Episode 233: A(nother) New Pope


Happy New Pope Day, eh? After a Popeless fortnight during which the Vatican got struck by lightning and a kid got cured of HIV- yes, I know that correlation and causation are not the same thing. But you can’t say there isn’t a certain poetic justice to what happened after Benedict’s resignation.

The first thing I heard about the new guy was that he’s a Jesuit, he’s calling himself Francis, he lives a simple lifestyle and even takes the bus to work and lives in an apartment. He’s the first non-European pope in over a millenium, the only Southerner to ever get the job, and he’s vocally opposed to extreme poverty. Unlike the last guy, a quick scan of his Wiki page doesn’t detail allegations of covering up numerous cases of child abuse. After the Papacy of a man described (among other things) as the high priest of fashion, this didn’t seem half bad. My Nan, a devout Catholic and lifelong fan of St Francis, would’ve loved him. I can see the appeal.

But then you look a little deeper. Let’s start with my pet topics: abortions and queers.

Are we all to be homophobic misogynists now, Father?

Much has been made of the fact that Francis believes that homosexual people (as they delightfully refer to us) should be treated with respect. This, however, ignores the fact he is more or less obligated to do so. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (a rip-roaring read if ever I saw one) acknowledges that there are many people with homosexual tendencies. Their official line is one of hating the sin and loving the sinner:

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

There’s nothing special about Francis’s assertion that the homos shouldn’t be actively hunted down. He’s only following the party line. And when it comes to actually having respect for queer folks and our relationships, he goes right back to that Catechism for a line to follow to the very letter:

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Surprised? Here’s what he had to say about the introduction of equal marriage in Argentina in 2010:

We’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.

Francis is okay with LGBTQ people existing. If we dare to love each other, though, we become little more than tools of Satan himself. Strong words, eh? You ain’t seen nothing yet:

At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.

You’d think that someone as intelligent as Francis, working in an organisation like the Catholic Church, would steer clear of, say, describing kids being raised by two loving parents of the same gender as child abuse. One would think that someone in his position would be painfully aware of precisely what does constitute child abuse. That he might not want to bring up the topic when he doesn’t have to, maybe. Obviously not.

And, of course, he’s that special kind of anti-choicer who figures that people who are raped should be forced to give birth, and that anyone who disagrees with this should be denied communion. Charming.

All of this, however, is well within Catholic doctrine and precisely what we should expect. Being a homophobic misogynist is a requirement for the job. However, there are questions over the head of Pope Francis that go far, far deeper than the disregard for women and queers that we’ve come to know and love. How do you feel about dictatorships?

He didn’t, did he?

I’m no expert on Argentinian politics and history. I barely manage keep up with things going on around here, never mind a country of, er, about ten times the population of Ireland that happens to be a bit far away. Even I, however, know that Argentina’s had a bit of a problem with military dictatorships and state terrorism in the recent past. The TL;DR of it is that the 1970s weren’t a great place to be a person with an opinion inconvenient to the regime in Argentina. The bright side of that, of course, was that if you were a person with an opinion inconvenient to the regime, you wouldn’t have to worry about things like rent and electricity bills for very long. What I’m getting at, by the way, is abductions, torture and concentration camps.

Pope Francis, though, is a man so sensitive to the value of human life that he extends it to fetuses and people with painful, terminal illnesses begging for their suffering to end. He’s bound to have come out all guns blazing against a dictatorship willing to kill people even after they’ve been born, right? Right?

Eh, no.

It turns out that Pope Benedict isn’t the only recent Holy Father to have a somewhat dodgy history when it comes to fascism.

Remember the way that Francis would deny communion to pro-choicers and euthanasia advocates? What do you think his attitude would be, then, to a man who took responsibility for the kidnapping, torture and murder in concentration camps of tens of thousands of his political opponents? Not to mention taking newborn babies from their mothers at these concentration camps. Surely a man so concerned with protecting the family from the threat of same-sex couples would not have been able to remain silent?

He did.

Francis didn’t just remain silent- he actively collaborated with the regime. What do you think of hiding political prisoners from the visiting delagation Inter-American Human Rights Commission in his own summer house? (The Guardian has since retracted this claim- see comments below). How about removing religious licences from two members of his own Jesuit order, just before they were kidnapped by the regime? Convenient, eh? Remember what I mentioned above about newborn babies being stolen from their captive mothers. What would you think of a man who remained silent when he found out the details of the important family that one of these stolen babies was given to?

