Friday, April 15, 2005

"Younge Peeple Of Ireland I luf U"

It's been a while. I was completely laid up with the nastiest flu ever. Ten days in bed and each morning I felt like a bunch of Limerick gangsters had spent the night working me over with claw hammers. To compound the effect, the whole thing mutated into a nasty chest infection. The media, online, offline, and everywhere else were full of death. The Pope, Terri Schiavo, Prince Ranier. It all seemed appropriate, because for the first time in my life death seemed attractive! Thank God, (I was beginning to feel the need to believe), or to be precise, Alexander Fleming, for antibiotics. I resisted taking any until a nice doctor, advised that I could either risk some very serious consequences in my weakened state, or just take the damn things. I acquiesced.
I borrowed a friends Xbox and between extended cable news marathons I Halo'ed myself into oblivion, blasting aliens to bits. The virtual violence took my mind off of how bad I felt. I discovered that Halo and Nyquil are a powerful combination - a free and legal hallucinogen. My nights were filled with fevered dreams of day glo colours, explosions, and bad ass evil aliens out to get me. Fun, fun, fun till Gareth took the Xbox away.
I really wanted to blog about the Pope's death, or more to the point, the Pope himself. Despite the endless commentary in all media, I rarely came across any thoughts by, or interviews with, people like me. People who were brought up Catholic, and who may have admired the Pope for his stand on communism, or the death penalty, but ultimately who had lapsed from any formal religious practice. In other words the people the Pope lost. Every Limerick child went to see the Pope in Greenpark in 1979, but when I think through all my friends today, I cannot think of one who attends Mass regularly, in fact I cannot think of one who attends Mass at all! Even more shocking I can't think of many who baptised their own children. That’s a pretty shocking statistic - but not surprising to those of us of that generation. Our parents worked hard to provide us with options, and almost all of us went to college. I don't think they realised how much we would rebel against the Vatican's convervative interpretation of church teaching. I don't think we ourselves realised how much we would rebel. The Pope liked to blame the church's and the world's problems on our materialism. He missed the point, educated free people don't need the panacea of religion as much. They ask questions and don't accept dogma so easily, especially when it seems to make no real sense. Despite his laudable exhortations to his countrymen to "be not afraid" in the face of communism, and his encouragement of peaceful political protest, he was utterly intolerant of any dissent within the Church. He came down particularly hard on liberal Catholic theologians. Real intellectual discourse was discouraged and even punished if it disagreed with accepted doctrine. Questioning was not persmissible and was often dismissed outright as sacrilege.
His position on women was particularly obnoxious. They were to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped. The Virgin Mary was his template for this. But even a rudimentary reading of the Bible would illustrate the she was one tough broad. She raised the son of God for cryin' out loud. She was an independent women who stepped outside her society's norms, as did other strong biblical women, Mary Magdelene for example. Those women would never have stood on the sidelines, worshipped but ignored.
Ultimately, people realised that they could have the life they wanted by simply ignoring the Church when they wanted to. Society had evolved to where there were no negative consequences to this. Initially, most people probably still attended Mass and broadly accepted Church teaching, but as scandal after scandal went unanswered by the Vatican and a whole new generation of kids grew up, they simply decided that the Church was irrelevant to them. And as things stand now it is. It will take a sea change to win us back.


Blogger Eamonn said...

John, hope you are feeling better. Hate to lay numbers upon you, but they are sometimes revealing. So, here goes from my latest posting: "The population shift is even more dramatic in the Catholic world, where Euro-Americans are now in the minority. Africa had about 16 million Catholics in the early 1950s; it has 120 million today, and is expected to have 228 million by 2025. The World Christian Encyclopedia suggests that by 2025 almost three quarters of all Catholics will be found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America."

This is the present and the future, John. The numbers in Limerick and the Valley are down, as we know, but the Catholic Church is playing a long game (2,000 years and counting) and a global game. The Vatican had ambassadors to China when most developed countries didn't even have diplomatic services. I would contend that it's influence is about to grow again especially as at a time when nation states are losing power.

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am reminded of what the Reverend (not revered by me) Ian Paisley used to say:
"Keck tha poop"
(translation: Kick the Pope).
He was for kicking a different pope, but who's countin'?

7:59 AM  
Blogger John Mc said...

Eamonn, Thanks for your comments, and concern re my health. Unfortunately a mild relapse is occuring. I race mtn bikes, and I raced last sunday. Stupid idea after and illness. Felt fine during the race, but the next day I was coughing and spluttering again :(

Lay the numbers on me. I like numbers. Nor do I doubt that the church will continue to be a global power based on its perceived influence by the worlds politicians. But as in Disreali's oft abused quote. "There are 3 kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics". The latter only tell part of the story. The macro, not the micro. The question is what kind of Catholics will the African's, Asians and Latin Americans be ? I have spent much time in South America, and they are just as blase as we are about condoms, divorce, (recently legalised in Chile) etc. As they become wealthier they are getting more so. If the fruits of globalisation reach Africa and some measure of affluence is attained, they may also make a la carte choices from church doctorine. Given the disaster that is AID's, and how easily it is preventible they may start to resent the church's position and work to change it or leave. Ultimately they will become like us. The laity may increase in numbers, but the Vactican may also become more and more irrelevant to them. Numbers are fun, but inconclusive.

11:29 AM  

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