Losing my religion, my Caitlin Moran and my Frankie Boyle

I struggle with many things. I ponder the existence of God. How can I square what worked once for me spiritually, but now no longer does, with the future? I wonder frequently about what I can give my children, that will be as decent and formative as doctrinaire Catholicism once was for me, yet never can be again. I knew a succession of priests throughout my education, and each of them was a decent, giving human being, but I’ve come to realise that this was not the case for many people of my generation, and, more shockingly, many since.

Yet they taught me, those priests of the 70s and 80s, and I think they mostly did a fine job of it. Paradoxically, they gave me enough rope to hang them with, and now that I’ve seen so many other men of the cloth swing, at least metaphorically, for the grave crimes they committed under cover of The Cloth, I feel cheated. Not necessarily by the decent men who taught me, but by the nonsense they themselves peddled, and allowed themselves to believe and pass on. Bad merchandise. The scandal of my religion teacher (Fr Lynch we’ll call him), leaving the priesthood for a woman is now, seventeen years later, one of the most honourable outcomes imaginable from that era. At least to me.

They burned something into me nonetheless, those fine and wasted men, and my mind’s eye wanders back now to every Sunday morning growing up in rural Cavan. To Henny Maguire, bouncing along the bog road morning at half past nine, en route to mass at the chapel. Mrs Henny sat on the wheelguard of the Massey Ferguson Twenty, shaken but immovable, while four or five or nine of the kids stood behind, swaying in the transport box towards another unheard sermon.

What drove them, beyond God’s diesel, to congregate so? Peer pressure? Was this just to be The Done Thing? The 1940s Catholic Ireland of Eamon de Valera and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid was a powerful regulator in the lives of most Irish people, rural and urban. My friend Rosita Boland wrote recently in the Irish Times about the simplicity and deception of our religious education. I say religious education, but I might as well say education on its own, so complete and pervasive was the extent of Catholic dogma in everything that we were taught. The cyphers of Catholicism demystified something ethereal, and built it into a national identity that was as much a statement of resistance to the oppressor and godless British as it was about anything connected to affairs of the spirit and life everlasting beyond the grave. My hero, the poet Patrick Kavanagh, railed against it at a time when to do so would cost you dearly, and he got neither respect nor reward for it until he was long gone to meet his maker. I take far more comfort from his confusion now than I do from going to a church to listen to a sermon I can give no credibility to.

And there is a generation of people like me. We came along at an unremarkable time, but by the closing of the 80s we were in new territory, both materially and spiritually. Confidence in ourselves was growing and we weren’t just going to transplant our way of life into the major Irish population centres of New York and Boston, London, Manchester and Birmingham. We were going to look outside our own. And when we were done, and the unexpected confusion of having money in our pockets awoke something unknown in us, things would never be quite the same. Mother Church, meantime (and never was the epithet Mother so damningly misapplied to a misogynistic monolith), was undergoing cataclysms of her own, and faith – and those who managed to hold on to it – took on an entirely new perspective, as trust lay in ruins and banks of expensive lawyers lined up to pay hush money to the people who had been most cruelly conned and abused by those we were taught to trust. All change.

From Rosita Boland's found catechism

And yet. And yet. I may be on a road to Damascus of my own, yet the eternal duality of all things remains unchallenged in my mind. Light must have its darkness, rain must have its drought, Jedi must have Sith and, it seems, our all-powerful Lord must, inexplicably, have this Devil that remains beyond His control. I come to believe now that duality is within all of us. If we remove the certainty, what is left is just life. And we must choose sides, as surely as Darth Vader and Lucifer and Judas did, and people will judge us for it without recourse to evidence or circumstance. That is the human way.

I still want to believe in the better natures of people, that we all strive towards the light, despite all the evidence that points to an untidy Manichean duality of balance. I am reminded of this necessity to choose sides on two counts on this beautiful, exultant June weekend in Dublin.

One is somewhat minor. A woman called Caitlin Moran, a journalist with The Times, has just published a book. About feminism. Quite good, judging by the opinions of some people I’d respect. But yet she sideswiped me, and possibly some of you, with casual cruelty. Anna Carey, reviewing her book, How to Be a Woman, says ‘It’s not all good, of course. Her description of her 13-year-old self as possessing “the ebullience of a retard” is ill advised, to say to the least (though she has since said she regrets using the word).’

Oh well. Long as she regrets it. I just thought, y’know, that Caitlin might have a small degree of that there wider view, seeing as she was writing from the perspective of a put-upon subset within society. But that’s my stupid fault, for still expecting some establishment, be it church or architecture of information like The Times, to act in a trustworthy way. You are welcome, Ms Moran, to come along and comment. I do not rush lightly to judgement, and if I do so incorrectly I am man enough to own up.

It pales into insignificance beside the other example however. That idiot Frankie Boyle, already on the most gobshite list, has been offensively bullying people with special needs again. This time it’s the son of Katie Price, a woman of sufficient backbone and public profile to give him what for, but why he should continue to reveal conversely just how spineless he is plain mystifies me. Katie Price’s son Harvey has Prader Willi syndrome. Here’s your starters on Prader Willi, plenty enough to be getting on with.

It causes poor muscle tone, low levels of sex hormones and a constant feeling of hunger. The part of the brain that controls feelings of fullness or hunger does not work properly in people with PWS. They overeat, leading to obesity.

Babies with PWS are usually floppy, with poor muscle tone, and have trouble sucking. Boys may have undescended testicles. Later, other signs appear. These include

  • Short stature
  • Poor motor skills
  • Weight gain
  • Underdeveloped sex organs
  • Mild mental retardation and learning disabilities

There is no cure for PWS. Growth hormone and exercise can help build muscle mass and control weight.

So why would a ‘comedian’ feel it a good idea to pick apart someone’s personal life in order to abuse her nine year old son, who has plenty enough to deal with? One of the less nasty things he said was that she and her ex-husband Peter André would fight over custody of Harvey.  ‘Eventually one of them will lose and have to keep him.’ He said worse. She outlines them here.

Frankie Boyle, to go for the cheap shot, is as his name suggests. An inflamed and pustulating swelling on the skin, causing massive irritation. He has angered me before, not because I am an easy mark, but because those he targets specifically are. He is a weakness in the human DNA chain, and I do not ever wish to meet the spineless excuse for a man, because if I do it will involve a day in court.

In the meantime, I shall ponder the existence of a just God, one who would allow such patent uselessness to exist in a realm of infinite possibility. And apologies to you all for such a meandering and incoherent post. Next time I’ll just smack the ugly bastard in his ugly bastard mouth.