EU To Ban Crucifixions – Ben Dunne

It’s now got worse, they want us to do away with crucifixions, they want us to deny we are Christians publicly.

Ben Dunne either advertising his chain of gyms or his contempt for democracy. Possibly both.

So said Ben Dunne, in a bizarre tirade to a radio chat show. The paper corrects him to ‘crucifixes’, sadly, but the rest of his wild and weird inaccuracies – that the EU wants Ireland to stop playing the Angelus bell on public radio, or Christianity is being banned and that European money is somehow contingent on this – still stand.

Of course, most of you don’t know who Ben Dunne is. Time to put on your safety harness, we’re off on a brief, scary ride through the dark side of Irish politics.

A former tycoon, famous for lavishing gifts of money on politicians, more famous for an embarrassingly public cocaine-and-hooker freakout in an Orlando hotel (my favourite response: A t-shirt with a map of Florida, a line of coke, and the legend “Ben There, Dunne That”), most famous now for his part in business dealings described by a public judicial investigation as, “profoundly corrupt to a degree that was nothing short of breathtaking”. Yet there he was on the radio, ranting – even raving – in defence of his religion.

Pretty sure his religion was wishing he’d shut the hell up.

Before the last Lisbon Treaty, one of the things I got a commitment from senior people in politics about was that the Angelus wouldn’t be done away with.

He thinks he can get politicians to change continent-wide treaties to suit his personal desires. The scary thing is, there was a time when that might not have been delusion.

Of course, the Lisbon Treaty had as much to do with broadcasting the Angelus as it did with tourist visas for mermaids. Opposition to Ireland’s national broadcaster playing one religion’s chimes every day doesn’t come from the European Union. It comes from Irish people who want the separation of church and state to actually mean something. Anything.

Dunne is clearly teetering on the edge of derangement. You would feel sorry for him if it wasn’t for his egotism and bullish bluster, and for the incredibly destructive influence he has had on Irish democracy. He cannot be scapegoated for all political corruption – there’s simply far too much of it – but he is so perfectly emblematic of it. And in a way it explains his faith – or perhaps vice versa. How else could he have done all that, without an unshakeable belief in a saviour who can forgive anything?

But he is a man out of time. There were headlines when the census results were released about Ireland still being ‘overwhelmingly Catholic’ after all that has happened, but that really depends on what you mean by Catholic. Sure, 84 percent of the population identified themselves as such, but for a lot of people religious affiliation is mainly just that – a cultural, historical identity. Many assume that you are supposed to put down the religion you were born into, whatever you actually believe now.

Two thirds of those who call themselves Catholic don’t attend a weekly mass any more – and that’s according to a survey published the church (PDF). Three quarters find the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant”, and a similar proportion says woman should be allowed to be priests. Three in five think the Church is wrong about homosexuality. 87 percent think that priests ought to be allowed to marry.

If we define being Catholic as accepting Catholic dogma, there are almost no Catholics in Ireland at all. It’s mainly just Ben.

Priestly Identity

Why would the Vatican think that further separating seminarians from other students can help prevent them abusing children? If anything, becoming more enclosed and collegiate will make them less likely to reveal the criminals within their ranks, not more. What this tells us about the Church’s mentality is shocking, but not surprising. Inevitably a religious institution, even one as worldly and cynical as this, reverts to magical thinking: As God’s representative on Earth it cannot be wrong, not fundamentally. Therefore the causes of abuse must come from outside. It stands to reason.

The further implication is that the problem can somehow be traced back to the slight liberalisation that paved the way for more open seminaries. Plenty living people can attest to being abused before Vatican II of course, but such evidence is invalid because it doesn’t fit with the magical thinking. Or indeed, with the general prejudice in the Church against openness.

But what is worse, it shows the Vatican still resisting the idea that clerical sexual abuse is its fault. It must have been tainted by exposure to other people. Other, less pure and spiritual people. Women, is the word that’s not being spoken aloud here. If the Catholic Church can somehow blame women for child abuse, it will.

This is wilful self-delusion. Of course the problems of the Church do not come from the pernicious influence of ordinary people. They come right from the soul of the institution – the belief that it is an instrument of the will of God. This is what allows it to consider itself above the law, to ‘protect’ its own members from justice, to let them keep raping.

The Catholic Church can never be trusted with children until the day that it admits it is not an organisation carrying out God’s will. And that day will never come.