Receding as it has from Irish society the Catholic Church has taken to other activities to make itself remain relevant and visible in some way. A certain practice has prevailed and, somewhat surreptitiously, become routine. It is due, I think, to our country’s sickly attempt to find a place for the Church of Rome.
Where exactly does it fit into our society in 2017? In what way does it seek to ensconce itself among our oh-so-modern isle?
The institution does not lack in extolling itself as our chief organiser of morals, but young Irish are about as irreligious as they come and the Church knows it. The moral suasion it garnered has long since diminished; extreme criminality such as the rape, molestation and torture of children and the subsequent covering up of these crimes being one of the many reasons it has faded as our moral tutor.
One measly attempt to remain relevant, and the media does a wonderful job assisting in this, occurs when some terrible mishap arrives – say, a fatal car crash – and the local priest is sought out immediately for his thoughts on the tragedy. During these moments of faux-apoplexy a man in orders is required to reassure his parish [his sheep, you remember]. What he will not say, exactly, is how this dreadful incident was the work of his and your superior.
Gangland murders, violent domestic incidents and other incidents reported in our media occur rather often in our little country and without fail many of news reports are adorned, besmirched, with the lament of a man of the cloth.
“Speaking after today’s murder in so-and-so, Father Sombre spoke of his horror at the continuing gun violence…” [insert reaction here].
I understand news stories need quotes, reactions, to reflect the prevailing sentiment that, yes, gun murders and so on are terrible things. But why not seek out your local astronomer for a reaction? Or dairy farmer? Or mathematician? Why seek a man whose world view allows for horrendous incidents as being ‘part of God’s plan’? The terrible incident is a terrible incident for him and for us, but it in some sense it must be viewed by him as somewhat legitimate.
The Democratic Party in the United States has bequeathed their control on American governance by simply submitting to the impulse I mentioned above. It was felt that, as she’d been hanging around for some time and hadn’t really had the opportunity to do much [she had many], a spot must be found for poor old Hillary.
Ever since she’d followed Bill to the White House she’d been knocking about, insinuating herself into the conversation. Nobody really believed she deserved to be the Democratic candidate, but this is what happens when the need to find a relevant position for an admittedly sub-par individual supersedes the search for the pertinent individual.
She was the Owen Hargreaves of the Democratic Party; an individual with considerable talent, but someone always trying too hard to prove themselves worthy and significant and often coming up short.
Again, I understand newspapers need to rely on the Church for a quote when they need one, but we assign these men a societal importance they do not warrant. And in any case it’s probably a role they do not in some sense desire. Today’s priests appear more in print as a reaction-generator, and I have the suspicion the Church would privately not want to remain relevant in this way.
Attributing to them this importance is an affront to anybody who suffered under Catholic Church care, anyone who happens not to have religious beliefs and any minority who doesn’t recognise the hegemony of the Church.