So, Il Duce is coming, sorry...Il Papa, is coming to Ireland this week, hot on the heels of the Grand Jury Report from Philadelphia (for a World Meeting of Families, no less!! You couldn't make it up!) which outed a stomach-turning 300 plus paedophiles who operated in the Philadelphia area, and who abused more than a 1000 children over 70 years, and also detailed how their crimes were consistently covered up by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Pope issued a half-baked apology promising to do more which means nothing considering how long this issue has been going on and also considering, how little has been done so far. I watched the video of the Grand Jury report and the details were sickening. I really don't know how anyone with a 'Christian' conscience could continue to support this organisation. But in my experience, I have found that the better Catholic you are, the less 'Christian' you are. Does the actual reality of what has been done never fully hit home? Grown men, so-called 'men of God', raped and sexually abused children, some as young as 18 months old! How can anyone be ambiguous about that? But, unfortunately, they will and I include members of my own family in that, it's like talking to a wall. It is so ingrained in their lives and their thinking, they can't envisage a life without the Catholic Church, too scared to let go and driven by some perverted sense of loyalty, their Catholic identity intricately tied in with their Irish identity and unable to separate the two. Like the DUP supporters and their Britishness who turned out to support Ian Jr recently; it's their side, so they'll stand by them to the death, regardless of how rotten or corrupt they are.
But as sickening as this is, what gets me even more is the cowardice and hypocrisy of the clergy, those so-called 'good' priests within the Church who are supposed to be decent people and who stay silent, and kow-tow to the hierarchy, refusing to condemn the horror in their midst and helping, still, to cover it up; too lazy and/or too scared to rock the boat, settling for the easy life, going along to get along.
Most of the priests and nuns, I’ve ever known, were priests and nuns, not out of any great spiritual experience but because of family pressure, a way of avoiding life or as a place to hide out. In Ireland, not so much now, as back in the day (but it still goes on too) it was the perfect hide out for homosexual men and women; a way of gaining acceptance and respect in society without any awkward questions ever being asked. It also provides an easy life; they never have to worry about bills, where they will live, or where the next meal is coming from. They are taken care of, they never face any real challenges and, as a consequence, they never really grow up either.
But my biggest problem with the whole Catholic ethos is the perversion, not just within their ranks, but the perversion of the life and legacy of Jesus. I mean, if Jesus Christ was here now, what do you think he would say about an institution that has covered up the rape and sexual abuse of children? ‘Suffer little children to come unto me?’ I don’t think so.
But Catholics do love to suffer, it’s an integral part of the whole religion, how Christ suffered and died for our sins. His suffering on the cross, the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, the slaughter and suffering of the Holy Infants when he was born, John the Baptist's suffering, Mary’s suffering at losing her son, everybody suffering under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Keep piling on the guilt trips because this was all done for you, you, worthless ingrate! At least, that’s what they tried to tell us.
Well, I never asked him to, quite frankly, I think it was a waste of his time. By the way, the whole ‘coming back’ thing, I don’t think it’s going to happen, I mean it’s been 2000 years, something tells me, he’s not coming.
However, this narrative plays out so well in Ireland because we suffered too. We suffered at the hands of the British Empire, we suffered under their yoke, we suffered to hold on to our Catholic faith when it was outlawed by the state, and we continue to suffer. We suffered under the hammer of the Orangemen and still we suffer…have you seen our politicians? And, the weather is crap at the moment too and the Tories are still in power, aarrrggghhhh! My God, this suffering never ends!
But again, this is all to a point, because the more you suffer, the greater your reward will be in Heaven, like those fanatical Muslims and their 76 virgins, their reward for martyrdom! Funny, I was wondering about this the other day, (I know, I really need to get out more!) but what happens after you’ve shagged the 76 virgins?
Anyway, back to the suffering…what this does, is to allow for suffering to continue, it’s imbues it with honour, just stay on your knees and keep praying for things to get better, or for the ‘strength to endure the suffering’. Oh, they like that one, the strength to endure. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Plays right into the whole martyrdom thing. Instead of saying ‘Right, that’s it, I’ve suffered enough, I’m going to get up off my knees and do something about this, you endure your suffering, you wear it like a badge of honour, where everyone can see it, especially, where everyone can see it. You keep enduring, wallowing in self-pity at your hard time because you do it for 'God' and your faith! Like the abused Catholic wife, enduring the assaults, the infidelity, the misery of it all because she has 'made sure' everyone knows what a bastard he is but she will keep going because she's a good Catholic, and she made her vows, and because she knows she will get her reward when she is DEAD!??
Now, I’m not saying a little suffering or a hard time can’t teach you some life lessons but come on, let’s get some balance here. You will suffer at some point in life that is guaranteed, we will lose people we loved and cared for, we will run into 'bastards' along the way but to make the life of Christ into a marathon of suffering and endurance is to miss the point completely. It's a perversion of what Jesus was about. The Christian Church should be about what he said, how he challenged the Pharisees and their hypocrisy, how he stripped away the social hierarchies and treated everyone as equals. Those things have been lost in the midst of the suffering, the re-writing of history, the attempts at social control and most importantly, the money-making.
Yes, because in reality the Catholic Church is business first, I was going to say, spirituality second, but there is absolutely nothing spiritual or sacred in an institution that protects the vilest of humanity and covers up their crimes. There is no second, apart from protecting their wealth and position at all costs. The details of what happened in Philadelphia and what was covered up, is nothing more than the tip of a very large iceberg. This has been going on for decades, not just in Philadelphia but around the world, I dread to think what they got away with in places like Africa and South America and are, in all probability, still getting away with. Those that stayed silent, who helped to cover up the abuses and who continue to obstruct justice, are just as culpable as the perpetrators. And the faithful? What of them?
Ireland has changed a lot in many ways since the last visit by a Pope. I remember it well, the whole place was decorated with Pope flags and thousands headed off on buses to see him. I wasn’t among them. Now, there isn’t a flag in sight, other than in the local churches and I don’t think there will be too many bus loads this time either. However, some things haven’t changed and they still maintain a lot of control through the schools which is why the majority here still go along to get along. Weekly attendance at mass may have gone down but the congregations still turn out for the occasions, Christmas, Easter, Holy Communions etc: Social Catholics rather than devout followers. But the point is, they still keep turning out which keeps the Church going financially and institutionally, and as long as the money keeps rolling in, and they aren’t being fully held to account, then there is no incentive to change or fully address these issues head on.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets, and how many do turn out. There is opposition and some quite vocal opposition but Ireland as a whole, is still too eager to please, too keen to show the world how grown-up they are, or think they are, too willing to overlook and forgive the unforgivable. Because it’s easier to say I forgive and turn away with false humility than to address it head on and call it out for what it is, an appalling abuse of power and dereliction of duty against the weakest and most vulnerable in society.