U.K. Catholic convert: The Catholic Church is a “bulwark” in the defense of Christian civilization against secularism.

London, England, Sep 15, 2010 / 08:19 am (CNA).- Belfast-born author and journalist Leo McKinstry has said an anti-Catholic mood before the papal visit to the U.K. is comparable to the sectarianism of Northern Ireland. He blamed the antagonism upon the “politically correct spirit of our age” which emphasizes moral relativism and self-gratification.

McKinstry, a conservative who has written several books, announced his own impending conversion to Catholicism in The Daily Mail on Tuesday. He told how he had a sudden insight into religion in a Venetian chapel when he realized that the “poetry and symbolism” of Catholic ritual are metaphorical devices to evoke a spiritual reaction.

His conversion might seem “extraordinary” because he was raised as a Protestant in Ulster. However, his conversion also runs counter to the “aggressively secular, anti-Christian” nature of modern Britain where the Catholic Church is believed to be “outmoded, reactionary, irrelevant and superstitious.”

“This anti-Catholic mood has been at its most palpable in the run-up to Pope Benedict’s state visit this week, much of it led by militant atheists who, in the name of tolerance, have become utterly intolerant of manifestations of traditional Christian faith,” McKinstry wrote.

He added that he sees a similarity between Northern Ireland sectarianism and anti-papal feeling in Britain today. The Protestant minister Rev. Ian Paisley’s announcement of a demonstration against Pope Benedict’s visit to Glasgow is an action “no different from the noisy army of frenzied secularists,” McKinstry remarked.

Atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins has described the Pope as “a leering old villain in a frock,” while the author Claire Rayner has declared she has never felt “such animus against any individual as I do against this creature.”

“His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us that the only thing to do is to get rid of him,” Rayner has commented.

In McKinstry’s view, these opinions are “alarming but hardly surprising” in a society where Catholicism is “marginalized and despised.”

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