I remember the Pope’s visit to Ireland in 1979. I had recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and had just started primary school. Pope John Paul 2’s visit entranced the land. It was like Garth Brooks had risen from the dead and was playing his comeback concert in Ireland. Everyone was talking about it at school. Beatlemania had nothing on this. John, Paul, George and Ringo held far less sex appeal than John-Paul. John-Paul in fact stirred feelings in the loins of people of all ages and sexes. A million people gathered in the Phoenix Park to shriek their appreciation of the Body of Christ – the largest single gathering of Irish people ever. It was all very intense.
It was a simpler time. Priests didn’t sexually abuse children. The church’s imprisonment of unmarried mothers; and the murder, or trafficking, or abuse of their bastard babies was all for their own good really. Good little Ireland was moral and godly, where the mortal sins of contraception, divorce, homosexuality and abortion were banned. Ireland was not going to be immoral and Protestant like our colonial oppressors, from who we had freed ourselves just over half a century earlier. We were a land where comely maidens would dance at the crossroads, but if they showed their ankles in a lewd manner then they were sluts, and deserved to be sent to a mother and baby home if they had the bad luck to get knocked up.
The forty years since then has seen Ireland receive a much needed, and very rude awakening when it comes to the church. The new don, Frankie, is visiting this weekend. Like on the previous occasion, he will be giving us a dose of Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday. This time half a million attendees will be present – the numbers are restricted by the police to that still colossal number. I am slightly hopeful the number of the attendees will be less. Forcing an elderly crowd of the faithful to walk 8 kilometres to reach the outdoor gig venue seems to a large ask. Some others have ordered tickets but have not the slightest intention of attending. These people have been condemned by the faithful as denying a place to someone who would enjoy the show.
There’s also a big counter-protest in the Garden of Remembrance to condemn the church for its continuing protection of paedophiles from the highest levels; and its refusal to pay the money it owes to the survivors of the abuse.
I will not be attending any church or anti-church events. The church has absolutely no relevance to my life. Having been an atheist for decades, I care not a jot about its opinions on any matter. Not having suffered abuse at the hands of any priest or nun, I don’t need an apology from anyone. I just want to pretend it doesn’t exist, and to pretend this visit is not happening.
Sadly I suspect that Frankie’s presence is going to complicate our get-in to the theatre for the play to prepare for the premiere of my new play on Tuesday. Dublin is on lock-down this weekend, to welcome the faithful.
If you are religiously inclined yourself, then I’d encourage you to come see ‘Mother’s Little Treasure’ next week. It features a good Christian woman Carol Delaney. Her vinegar lips are eternally pursed in holiness and judgement.