I'm finding it quite hard to think about the Pope. He's saying some truly evil and stupid things; but can he be blamed?
I'm talking, of course, about his recent public anti-condom statements. He said:
[AIDS is] a tragedy that ... cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.
Well, he's just wrong. You don't need to look for more than 30 seconds to find the UN saying
The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
or Leslie Ramsammy, the World Health Assembly President saying
The statement by the Pope is inconsistent with science, it's inconsistent with our experiences and it is not in sync with what Catholics have experienced and believe.
Now, everyone knows that when religious leaders talk about what's right and what's wrong, they're drawing from medieval ignorance and not from modern enlightenment. But like it or not, most people in the world are religious, and a huge number of religious people follow a religious leader as part of their faith. This gives these people a huge amount of power. There are currently about a billion (!) Catholics in the world, and a lot of people take what the Pope says very seriously.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [Matthew 16:18-19]
Which makes his a position of extreme responsibility. Which makes him (literally) pontificating whereof he is ignorant -- and matters of sexual health and disease prevention are apparently such things -- so dangerous.
So who's at fault, and what's to be done? Is it Ratzinger's fault? Assuming he's not grotesquely cynical, he really believes he has unique access to the will of his god and is sharing his acquired wisdom with his flock.
Well, his flock aren't at fault. If you're extremely poorly educated and brought up from birth to follow Catholicism (a belief-system already known for its insidious affect on mental health) you probably can't help but follow Ratzinger's terrible advice.
So I'm forced to conclude that, yes, it is entirely Ratzinger's fault. Let's not make excuses about this. I don't want to hear "oh, I'm sure he thinks he's doing the right think". Yes, I'm sure he thinks he's doing the right thing, too; but when you've got that much power, you'd better make damned sure that you're actually correct with what you proclaim. And he's most-definitely not correct about this one, and an untold number of people will now suffer as a direct consequence of his Hyde Park Corner-esque ravings.
Perhaps he's mad. Perhaps the Pope is a literal sociopath. But he doesn't really act like one, if you take his behaviour in the context of the Catholic faith. So he's uneducated, and either bewilderingly stupid or wilfully ignorant and (given that if it were the former, he probably wouldn't have got elected) it's probably the latter.
So Ratzinger can legitimately be blamed personally for the ruin he's currently bringing upon the lives of so many of the faithful.
So what's to be done? Well, although I'm not a violent person, and nor do I generally approve of murder in cold blood, I can at least see the argument for the justification of the killing of mass-murders. Not sure I agree with it, but at least I can see where they're coming from. But, ethical considerations aside, it would be a poor strategic move to actually try and kill the Pope. Not only would one be almost-certainly unsuccessful; but even if one managed it, a new and (most-likely) indistinguishably unpleasant one would be almost immediately be elected, and no progress would be made. I've suggested elsewhere that perhaps a citizen's arrest for crimes against humanity would be the way to go, since that would more fruitfully incapacitate Ratzinger, whilst bringing almost as much awareness to his transgressions. But on reflection it's just completely impractical.
So what is the answer? I really don't know. At least lots of people are coming out and complaining about the Pope's loud ignorance. That's certainly better than the slight grumbling that has followed other outrageous and intellectually and morally offensive statements made by religious leaders. And rational people everywhere can keep calling the bullshit they encounter. But with so many people suffering and dying, and with Ratzinger and his cronies with their imaginary infallibility, can this be enough?