Who Are Teaching the (Catholic) Youth

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 4, 2006 — 10 Comments

One usually has to troll the far-right depths to find outright virulent anti-Pagan sentiment. So it is always a bit shocking when you see it happen in a place like Glastonbury where the perpetrators are Catholic youth on retreat.

“Pagans living in Glastonbury have been attacked and abused by a group of young Catholic pilgrims who threatened to “cleanse” them from the town, it was claimed today. Trouble flared during a procession organised by Youth 2000, when local pagans were pelted with salt and branded witches in the historic Somerset town. Much of the dissent focused on the pagan shop Magick Box, which was on the route of the march.”

Threats, intimidation, abuse and even theft were the calling cards of some so-called Christians involved.

“We’ve had to hear comments such as ‘burn the witches’, we’ve had salt thrown in our faces and at our shop, people were openly saying they were ‘cleansing Glastonbury of the paganism’. It was as if we had returned to the Dark Ages. This is hugely damaging to Glastonbury, of which I would suggest two-thirds is pagan.”

Youth 2000, the Catholic group that organized the event, gives a half-hearted non-apology on its web site and claims that *they* were victims too.

“We are saddened to hear some people felt offended and are deeply sorry for any distress that may have been caused to people in the local community by thoughtless individuals who do not represent our spirit of peaceful prayer…There were several incidents that happened that same weekend that were linked to people who had come to Glastonbury for the retreat. One involved an abusive exchange of words in a local shop, which the owner found offensive and led to police intervention. Because of this, the person involved in this was not allowed to register at our retreat. Another involved directing blessed salt at some pagans witnessing the procession. Youth 2000 does not condone or encourage this kind of behaviour from anyone. We fully agree that differences on matters of faith cannot and should not be resolved by any kind of harassment. That said, we need to remember that there are two sides to every story. Youth 2000 is concerned that young people at the retreat were harassed, sworn at and even cursed by people present in the town at the time.”

Funny that there are no reports outside of Youth 2000 of harassed youth, nor any mention of arrest or tickets to harassers of Catholics (the matter of Pagan harassers is also debunked by local Pagan Liz Williams). If the matter was so mutual, why would Father Kevin Knox-Lecky, of St Mary’s church, offer his resignation?

“Anyway, some local pagan folk have now met up with the priest in charge, just off the phone with his bishop, apparently. It appears that the bishop may have given him something of a clerical bollocking (most bishops are very hip to the powers of the media and adverse publicity; that’s how they get to be bishops). Father K has issued a profuse apology to local pagans and offered his resignation, which was regarded as somewhat beyond the call of duty but very decent indeed. Members of the congregations of the 2 main churches in town, which had nothing to do with the march, have been going into the shop most affected and apologising on behalf of their alleged co-religionists.”

The end result of all this is that Youth 2000 will not be holding a festival in Glastonbury next year (or ever again according to some reports). Hopefully this will restore the peaceful equilibrium between local Christians and Pagans (both groups consider Glastonbury a holy place). For a great day-by-day account of the Catholic festival and the Pagan reaction to it, please read Liz William’s journal, the relevant entries start on October 29th.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a new radicalism brewing in the Catholic world. Is part of this due to Pope Benedict’s rhetoric and attitudes towards inter-faith relations, his assertions that the Nazi’s were born from “neo-paganism” and not a long-smoldering anti-Jewish Catholic sentiment, and a general disdain towards secular Europe? It is perhaps telling that the trouble started when “International” Catholic outsiders from Youth 2000 entered into a local situation they didn’t care to understand. One hopes this truly is an isolated incident and not a harbinger of relations between modern Pagans and Catholics.

Addendum: The Guardian and The Times are also covering the story.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Bartholomew

    I found this advert on a Christian forum, now deleted but published before the march. The rhetoric is interesting:has the light on your halo gone dark?have your wings gone a bit grubby?just want to switch your faith back on?Then you could do with attending Lightswitch@Glastonbury, an alternative Hallowe’en festival for those who have grown tired of tatty fancy dress and the Blair Witch Project.In an article in The Universe, Youth 2000’s David Ashford describes the modern-day stand-off:“[In Glastonbury] this dramatic play-off between good and evil rages on. It’s been viewed as a special place by both sides for centuries. Until the Middle Ages, there was a major shrine there dedicated to Our Lady of Glastonbury and people travelled for miles to visit the Abbey on pilgrimage.”“Nowadays, the Christian significance of Glastonbury is less well-known, but it has become a magnet for modern-day pagan religions, with the Tor in particular being a focus point for Wiccan worship.”Highlights include: “Pilgrimage to the Tor, prayer to combat the darkness at this holy spot.”

