The are thousands of abused children who will be glad to see the back of Pope Benedict XVI. There will be countless thousands of Aids victims glad to see the back of him. There will be millions of women who will be glad to see the back of him, and, like me, many millions of men who say he should have gone long before.
Pope Benedict has resigned. Who could conceivably take over? Who has the stature? Who has already "felt the hand of history on his shoulder"?
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Y'know... well... step up to the plate... Tony Blair. At last a vacancy for a post worthy of him. After he has made a full confession, of course. In the Hague.
The Pope lived according to his lights, but his lights were dim.
The Rev Dr David L Gosling
Peter Stanford writes movingly of his unhappiness at the Catholic Church's campaign against gay marriage and its intransigence on other issues (8 February). But how much longer will liberals in the pews continue to accept reluctantly rather than challenge the Church's flawed teaching on key questions of morality and social justice?
As ever, the problems revolve around sex and clerical authority. The ancient and unhealthy obsession with the naughtiness of sex determines not only attitudes towards homosexuality, but also doctrine on a range of other issues: the exclusively male and celibate priesthood (with all that that entails), the very minor role of women, prescriptive attitudes towards female fertility. Meanwhile, insistence on absolute clerical authority has led to the shameful covering up of abuses like the Magdalene laundries and priestly paedophilia.
What is puzzling is not that the Vatican and local hierarchies should hang on to their tattered magisterium like grim death, but why the majority of Catholics seem not sufficiently moved to want to challenge traditional doctrine and practice more openly or to leave the Church in much larger numbers.
I feel sure that Dr Gemma Stockford (letter, 11 February), like many others, would always support the downtrodden and oppressed because of common empathy and humanitarian concern, even without the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.
She has added her voice to the many we have heard in the last few years who are "embarrassed and ashamed" by their church for a variety of reasons. I cannot understand why Dr Stockford and those like her continue their membership of this unpleasant organisation.
I wish to respond to the general drift of recent comments on homosexuality in its widest sense, as exemplified by Peter Stanford's article and the letter from Dr Stockford.
The Catholic Church does not to any degree distance homosexuals from its care. However, it does believe that Jesus wanted man and woman to adhere to their natural God-given natures.
Which leads us to the question, what is a homosexual? There is no clear scientific answer, and even if there was for some people, what does that imply for their moral ability to choose? Your contributors are in danger of moving towards relativism.
Jesus wanted us to love one another, but with love goes a deep sense of responsibility to consider, in this case for Catholics, the divine origin of the Church. It is not a fashion club, at the end of the day however uncomfortable that may be.
End the court ordeal for abuse victims
If the judge in the Frances Andrade sexual assault trial can state that there could be no criticism of the way the defence barrister had conducted her cross-examination, then maybe it is time to change the way sexual assaults are tried.
Maybe we need to use the inquisitorial (non-adversarial) system used by the French to find out what exactly happened, rather than recreate what was always an unequal contest between perpetrator and victim.
The legal fraternity will argue that an accused requires a robust defence. The problem is that as a society we land almost the entire responsibility for whistleblowing in sexual abuse cases on the weakest, those already greatly damaged by their experiences. They are then forced through a grinding process which threatens to further undermine them, in this recent case with tragic results.
There are no easy answers. It is however imperative that the weight be taken off the abuse victim. Evidence needs to be rigorously sought beyond the child or adult victim's testimony. Experts say there is almost always corroboration from other sources – witnesses to the general ambience, those who were told at the time, medical records etc. It is just not looked for.
Anger against urban foxes
This was an extremely rare and tragic occurrence that cannot be corrected by exterminating England's wildlife ("Stop feeding foxes, public is told, after baby boy attacked in his bedroom", 11 February).
When the dust settles, children are at far, far greater risk from being injured by toys and even their playmates than by foxes. We wouldn't kill off all the neighbourhood dogs because of a single dog attack.
Foxes are part of nature, and we must act responsibly towards those who are under threat themselves in our developed urban areas. They have far more to fear from us than we do from them, including, already, the loss of their habitat.
Associate Director, People for the Ethical treatment of Animals
Not having a gun, how do I remove the increasing number of foxes from my small garden? They mess, they pee, they sit on plants and squash them, they walk along my 10ft high hedges and the first-floor roofs of neighbours. When finished with all these activities they lie on the top of hedges and sleep.
Bedroom tax and soldier sons
In "Rest in Peace Richard III. But woe betide anyone with a spare bedroom" (7 February), "Alison" resents the fact that because of the bedroom tax, her serving soldier sons won't have a place to return to when home on leave.
If this is her sons' only home, it seems reasonable to expect them to contribute to the running costs, given that both are in paid employment.
And if they are funding homes elsewhere, it is unreasonable to expect the state to maintain a now too-large family home, just so "Alison's" boys can come and visit.
What we want and what we need are different things, and the welfare state is there to support us in our needs, not our wants.
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
All have a right to be coerced
The revelation in court that Vicky Pryce's defence under the 1925 Criminal Justice Act of marital coercion is available only to wives is a moral disgrace.
Given the current frenzy of law-making based on "equality", may we now expect to see the Union of Henpecked Husbands lobbying that under the Human Rights Act a coercive defence cannot be denied to a timid husband?
Furthermore, it cannot be long before the Union of Homosexual Henpecked Husbands quite rightly enters the fray and demands recognition that a husband can indeed coerce his husband.
And surely, in the admirable spirit of our age, public money must be used to ensure that a wife who coerces her wife is not shielded from the legal equality for which we have long battled?
Public interest in Huhne messages
I read with sadness your miserable, self-justifying apology for not publishing the full text of the messages between Chris Huhne and his son. To quote your Letter from the Editor (9 February): "We did not put the entire text conversations in the paper. ... If that made us seem weak, versus our rivals ... so be it."
No, what made you seem weak was publishing them at all. There was no public interest other than prurient curiosity. I think you realised that too, hence the need for such a pusillanimous excuse.
Headley Down, Hampshire
The sentiments expressed by the Editor in relation to publication of Chris Huhne's e-mail exchange with his son made me realise once again why I have read The Independent almost since the day it was first published. May you never change!
The fans of Richard III
Inevitably the Richard III Society hails the discovery of their hero's bones as proof that he was a good guy, whose waxwork portrait looks far too nice to eliminate the juvenile king and his heir, and, in usurping the crown, execute, without trial, senior members of his sister-in-law's family and Lord Chamberlain Hastings.
A scientific account of the Leicester excavation must be written, more objective than the Channel 4 programme, in which archaeology, history, telly commercials and the emotions of Philippa Langley, one of Richard's most ardent fans, had pretty much equal billing.
Could the cost of re-interring Richard III not be paid from the fines for over-staying in the car park?
Keighley, West Yorkshire
Our red tape
John Morgan (Letters, 4 February) asks why Brussels is harming Britain's competitiveness, but not Germany's. It is because the red tape is of our own making. In the quest for "better regulation", we transpose EU Directives into national law by "copying through" the clauses of their Articles. Any attempt at strategic integration is myopically regarded as "gold plating" and killed off. The result is disconnected bureaucratic fragments. It is time for some imagination in Whitehall.
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