But hey. He lives in an apartment. He takes the bus to work. He sometimes hangs out with poor people, and once he washed the feet of people living with AIDS. And these days, he speaks out against the abuses that he collaborated with all the time. That makes it all okay. Right?

Ratzinger’s resigning, eh?


How do I feel about that?

If you’ll allow me a moment to be entirely undiplomatic and entirely NSFW, then I’ll go with this:

In short, fuck that rapist-protecting, homophobic, misogynistic fatherfucker. The fucks I give about his welfare appear to have disappeared into the nonexistent ether with every fucking child he failed to protect, every fucking rapist he sent to another fucking parish, and every single fucking person dead because he thinks a condom is more sinful than not giving people a fatal fucking illness.

Good fucking riddance, and as a good friend of mine says: try not to let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Love and Shame in the Wake of Savita


I love my city. It’s easy to love. In a pub in Glasgow the other day I heard people around a pool table mocking how much Corkonians love our city. Loving Cork is a tired old stereotype that just so happens to be true. There’s a lot to love.

My city is walking by the river on a chilly day eating takeaway gourmet sausage sandwiches from the English Market. It’s warm cafes and pubs you can spend all day in. It’s meeting people you know every time you walk down the street. It’s friendliness and openness. It’s laid-back, relaxed, shure it’ll be grand. My city is where I came out and was nurtured (and, er, some other things too!) by a wonderful queer community. My city is organic, free-range and fair-trade. It’s beardy lefties and bringing your kids and dogs along to the protest. My city is a wonderful sense of independence, knowing we’re as good as anyone and probably better, and doing it yourself.

I love my city. I am deeply ashamed of my country.

A lot of non-Irish blogs and other media have been talking about Savita this week. Of course they have! And to start off, I was aghast at how they talked about Ireland. As if we’re an ignorant, backward, priest-ridden society. As if we’re a nation of fundamentalists. I wanted to shout at them that we’re not like that. We’re a secular society! Many of us call ourselves Catholics, but we don’t hang off a bishop’s every word. We don’t. I wanted to say that we’re a secular society chipping away at a decades-old institutional veneer of religiosity. I wanted to share how easy it is to be irreligious, atheist or humanist as an adult in Ireland. I wanted to talk about how I’ve never had to come out as atheist like so many Americans I hear about. I’ve never worried about being shunned or rejected because of my lack of belief. I wanted to shout that we’re so, so far from stereotypes of Irishness.

But none of that matters.

A candle-lit vigil for Savita, her name in candles on the ground.

We’re not a secular society chipping away at a decades-old institutional veneer of religiosity. Not any more. We’re a society rotten to the core with the abject power and reach of the Catholic Church, with an easy, shallow sheen of secularism. We’re secular when it’s easy. As a childless adult, an Irish citizen without major health issues who moves in urban, educated circles, it’s easy. I don’t have to send a child to a Catholic school. I don’t have to stay in a hospital. I live easily.

Many of us live easily. And one of the things about being Irish is that we figure that if it ain’t broke, there’s no point worrying about it. We live our easy lives and we decide that it’ll be grand. Sure, abortion is illegal here. But can’t you get over to the UK for half nothing with Ryanair? Not a bother like.

Our complacency gave us an easy life. And now our complacency has killed.

I love my city. I love my country too, but as a Corkonian I’ve got to say that I love my city more. I love my city and my country, and I am deeply ashamed of them. My sweet, easygoing city is part of a country that sat for decades on a ruling that would have prevented Savita Halappanavar’s death. Because underneath our laid-back exterior is a cowardly and judgemental core.

Protester holding a sign with the word "shame"

We should be ashamed. We need to be ashamed. We need to feel our shame, take it and turn it into rage. We need to stand before Savita Halappanavar’s husband, parents, friends and family and tell them that we were wrong. We need to beg them for the mercy that we did not show their wife and daughter.

And then we need to stand up and take responsibility.

The world thinks that Ireland is a fundamentalist, backward country. They think that we would rather follow the bishops than our own consciences. They think that we don’t care about the lives of women. They are right.

We need to be ashamed, and then we need to change this. We need to change it NOW. Not next year. Now. Because in our hospitals today there are women suffering through miscarriages. There are women at risk of septicaemia. If we are to call ourselves a civilised country, we act now. We legislate for X, and we make that legislation rock-solid. And today, tomorrow, next year, ten years and a hundred years from now, when we talk about abortion we do not listen to a Church that would have women die. We listen to Savita’s pain, to the grief of her loved ones, to our deep and abiding sense of shame, and we do the right thing.