China, The Vatican, And Ireland

Pope Benedictus XVI at a private audience (Jan...
I'll Get You For This, Kenny

This is priceless. Our Taoiseach‘s recent outburst against the Vatican has been taken up by the official Chinese media – which is not really a different thing from the Chinese government – in support of its campaign against the Catholic Church.

What campaign? Well basically, the government think they should appoint Catholic priests, rather than the Catholic hierarchy. Much as they have an ‘official’ Dalai Lama, etc. Ain’t that an interesting idea?

Wow, I really don’t know which way to jump on this one. Much as I think the Vatican should basically not do anything anywhere at all, a state-appointed priesthood is an extraordinarily totalitarian idea.

Well OK, the English invented it. But that was back when England was really very totalitarian. It’s as opposite to the separation of church and state as is possible. On the other hand, I think it would be great if Catholics in Ireland cut ties with Rome.

It’s a power struggle between two quite different yet equally objectionable powers – when I think about, probably the two most powerful absolutist regimes on Earth. And now Enda Kenny is caught in the middle.

Maybe I’ll just get some popcorn and enjoy this one.

Vatican City Limits

From Roma with love
Ideally, it should be in a hollowed-put volcano

What I hate about the Vatican is their holier-than-thou attitude. It may not pretend that it’s above error, but it continuously insists, to us and to itself, that even if it does on occasion do harm it ultimately achieves a greater good.

Look closely at the logic of that. The more harm the Vatican does therefore – whether it be protecting paedophiles from the law or impeding the prevention of AIDS – the more good it must be doing. The benefit of its existence must outweigh these ephemeral evils. To think otherwise would be to confront a truly appalling vista.

And if the good the church does must inevitably outweigh the bad, then preserving it and its power in the world must surely be worth more than the safety of a child. Or any number of children.

This kind of ruthless logic is what makes religious organisations last for thousands of years while kingdoms and empires rise and fall.

But when an Irish politician unequivocally condemns the actions and the attitude of the Vatican, you know that times are changing. Addressing the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:

The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’.

Couldn’t have put it better myself really. Well maybe stylistically, but the content is spot on. He continued:

. . . a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic . . . as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so . . . excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . the narcissism . . . that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.

Broadly speaking, he tore them a new one.

Hight time, and popular support is overwhelming. Irish new media publication TheJournal.ie did decide to give space to a priestly apologist for the Catholic church, but I think that was mainly to give the rest of us a target. His point though, if the metaphor is not unfortunate, was that we should not throw the baby of the church’s teachings out with the bathwater of its failings. Society needs a spiritual dimension, and the church has contributed much of practical value too.

I’m not going to argue against the social utility of religion – not today at least. For the moment I’ll accept the assertion that people, some people at least, require or benefit from religion in their lives. The question that still remains however, which I would like to ask this apologist, the Vatican, and every cleric who put the instructions of the Vatican before the safety of children: Why does that religion have to be Catholicism?

There are many other faiths. Heck, there are even many other forms of Christianity. Perhaps people in Ireland who wish to practice a religion should choose one that has sinned less.

And That Completes The Set

garret-fitzgerald1
The Way We Were

And that completes the set. Now there are no honest politicians left at all.

Maybe I exaggerate a trifle, but Garret Fitzgerald did seem different. Even though he led a right-of-centre party, even though he could give the impression of being confused and ineffectual, even though he didn’t achieve much of what he set out to, he was the greatest leader that Ireland has had in my memory. There was never any doubt that Garret’s motivation was not personal power, status or wealth. He wasn’t there to be liked by his coterie or cheered by the the masses. He was there to do something about the mess the country was in.

He did that, and he was still liked anyway. Though the sobriquet ‘Garret The Good’ was intended to lampoon his earnestness, no one doubted that it was true. This was a good man in politics. A man who did more than anyone to free Ireland from religious domination, who first dared to attempt what finally bore fruit as the Peace Process. That rarest of things, an intellectual in a leadership role.

And in 1987, the voters of Ireland decided that they would actually prefer to be ruled by Charles Haughey. So perhaps we deserve all that has come since.

Save The Senate

This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Le...
What our Senate might look like with the useless scum removed

There could be no better image of all that’s wrong with the Senate than Ivor Calelly contemptuously abusing the house to save his own political career. No wonder the public has no respect for it when so many of its denizens were dumped there, in what the parties seem to think of as long-stay parking.

This is a great shame. Though as presently constituted the Seanad is, let’s face it, a pustule, what we need in this country is more oversight of the executive, not less. It may be little better at this than the rubber-stamping Dáil, but it is a little.

The Senate has some great strengths. You can get into it without really being a career politician, without being slave to the party whips. We could use more of that, you know. The Senate has – or had – people like Shane Ross and David Norris.

Want a simple way to reform the Seanad? End the Taoiseach‘s right to stuff it with useless lackeys. Skim off the political pond scum.

Save The Senate

This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Le...
What our Senate might look like with the useless scum removed

There could be no better image of all that’s wrong with the Senate than Ivor Calelly contemptuously abusing the house to save his own political career. No wonder the public has no respect for it when so many of its denizens were dumped there, in what the parties seem to think of as long-stay parking.

This is a great shame. Though as presently constituted the Seanad is, let’s face it, a pustule, what we need in this country is more oversight of the executive, not less. It may be little better at this than the rubber-stamping Dáil, but it is a little.

The Senate has some great strengths. You can get into it without really being a career politician, without being slave to the party whips. We could use more of that, you know. The Senate has – or had – people like Shane Ross and David Norris.

Want a simple way to reform the Seanad? End the Taoiseach‘s right to stuff it with useless lackeys. Skim off the political pond scum.

Enda Has A Go

Hibernian CartoonOw. Ow ow ow ow. Look, I wish Enda Kenny well as Taoiseach. He has an unenviable job, I hope he does it well, I have more confidence in his ability to do it than I have in… Ooh, loads of other people. So to be fair I have to say that some really good promises were made today. Particularly, a ban on corporate political donations. I also like single-tier health very much, and a Minister for Children may be a good idea even if it does sound odd.

But he needs to be able to give a speech that doesn’t make me wince like I’m listening to a gas cylinder being whacked with a jack handle. He must get a professional speech writer. I know he doesn’t have one, because no paid writer could be that bad. Please to God.

“The long Hibernian nights on the western edge of Europe” he intoned, alluding to… something, I’m not sure. I was too distracted by the apparent implication that nights get longer the further west you go, by trying to figure out what exactly makes a night Hibernian, and by wondering if I was taking him up wrong entirely and the Long Hibernian Knights were a 70s heavy rock band. Imagery was strewn around the speech like low coffee tables, adding little decorative or useful, mainly just impeding progress.

And then bills or tax demands or something hitting people’s doormats “like stealth bombs”. What the fuck might a stealth bomb be? Enda there are stealth bombers, which are planes that are hard to spot, and there are smart bombs, which can be guided to their targets. Stealth bombs would be bombs that you don’t notice.

No seriously, I’m not listening to five years of this.