Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My catholic ireland

The Catholic Church in Ireland has in most instances seceded its credibility and influence. For many people who would have once slavishly cooperated with its ludicrous demands there is merely disillusionment and apathy. I have gone past the point of disillusionment by now. I have reached eager hostility.

When my sisters baby was stillborn last year I was sad. She was devastated beyond anything my meagre emotional abilities could understand. You do what you can to help people at these times to ameliorate the pain and provide whatever inadequate succour you can. Later, I began to familiarise myself with a former teaching of the catholic church that any babies that died before being baptised into the church would never be permitted to enter heaven and be left to dangle in limbo for eternity, motherless. Obviously because of recent events it excited my interest. I admit that it may not seem like such an utterly malevolent thing to say in 2014 but it decades gone by in devout Ireland this was a truly evil idea. To tell young mothers who have just had their hearts ripped out of their worlds, young women who believed with absolute certainty in an afterlife, that their child was not worthy to join them in heaven, that they would never be seen again stuck somewhere between heaven and hell was unjustifiably cruel and abusive. Yet this is what happened. Misery heaped upon misery. Lives ruined for parents who could never get over it. God will accept murderers and rapists with the correct access codes and a little repentance but he doesn't want to know about your dead baby. 

This stuff is real. This stuff happened. It has been perpetuated because we have allowed it to play a persistent role in our lives. The good doesn't outweigh the bad. It merely provides shelter for its perpetrators.

It seems that in Ireland, just as everywhere else, that religion is hereditary. I was a Catholic before I could walk, before I could talk, before I had developed the cognitive ability to realise that a piece of wafer is not also the flesh of a two thousand year old man from the Middle East. Get them young and you get them for life! History tells us that they took that particular motto to its sinister extremes.

Baptised as a baby I am now one of the flock. Free to have the same opinions as everyone else, free to learn the prayers and dogma of Christianity, free to disassociate myself from people who’s parents and teachers have slightly different opinions to what mine do. So the guilt begins to seep into the conversation around the age of six. All those terrible things that a child is capable of need to be addressed. For a short period at this important point in a child’s development the maths and English lessons are dispensed with to make way for the classes preparations for First Confession. I’ve thought about this as coldly as I can and I will try to distil my opinions succinctly. There are certainly children in these classes who require a little extra help with their reading or their writing or their counting. Nevertheless their valuable time at school is being used to tell them how they should feel guilty and beg for forgiveness from a supernatural being they can’t possibly understand for the crime of slapping their sister or stealing an extra biscuit. As well as this they need to be coached to ensure that they interact in the correct manner with the elderly virgin who will be their direct interlocutor when they repent for their sins. Of course it all ends well. The child may not be able to read any better than yesterday but God will have forgiven them their childish misdemeanour's. This is all assuming that they have been forced in the right direction and have chosen the correct god. Otherwise these kids are condemned to eternal hell.

Next up for us kids is the beginning of the financially incentivised indoctrination. The first holy communion and later confirmation are the two major milestones on the young catholic’s résumé. The child is quite literally forced into these religious ceremonies. They have absolutely no right of refusal and for the most part don’t even fully understand what they are about. Community peer pressure comes into consideration for most parents in Ireland because even the non-religious wouldn’t want it to be said that their child hadn’t been confirmed along with his classmates.

It is not the theology itself that incites my anger when I remember my religious experiences as a youth. The fact is that many or most people pick and choose the bits they personally require and dispense with the more ludicrous and nasty elements of Catholicism in favour of a bespoke type of religious moderation that really isn't catholic at all. More often it is the repression it always had on free thought and critical thinking. In my school religion was taught an examined in a way no different to biology or maths. However it differed in being a subject not only to be learned in the classroom but a doctrine to be enforced by peer pressure and ceremonial propaganda. 

It amuses me now to remember the teacher student dynamics that often occurred at those sports-hall masses we used to have ash wednesday or some other nonsense. Back then we would have been sniggering and laughing as adolescents do, not taking the event very serious at all, until one of our teachers would come along telling us to be quiet and show some respect. The teacher would be satisfied that he had imbued us with the appropriate level of contrition and we would sit quietly and listen as just a little pang of the old catholic guilt rises in our bellies. Thinking about it now though, I see that the sniggering and laughing boys were showing the appropriate level of respect all along. We were the silly little boys not grasping the full significance of the ceremony and the teacher was the dutiful overseer of virtue. Now I see that the teachers had taken a break from teaching and that now they were enforcing.

It is true that the Catholic church has displayed an outward growth in humility over recent years. There is more room for open discourse with the population and even some theological concessions have been quietly accepted. However, it is always a retreating tyrant that begins handing land back to the natives. Modesty is a weapon to shield decline. Where was the humility when their power in Ireland was seemingly exponential? Was there any modesty in the horrific and malevolent acts they committed when the island was theirs to be pillaged. They preach forgiveness if you repent. So they repent.

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