It seems the Pope doesn't entirely distance himself from the remarks made by Cardinal Kasper. The Pope wisely managed to avoid repeating the Cardinal's offensive reference to the UK being like a Third world country. It is clear though that the Cardinal was expressing Vatican views when he made reference to secularism in the UK.
The Pope said;
"Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the 2 billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world." 1
This comes of course from the man who leads an organisation responsible for covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests and which has sheltered paedophile priests within it's cloisters. Clearly the man has some interest in getting the agenda onto a different subject.
His reference to "aggressive forms of secularism" is of course no accident. It is his intention that his flock and others listening should make the mental connection between atheism /secularism and aggression and violence. This might wash with religious adherents who are already dumbed down by the deadening hand of religious mumbo jumbo but it really doesn't wash as a peace of analysis.
The fact is that almost none of the violence that we see in the world around us today has roots in either secularism or atheism. The vast majority of the violence we see today appears to have it's roots in a tangle of religious and cultural issues.
Religionists love to give Nazism and Communism as examples of what happens when Atheists take control. Again this is simplistic nonsense. These movements , just like religions, had their own Holy Books - Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, which the believers followed as though they were the words of some inspired being. They were in fact political religions. Indeed the record is clear that in Germany many churchmen provided moral and religious cover to the Nazi regime. So such arguments hold little weight and the Pope clearly doesn't understand his history. ( see for example the Wikipedia article on the religious aspects of Nazism )
In Pakistan, India , Northern Ireland and many other places we see terrorism and communal violence which comes from a tangle of religious and cultural issues. In the USA we have seen right wing Christians bomb and murder people involved with family planning clinics. I can't recall the last time I heard of an Atheist strapping on a suicide vest and blowing themselves up - possibly because they dont think they'll be met by scores of virgins in some fictional afterlife. Perhaps there is a secret cadre of "Darwinists " somewhere planning suicide attacks on Churches and Mosques?
The Pope will be happy of course for his flock to make simplistic connections between real violence and secularism or atheism but the Catholic Churches' real fear , and the fear of other religionists, isn't that Atheists are starting to hoard kalshnikovs for some mythical anti-religious revolution.
No my dear Pope, you see us as "aggressive" because we no longer sit passively and quietly while god-botherers like you have the stage of public discourse all to yourself. Secularists and Atheists are increasingly out there, in force, setting out the arguments for the irrationality of religion and pointing out the iniquity and hypocrisy that often accompany religions. That's what you and your like fear. That's why my dear Pope you see us as aggressive.
The problem is that we are parking our logical tanks on your theological lawns and taking you and other religionists on in a battle of rationality and reason. And you know you can't win in the long run. So you and other religious leaders must scare your flocks and make us bogeymen.
The reality is that no atheist or secularist that I know of talks about actually banning religion or religious observance or indeed trying to stop people enjoying their associated "cultural practices" - within reason. The trouble is that one man's religious cultural practice is anothers abuse of human rights.
If you are / were a believer in some forms of African witchcraft ( ** ) then you might think that abuse of so called witch children is religiously and culturally justified. I don't. Sorry - but you dont get to to do that in my country. (** I wonder if turning bread and wine into the body and blood of christ qualifies as witchcraft or sorcery?)
The Catholic Church has it's own set of backward religious / cultural practices - a primitive and repressive approach to birth control and attitudes to homosexuality that offend peoples sense of human rights. So the Church doesn't get to set the agenda in this country on these issues. If that counts as "aggressive" secularism then so be it. If pointing out the hypocrisy and evil of the Church covering up the sexual abuse of children makes us aggressive secularists then so be it. If we have you trembling in your Prada slippers worrying that your flocks may start to think for themselves rather than passively swallowing your religious nonsense then so be it. We need more such aggressive secularism - not less.