Ireland is somewhat awash with Pope this weekend.
The papers and television have been full of it for the last week or so, and today and tomorrow the country grinds to a standstill as the wee fella with the white dress from the Vatican is whisked around the country on a whistle-stop tour.
Technically I am a Roman Catholic. I was signed up into the club by my parents, but seeing as I was only a couple of weeks old at the time, I consider that contract invalid. Unfortunately there is no way I can cancel it officially so I just ignore it. Fortunately there is no clause in that contract that compels me to actually do anything, such as travelling to view visiting pontiffs so I’m happy to ignore the whole circus.
I remember well the day the last Pope visited. A million people crowded into the Phoenix Park to see him but I was up the mountains at our daughter’s Christening, thereby signing her into the very institution I was trying to avoid. I can be cruel sometimes. In my defence I will say that it was virtually impossible back then to get a kid into school without that piece of Catholic Contract.
Ireland has changed a bit in the forty years since the last visit. We now legally have contraception, divorce, homosexuality [and half a million genders], same sex marriage and a church that was decimated by sex abuse scandals. There are also the scandals about the Madeleine Laundries where unmarried mothers were forced into slave labour and their babies sold off to America. It has changed so much that we have a gay Prime Minister and a black Rose of Tralee.
As a result of all of this, this Pope isn’t going to get quite such an easy ride as the last one forty years ago. I can’t see a million visiting the park this time around. Doubtless he will pay lip service to the past scandals but unless he hands over every priest [and those involved in the cover-up] to the civil authorities and bungs a few billion into the compensation funds, it won’t mean very much.
Personally I have nothing against the present Papal incumbent. I wish him well on his little visit.
But if he wants to call in here to see me, I’m busy.