  • Anonymous

    sad -just is mockery-but I’m glad that “we sow what we reap” the worst pagans can be the ones that hide behind religion-instead of the ones that let Jesus into their heart and live for him-in care and prayer-the blood of Jesus sets free to be all you can be-in amazing grace that saved a wretch like me–peace up to all

  • Anonymous

    its interesting -and Jesus never gives up on anyone-not even those that say they love him-when he says if you love me keep my commandments-to “Love God with all your heart and soul and your fellow man (even pagans) as you love yourself.”

  • Jenn93

    It is interesting. When I went to high school, a great deal of people (not all) who wore a crucifix around their neck were the same people who put kittens on the car engine, closed the hood, and ran the car engine(no joke.) Many of these people attacked anyone who wore dark clothing and verbally or physically attacked Pagans. On the other hand there were a great many Christian people I sat and talked to who didn’t put words in my mouth, take what I say out of context, lie, make assumptions, or call me names (some did). These people were interesting and I loved their company. Unfortunatly, many of them stopped being my friend as soon as they realized that despite their kindness and honesty, I simply do not believe in their god, practices, and cosmology, and was not going to convert. I suppose they were frusterated because they figured if they treat me like a human being (which everyone is suppost to do anyway) then I will abandon my honest belifs and expiriences and go with them. Meanwhile, the kindest, most level headed, loving people I ever met are Pagans. I’m not saying one group is more loving than the other. I’m saying the opposite. No one group has a monopoly on love. Pagans and other religions expirience Divine Love as well, and until people except that, they are going to be very frusterated. Christians believe you cannot be saved unless you accept Jesus. No exceptions. Whether they are loving or dangerous, many Pagans who know in their heart, head, body and soul that they are on the right path are not going to give it up. That must be terribly frusterating for them.

  • Daven

    Hopefully this will restore the peaceful equilibrium between local Christians and Pagans (both groups consider Glastonbury a holy place). Would that the Jews, Christians and Muslims act with the same decorum and consideration in regards to Jerusalem. It might solve a lot of problems.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the heads-up to my blog!With regard to this:>One involved an abusive exchange of words in a local shop, which the owner found offensive and led to police intervention. Because of this, the person involved in this was not allowed to register at our retreat. I should think the owner did find it offensive, given that she was called a whore and asked how she’d like the young man’s fist up her ass. All this was captured on CCTV…The sister of the shop owner is, by the way, an Anglican vicar. So it’s not as though she goes out of her way to avoid Christians. The retreat has been cancelled for next year, and many of the local pagan community, including myself, feel that this is a shame. Glastonbury is an ancient seat of Christianity as well as of paganism (its Christian past is actually rather more concretely established than its pagan past, in fact). Many of those young people have now been deprived of a valuable spiritual experience because of the actions of a few.I’ve written to Fr Knox-Lecky to invite him down to the shop and see what we actually do. My partner is from a Wiccan background but is also a Druid, as am I. There’s no conflict between Druidry and Christianity. But there’s no room for intolerance and bigotry, either.

  • mark and sopka

    When you read enough articles one willows out the truth out here in the heartland. After last Winter solstice hysteria about Christmas it was decided to de-demonize Halloween and shove christ in it. So what we unbelievers where accused of doing last year to christmas the church in its myriad of incarnations decided to do to Halloween this year. In describing why they had to take back halloweeen and force children to listen to a sermon on a more less secular holiday for most american families was the demonization of Celtic history and folklore and folkmagic the rhetoric used is not nice or pretty. I hear it also happened in england concerted effort to santifiy and pastuerize Halloween. Of course when doing so one make the old ways look bad and the pepole of those ways pagans less than lest a good christian child be attracted to paganinsm. When young people get a scent of a disapproved minority they can’t help venting hormonal angst and rage at a convenient scapegoat

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