Who Are Teaching the (Catholic) Youth

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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.