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Sluts and Hypocrites
When Fr Friel called Sonia O Sullivan a slut he was simply following the logic of Catholic teaching, writes EAMONN McCANN.
Eamonn McCann, 29 Sep 1999
Would the same anger have erupted a couple of weeks back if that Leitrim priest had called Sonia O Sullivan a sinner rather than a slut?
The belligerent language of 72-year-old Fr Friel of Ballinamore allowed both the liberals who denounced him and the reactionaries who disowned him to evade the truth of the matter that all he d done was put forward the teaching of his Church on a matter of faith and morals.
Sonia O Sullivan, unmarried, had a baby. She and the child s father are living together. The Catholic Church teaches that this is a mortal sin. So why the frantic reaction when a priest uses rough words to say this in a sermon?
All over Ireland, liberal thinkers went ballistic. Newspapers were bombarded by guided missives. Purple rage engulfed whole swathes of our society.
How dare an ancient cleric from a backwater in Leitrim traduce the reputation of such a modern Irish Ms!
Did the Catholic Church intervene to defend the old man from the slings and arrogance of outraged apostates? No. Far from backing the beleagured priest up, the bishops forced him to back down. A statement was issued, through the Catholic Press and Information Office in Dublin, no less, saying that he d made the remark in the heat of the moment and truly regretted the hurt that he d caused.
The only heat or hurt a proper Catholic would have mentioned was the hurt of immersion in the furnace-heat of hell. But then, hell, too, has been half wished-away already.
This isn t just an Irish thing. It will be recalled that, last year, two Catholic Sunday School teachers in England were publicly upbraided by Cardinal Basil Hume for saying that Princess Diana was probably in hell. The remark, Cardinal Hume told James Naughtie on Radio 4 s Today, was deeply upsetting for us all .
On what basis a true Catholic might have been upset, I can t imagine. Diana died while on an adulterous holiday with an oily fraudster. On her own admission, this hadn t been her first adulterous relationship. And adultery, too, is a mortal sin.
Or was. Because the question raised, again, by all this kerfuffle is: what s the Catholic Church s line on fornication and adultery these days? What s the Word?
I wouldn t be surprised to pick up a copy of the Irish Catholic some Sunday soon and find an article by a bishop, headed: The Existence Of God A Rethink .
Is there nothing sacred any more? Some things must still be sacred to believers in religion. Otherwise, what s the point? But which things?
There is a perverse conspiracy lurking here, involving cute Catholic bishops and lapsed-Catholic intellectuals.
What mainly motivates Catholic bishops is holding on to the Church s power. For this, they ll compromise on anything except control of education. (It s Rome-rule in the classrooms which, they believe, guarantees the Church s grip on the next generation.)
If they were true to the beliefs they were proclaiming as eternal only a few years ago, the bishops would have endorsed the sentiments, even if regretting the language, of the Ballinamore sermon. But they betrayed their beliefs and abandoned their priest to a merciless mauling at the hands of the petit-bourgeois intellectuals who skitter across the surface of Irish society in the letters page of the Irish Times.
Toss another weighty teaching overboard. Anything to stay afloat.
Meanwhile, the half-way-house heretics who make a point of excoriating the institutional Church in plastic pubs at Sunday lunchtimes and who allow that it s no business of any screwed-up celibate what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, are careful to make the point, too, that the Church has done good as well as harm, no point throwing the baby out with the baptismal water, and hasn t Liam Og settled in well at Blackrock . . .
They won t make a clean break with the Church, nor the Church with them. They share living-space with the bishops in an intellectual swamp. They are unnerved by anyone, on any side, who takes a stand on firm ground.
This is why they were enraged at Fr Friel, and why Fr Friel was left isolated.
The correct response to a Catholic priest calling Sonia O Sullivan a slut is to observe that this shows how full of bile and hatred of women s sexuality the Catholic Church generally is, and how monstrous it remains that such a malodorous institution should have control of the education of the children of the nation.
The correct response to the Catholic bishops disowning the priest is to observe that this shows what liars and hypocrites they are into the bargain.
The correct response to the liberals who delight in dismembering the abandoned old priest but who wouldn t seriously say boo to a bishop is to throw up over them. n