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Beleaguered Catholic Church struggles against secular tide

As Benedict XVI's arrival in Britain on 16 September draws ever closer, the list of those attacking him grows longer. First, there were militant atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who want the pope to be arrested for what they allege is his complicity in covering up the crimes of paedophile priests. Then a Foreign Office mandarin, in a leaked memo, took a pop at papal teaching and suggested Benedict should be asked to visit an abortion clinic or launch his own brand of condoms.

There has also been a growing chorus of complaint about why British taxpayers, in this age of austerity, should pay £12m towards the cost of the pope's three days in Britain. And now Penguin is to publish, on the eve of the visit, The Case of the Pope, a polemical tract by a leading human rights barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC, arguing that Benedict should be stripped by the international community of his status as "the one man left in the world who is above the law".

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