Pope in Ireland divides Catholics as much as unites them

Some people looked forward to seeing the pope in Ireland. More, understandably, were up in arms about the papal visit. For a myriad of reasons, to the fore was the anger over child abuse.

I had a foot in both camps myself.

The problem with numbers

From national accounts, to numbers at water protests, we Irish seem to have an issue with numbers. Whats six to one, is nine to the other, or vice versa. So it was with the papal visit.

The pope at Knock

There were a lot less than visited John Paul II when he was here in 1979, but whether is was 100,000 or 500,000 is up for debate, much as some said the water protest marches were 50,000 max, while supporters claimed more in excess of 100,000.

If I was the Pope’s organiser, Id be hastily rearranging his return. To sell the full amount of tickets is every promoter’s dream. Predict the numbers, get an appropriately-sized venue, and you make a fortune.

It was an odd, and unique Irish sort of boycott. But then again we did give the concept of boycott to the world, so it’s no surprise we innovated on our own invention.

What was said, what we wanted said, and how it was said

We wanted, both churchgoers and ‘pope-bashers’, to hear a simple sincere sorry. A sorry for moving the priests to fresh pastures and more victims. For not handing them over to the state for punishment. A sorry for the failure of duty of care to the public. For the hypocrisy of condemning to adults enjoying love outside of marriage that was consensual, all while the clergy were at it. The decent ones like Bishop Casey. Even worse were those who abused children, and raped them. We wanted an apology for all that.

A close second was a sorry for the physical, emotional and material abuse of those entrusted to the churche’s care. Places like the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and the school system, featured physical, mental and sexual abuse from brothers, priests and nuns.

What we got was at best a strained apology, asking the forgiveness of God. No issue with that: but it should have been the victims, God and the wider public. These are crimes against God and man.

God help me, I’m praising Varadkar

A stopped clock is right twice a day, is a maxim I love to use, and I do so here again. Leo Varadkar’s speech spoke for us all. One of the few times he got the finger on the national pulse.

It wasn’t a kick-the-pope speech, it acknowledged that good was done. It acknowledged the government’s – FF and FG – did not look after social welfare and health for 25 years. The church did this. He then went and addressed directly the fact that the church covered up abuse.

To where from here for Holy Catholic Ireland

The future relationship between the state and the Vatican was referred to by Varadkar. For me, the church has to acknowledge the court of the state as above canon law. It cannot condemn normal and natural sex whether proper and right or not under church thinking, and yet be blasé about priests molesting or raping under-age children (Philadelphia being the latest theatre of abuse to be exposed), which is neither normal or natural, never mind proper and right.

Coming to terms with reality

A lot of heated arguments went on about “how can you still be Catholic after the scandals” and so on. Abuse affected all parts of Irish society, from the Catholic church, to Swim Ireland – so much it rebranded – to the school system, crooked cops to families.

We don’t demand people don’t respect other bodies that deliberately mishandled abuse scandals, so why should we the Catholic church?

Calls to separate church and state continue, but Varakar feels that it’s not wanted by the people as much as we might believe from the media.

32 Million wasted for the head of a church and state to visit

Some complained that the head of a church and state visiting was immoral. The cost was too much. It was ethically wrong to be head of a state and a church. And so on.

Yet its OK when Queen Elizabeth comes. Head of the Church of Ireland via the Anglican Communion, and also the United Kingdom as a state, de facto including the North of Ireland if not de jure?

Some people complain over everything to push an agenda. We cannot please all. But we must please the important and the victims of clerical sex abuse ARE the most important!

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!