The Lions' Den
Perhaps it serves me right for not doing my research properly but I found myself in a situation last week that highlights what we are up against. Quite innocently Mrs P and I accepted an invitation to attend a gig with friends in a suburban West End club. The singer was a moderately well known Irish woman. The crowd were identifiably West End folk: lawyers, doctors, teachers, civil servants, academics, middle managers. The set was folky with an identifiably left-wing slant (thanks for that Woody Guthrie) with a side order of feminism. There was a cheery song about anorexia. There was a song about how only women can feel low ( I was tempted to heckle with the figures for male suicide, but resisted) Then the singer introduced a song by saying she wanted to dedicate it to "The Vatican" (What? The WHOLE of The Vatican? The CDF? The Congregation for Oriental Churches? The CDW?) It was ostensibly about child abuse and the Irish hierarchy's mishandling of it. In truth it was a rant about Catholicism - how we pray, what we teach. How did they get conflated ? Does the Catholic Church teach the rape of children is ok? It most certainly does not. The song used the vehicle of righteous anger at the disgusting way child abuse was handled to reject Catholic teaching and practice. So far, so predictable. In these circles it is accepted truth that all Catholic priests are predatory pederasts - just look at any blog post on Catholicism and I'd reckon it takes about 20 replies on average until clerical child abuse is brought up, whatever the theme of the post. Needless to say the song was greeted with warm applause, the warmest of the night. This was 'speaking the truth to Power', man, and the bien pensent Westenders loved it. For all their radical chic, the vibe wouldn't have been out of place in an Orange Lodge (F*** The Pope!). Many of the audience are policy makers across the public and private sectors in Scotland. I'm beginning to find the Irish difficult. I am of Irish stock ( a couple of generations back) and have always had a natural empathy. But the hostility to Catholicism I have experienced from Irish people has been at times irrational and vehement. A colleague described Holy Mass as 'mass delusion', a junior described himself as a 'recovering Catholic'. The Irish people I meet these days - once cheerful, unselfconscious Catholics - now seem indifferent at best and poisonously hostile to Catholicism at worst. I am to blame for being naive. I grew up in an environment where the Church was weaved into life, where prayer was normal and the teaching of the Church respected (though not unquestioningly). There were hints of hostility- the verses of 'Faith Of Our Fathers' and the Feast of the Forty Marytrs hinted at something dark. But surely truth would conquer? Those abbeys and minsters and cathedrals would one day reverberate to plainchant and the Mass. Rubbish. Nonsense. The world hates us, as it always has and always will. We are now no longer odd, but grossly offensive to many people. I expect this to get worse.