FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Mad Over Benedict

The usual recipe of the zealous World Youth Day advocate rarely changes.  Travel to distant locations for these pilgrims often results in headaches for local officials charged with the mission making things most comfortable for both Pontiff and standard devotees.  Problems in the Catholic Church are given a cosmetic touch-up.

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Sydney, which now draws to a close, was no exception.  The Catholic Church proudly notes that World Youth Day in Sydney has brought more visitors to the city than the Olympic games of 2000.  Numbers are rough, but some make it 125,000.

In countries where a notionally progressive protest movement can be organized, pro-contraception activists (amongst others) muster rallies and dispense condoms.  Their aim is to convince starry-eyed pilgrims seduced by the stupefacient called Papal love to abandon their sunny optimism for darker appraisals of Church policy.

Papal goodwill on such visits suggest little more than global tourism by the Holy See to trumpet worn positions.  The event looks innocent enough, and god bothering of its own accord need not make frothing protesters of us all, apart from Richard Dawkins.  Indeed, the only really excited ones seem to be those airborne followers of the event on the World Youth Day website who seem to have confused the event with a Toyota advertisement.  (‘Oh what a feeling.’)

City residents have the good sense to do at each of these pilgrim’s events as they have always done over the centuries: profit from mass gullibility.  At times like this, ‘new’ countries in the game of international pilgrim worship like Australia can only wish they had the equivalent of the Turin shroud.  God need not be bad for capitalism.

But World Youth Day always masks the deeper grievance. The pope’s journey to Australia was best characterised by the floundering antics of Sydney Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell.  Prior to WYD, it surfaced that Pell had been mind numbingly insensitive over a case of child abuse.  In time, it became obvious that Pell had been complicit in inflicting suffering on one victim in particular, dismissing his charge of abuse against a priest, Father Terence Goodall.  The encounters had been ‘consensual’ in character.

The ugly narrative on the dangers of institutional abuse within the Catholic establishment, notably children, were carefully avoided at WYD.  Benedict danced around the issue of apologizing to the victims of child abuse.   But perhaps apologies tend to lack weight when coming from a figure who once kept the Inquisition’s records in the Vatican.  Pilgrims could continue communing in joyful reflection on the wonders of the church father.

At times, the Catholic Church’s grasp of reality is as tenuous as a Fox News’ anchor.  And the former had centuries to correct that problem. When it comes to such matters as disrupting the AIDS juggernaut as it rips through African societies with daily vengeance, we can still find views which not only puzzle but should enrage even the most keen members of the followers of WYD.

The standard position is a severely flawed one, the usual nonsense that contraception promotes promiscuity and should therefore be eschewed.  Uganda’s own activists and church officials have opted for the much exaggerated virtue of ‘abstinence’.  To avoid contracting AIDS, avoid the pleasures of the cot altogether.  The Ugandan minister Martin Sempa has gone on record (September 2006) as claiming that AIDS will vanish when people are taught ‘to abstain and remain faithful to their husbands and wives.’  Sempa allows little room for the problems facing spouses facing partners who do have AIDS.  Conjugal duties come first.

The state government of New South Wales had its own view of WYD.  In what amounted to a crude, tyrannical excess of authority, the New South Wales government went out of its way to inflate police powers with the passage of various provisions affecting the World Youth Day Act.  Police officers rarely shirk an effort to crack the odd skull in anger, but the police in Sydney were somewhat puzzled by being given power to arrest protesters on the simple charge of annoying Catholic pilgrims.

The wording of the Act was obtuse even by the standards of the most inept legal draftsman. The initial provisions penalized ‘conduct that causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event.’  Wearing an anti-Pope T-shirt may well have cost a protester a penalty amounting to $5,500.

The Australian Federal Court did not disappoint civil libertarians, though their enthusiasm in victory was misplaced.  The full bench decided in a lawsuit launched by activists Rachel Evans and Amber Pike that the Act ‘should not be interpreted as conferring powers that are repugnant to fundamental rights and freedoms at common law in the absence of clear authority from Parliament.’  The words ‘annoyance or’ were struck out.  The ruling still left the word ‘inconvenience’ in place.

The New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma, currently one of the least competent elected officials in the country at any level of government, was pleased to inform media outlets that protesters would still have to avoid ‘disrupting the pilgrims or the events.’ Iemma, like Pell, fancy themselves as contortionist linguists.

Ecstatic civil liberties groups and protesters, amongst them the NoToPope coalition, promptly handed out condoms on the steps of the Federal Court.  Free advice came along with it, though such generosity was rebuffed by one pilgrim who said that, ‘We don’t do that sort of thing.’  Judging from the continuing program of self-denial within Church doctrine, one would have to concur.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.  He can be reached at bkampmark@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail