02 February 2012

Come, ye children, hearken unto me. I will teach you the fear of the lord

The Internets are broken. Not all of them, just our one. Our ISP is working on it, apparently our uncongested broadband is suffering from, um, congestion. A lot of congestion. More congestion than The Grand Canal at rush hour (the road beside Dublin's Grand Canal, not The Grand Canal in Venice, though that too can get pretty congested, it just looks nicer while doing so). Of course I have a back up internet, I had to take it down of the shelf, dust it off, and place a fresh hamster on the wheel inside (luckily for me I remembered to remove the old hamster the last time I finished with it. You wouldn't believe how nasty it is to remove corroded hamster from your internets, rubber gloves and vinegar just won't cut it). So while my ISP takes up to three working days to flood my Internet tubes with decongestant, my browsing habits are somewhat disrupted.

However in the brief time today that I have been online, I found enough news in my Internet's Feeds (the stuff the Internets eat to keep them going, normally slopped up in huge troughs) to make my blood boil, and thus have slipped a shot of Red Bull into the hamster's drinking bowl to crank up my back-up Internet to 11 and let me upload a post.

We learn this afternoon via The Irish Times that last year €3.4 million was paid out by the State to help disadvantaged families cover the cost of their children's First Holy Communion. For the non-Catholics amongst you, First Holy Communion is the church ceremony when little children first get to eat the body and blood (well, mostly body) of Jesus, normally when they are about seven years old. You are never too young, it seems, for ritualistic cannibalism. To celebrate this momentous occasion parents dress their children up like little brides and grooms, that's right, seven year old girls are placed in wedding dresses and then handed over to a priest to receive instruction on how to eat the flesh of an undead god.

Now as a Consulting Theologian I find all religious traditions equally farcical, if not outright repulsive, but there has always been something particularly repugnant about the sight of little children being "married" to the Church, even ignoring the Manson-esque ritualistic use of blood and human sacrifice to bond a community together, and this was all before wave after wave of abuse scandals broke forth into the public consciousness. The thought that after decades (if not generations) of mental and physical abuse of the Irish people by the Catholic Church, abuse that for some reason still unfathomable to me the State itself has been forced to pay out compensation for on behalf of the Church, that the Citizenry themselves are being forced to pay for children to be indoctrinated into the Church.

It is important to say that the €3.4 million was not to cover the cost of the ceremony itself, nor to pay the Church for its munificence in accepting these latest devotees, rather it has largely been to assist parents in covering the costs of dressing their children up like tiny porcelain Brides of Christ. Even if the Church itself was unwilling to cover these costs, it could help out its flock in disadvantaged areas by insisting that the children simply wore their school uniforms (most First Communions are still arranged through the local primary school). When pressed on this issue the Church often responds that it is the parents, not it, that insist on dressing their children so extravagantly, that it is powerless in the face of such parental sentiment.

Which seems odd, given how comfortable the Church is with telling people what they can and cannot do with each other in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

No matter, the ludicrous foibles of any given religion are not my concern here, rather it is the thought that we the Citizenry are, once again, being forced to pay for such foibles. I am not foolish enough to believe that here in Ireland we enjoy any true measure of separation of Church and State, the preamble of our Constitution begins with:
"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions of both men and States must be referred, We the people of Eire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial"
which is unsurprising given that final approval for the text was given by Dev to John McQuaid, later Archbishop and Primate of Ireland, and coincidentally the subject of a number of later serious allegations concerning abuse (The more superstitious of you would be forgiven for wondering how much of the State's historical and contemporary abdication of its responsibility to the most vulnerable and marginalized of its citizens stems from the fact that its foundation document was co-authored by an alleged perpetrator of physical abuse, cursing the institution of the State itself from inception with his allegedly unspeakable crimes, but as a Consulting Theologian I, of course, dismiss all such notions of witchcraft and voodoo). However I would have thought that in light of recent abuse scandals, the payments made by the State on behalf of the Church to the countless victims of its abuse, and the economic crash that we seem to have found ourselves in by collectively partying too hard*, the matter of payments for Holy Communion might have been reviewed at an earlier stage.

As I finished digesting this nugget of ecumenical joy, my eyes then fell on the next nugget of mystery meat in the Feeds trough of my back-up Internet, a report that a meeting of Fine Gael TDs (at which An Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke) unanimously called for the decision to close the Vatican embassy to be reversed. The Vatican is a city state approximately 110 acres in size, entirely surrounded by the city of Rome, a city which, being the Italian capital, already contains an Embassy of the Republic of Ireland, an Embassy that, according to a popular online map service, is a 1.8km walk from the other Embassy, the one for the Holy See. Two Embassies within two kilometers of each other, and Fine Gael votes to keep them both open one week after deciding to hand over €1.25 billion to the holders of unsecured Anglo Irish Bank bonds.

Let us take a moment to review this: 1) The Catholic Church abuses thousands of Irish citizens, 2) The State decides that the Citizenry will cover the cost of millions in compensation on behalf of the Catholic Church to victims of its abuse, 3) The State decides that the Citizenry will pay out millions each year to cover the costs associated with the indoctrination of children into the Catholic Church, 4) The Citizenry are forced to cover the costs of having a dedicated representative to the Catholic Church in Rome.

Insult, meet injury. You two are going to be the bestest of friends.

Maybe it's a good thing that my Internet is broken. A steady diet of morsels like this from my Feeds trough would kill me.

*While we're on the subject of partying too hard, the thought occurred to me that when the property bubble burst and the developers all went bust, the Government bailed them all out, then set up NAMA to seize and manage their assets supposedly on behalf of the Citizenry. When the Catholic Church abused thousands of children, the Government also decided to bail the priests out, so where is the clerical NAMA to seize the Church's assets and manage them on behalf of the citizenry?



At 11:34 am, Blogger Aidan said...

I really enjoyed this Dave. Bile and Rage infused with light hearted banter. Like Michael McIntyre channeling Bill Hicks (but in a good way). Really.


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