depart who has no stomach for the fight; I would not be one who, in his old age, was unable to say that he’d stood for what was right, because he feared the host of those who defended what was wrong. Even if we lose (and I have no illusions that the Pope will actually be perp-walked back onto an airplane and sent away from England), I’m not afraid to support reasoned efforts for an issue of basic human decency.
It’s fine that Phil wants no part of this particular effort. Not every fight can be everyone’s fight. But I think the best position, the strongest position, the noblest stance, is to declare that no institution, whether it is the Catholic Church or the USA or the Girl Scouts, can declare itself exempt from the common rules that regulate human conduct in our culture, and even if we are overwhelmed by the opposition, we must at the very least speak out against the abuse of power…and that includes the privileges that religion has demanded for itself.
But put crowns for convoy into Phil’s purse — just leave his name off the rolls. There’s no dishonor in that, and no honor, either.