The stage is all set for the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland. Up to half a million people –many from Ireland and others from abroad- will turn out to the Phoenix Park and another huge crowd will gather at Knock. Many will look for words of solace in a world that has been debased by money and greed.
The Pope will give some expression to a sentiment that rails against an inhumane, nasty and virulent culture. He has, for example, spoken out strongly in support of refugees. His first official visit was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, an arrival point for tens of thousands of refugees from north Africa, whose shores have been the final resting place for hundreds who did not survive the perilous journey. There he spoke from an altar constructed out of boat wrecks, calling for a “reawakening of consciousness” in a world that has “forgotten how to cry”.
He has denounced ‘the god of money’ and attacked the ‘excesses’ of global capitalism, “We have to say “Thou shalt not kill” to an economy of exclusion and inequality’. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
But while Pope Francis will give expression to these decent sentiments, there are limits. In the past as bishop of Buenos Aires, he did not speak out against the Dirty War launched by right wing Argentinian generals against leftists who were actually challenging ‘unbridled capitalism’. 20,000 victims ‘disappeared’, many from torture chambers which had Catholic chaplins. He was also an opponent of the ‘liberation theology’ movement that swept through the Catholic Church in Latin America.
The former Irish President, Mary McAleese, put her finger on exactly what is wrong with the Papal visit. She is a devout Catholic and has tried to bring some change within an institution that is anti-woman and opposed to gay rights. This is how she has described the meeting of World Meeting of Families:
‘It’s always been essentially a right wing rally… and it was designed for that purpose, to rally people to get them motivated to fight against the tide of same sex marriage, rights for gays, abortion rights, contraceptive rights’.
The glaring gap between the rhetoric about family life and reality of sexual abuse has come into sharp focus with the revelation that thousands of children were abused by 300 US priests in Pennsylvania.
Once again, Mary McAleese has pointed to the reality. ‘The cover of up abuse’, she stated, is ‘not only systemic, it was directed from central command and control which is the Vatican’.
The Papal visit will be used to re-mobilise a conservative, fundamentalist force that has suffered a major defeat in Ireland with the vote for Repeal. These forces will try to stymie legislation to liberalise abortion. They will try to stop moves to wrest control of our schools and hospitals from the bishops.
However, they cannot hold back the tide. There is a growing awareness among young people that the institutional church is discredited. They no longer want compulsory religion classes in their schools. They do not want Catholic ‘ethics committees’ dictating what kind of medical procedures can be run in Irish hospitals. They are appalled when they learn about the Woods deal whereby the Irish taxpayer lost over €1 billion in an indemnity deal that covered the Catholic Church against claims for child sex abuse.
People Before Profit are holding a number of meetings around the country to support our call to separate church and state. These will take place in the following venues:
Monday 20th August, 8pm in Jury’s Inn.
– Tjitske De Vries, People Before Profit Cork
– Kieran Allen, People Before Profit, National Secretary
Tuesday 21st August, 7.30pm,
Ivy Tower Hotel, New Antrim St
-Clodagh Malone, Survivor of St. Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home
Saturday 25th August, 6pm Gresham Hotel.
-Vincent Browne (Journalist)
-Eamonn McCann (journalist)
-Clodagh Malone( Mother and Babies Home Survivor)
-Carron McKinney(Catholics for Choice)
-Jane Donnelly (Atheist Ireland)
-Darren McGavin(Abuse Survivor)
Thursday 30th August 7.30.
Aras na nGael, Domnick Street.
-Jamie Canavan (researcher on history of child welfare in Ireland)