Doing the Vatican Rag

Vanity Fair is an American magazine dedicated to many worthwhile causes, including the Kennedy cultus, the sanctity of the environment, and the utter stupidity of anyone who doesn’t vote Democrat in ’12 (I only read it for the pictures). 

But recently its March 2011 issue ran a very, very searching and highly unflattering investigation into the real causes of the Irish economic disaster. Entitled ‘When Irish Eyes Are Crying’, its writer Michael Lewis charted how Ireland became one of the world’s richest nations in the early 2000s and then how ‘the Irish people, banks, and government did their best to screw things up.’ 

The article was firm but fair, cataloguing the increasingly bizarre decisions made by Ireland’s Department of Finance, bungling by inexperienced ministers and civil servants, and the almost hysterical greed which persuaded otherwise normal people to buy and sell vast property developments to each other, over and over. 

So I was intrigued to read a letter in the May 2011 issue arguing that the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal was the real cause of the financial collapse. The writer (based in England) concluded that, ‘In due course, I suggest, history will reveal to us that the main element which clouded the collective judgment of the Irish, in these past few years, was not ignorance or stupidity or greed. It was pain.’ 

And then on 21 July, Taoiseach Enda Kenny flung down his copy of Vanity Fair (one assumes), cried, ‘That’s it! That’s the angle I need!’, and dashed into the Irish parliament to let rip with a tirade against the Vatican. 

Even the BBC’s Mark Simpson, with tongue possibly in cheek, noted that ‘As well as being more secular, Ireland is also more liberal, more open and more pluralist. What it really needs is more money. But that is another story.’ 

But is it, Mike? Because from where I’m standing, it looks like the one story. 

You’re all welcome to come round to my place with the rotten eggs: I am both of Irish extraction and a Catholic. But I’m the sort of Catholic who thinks that in the case of alleged sexual abuse, a priest should have to face the civil courts just like anyone else, and be subject to the same rules of evidence as anyone else. 

I also think that proven victims are entitled to a full apology and compensation, just like anyone else. I don’t think there should be ‘special’ tribunals; I think the laws we already have are pretty clear about what happens to kiddy-fiddlers, and our prisons certainly ensure that any perceived lack of justice is quickly made up in the form of bashings. 

I am ashamed of the concealment of sexual abuse for decades, but I am also aware that there are a lot of ex-Catholics around who lead miserable lives but who can’t put their finger on why. So when something like this comes along, it’s a marvellous opportunity to indulge that other well-known Catholic phenomenon, the guilt trip. 

And so I wasn’t the least surprised to see Enda Kenny, in the face of an economy destroyed by stupidity, greed and irresponsible government, decide to be a man, take responsibility, and attack the real culprit: the Catholic Church. 

Kenny denounced the ‘dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day,’ which is of course so very different from the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism that destroyed the Irish economy. 

He added: ‘This is not Rome. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011.’ 

Damn straight, Enda. Grow a pair, already. The Irish economy has been utterly screwed over, but not by Catholic priests, and the Catholic Church is also not some kind of piñata waiting to be whacked until the money falls out (that’s Angela Merkel, dummy). 

On the other hand, if Kenny wants to foment the type of violence that destroyed Ireland’s north for decades – a situation where economic misery becomes ‘religionised’, and used as an excuse to pay out on anyone who actually makes something of their life – then he is going the right way about it. What a pity Ian Paisley’s retired. But then again, Paisley was fundamentally honest, which is why I always had a soft spot for him. I can’t see him being taken in by this eyewash. (But I would like to hear him on the subject of Angela Merkel as the Scarlet Woman. 

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