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.

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17 comments on “Losing my religion, my Caitlin Moran and my Frankie Boyle

  1. Jo says:

    Beautifully written, Nick.

  2. Nick, so much here.
    I’ve travelled this path too. My ideas have changed utterly in the past 10 years. I blame the internet- having access to so many ideas so easily, I could think up different questions daily and try to seek answers. I mean, once I read Bertrand Russell, there was no going back. I couldn’t unlearn it and pretend to be ignorant. The same thing happened with my disability journey- it started as “how do I beat this autism thing” and changed to- “how do I help make the world more accepting and supportive of disabled people”. It helped me figure out another major problem I was facing- gave it a name and helped me figure out a solution. Again for ages I wished I could re-cork that particular genie, but hey, it turned out to be best to face the hard truth and deal with it.

    These people don’t get away with it as easily as before. More of us can group and oppose the (spit) Boyles of this world, and call out the Morans when they fail to think and feel for people who are damaged by their cute little sentences.

    Thanks for writing this.

  3. A very interesting read.

  4. Elbog says:

    I would say that you’d taken the words right out of my mouth; alas, I have not had the courage to speak them.
    Grace, I suppose, is the allowance, to anger. Perhaps there is too much of it. Pondering right along with ye.

  5. Fiona Hanley says:

    Fine stuff. You’re going against the grain there Nick, giving credit where it’s due to some of the decent men of the cloth. They’re still there. As for Frankie Boyle, I hope the git is suffering. Apart from anything else, he stole that joke from Sue Townsend, author of the Adrian Mole series.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      I can’t seem to care much for their organisation anymore, Fi. The Cloyne Report (I know you’re not looking forward to reading it) is the final crash of the wrecking ball into the edifice for me, I think… 😦

  6. Mel says:

    My grandfather was a catholic of Irish parents, whose mother died when he was 3. His father put him into a catholic boarding school here in NZ, where he was abused by priests. He never went to church in my memory, but insisted I be christened, although an anglican christening was fine by him. So I guess you’re not the only confused one!

    He was a Boyle too. But thankfully nothing like that idiot who thinks he’s witty, picking on a boy who will have no idea who he is, or that he’s apparently hilarious. What is wrong with people?

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Y’know Mel, I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I wish he wouldn’t take it out on our kids though. My sympathy ain’t what it used to be for people who act meanly.

      Lovely as ever to hear from you. Hope the Skywalker clan is all well. 🙂

  7. Mary Moroney says:

    Very fine writing indeed my friend!

  8. Marie says:

    I have just stumbled opon your blog (shamefully it was while googling Caitlin Moran). Very moving and beautifully written, I hope to get a chance to read your archived blogs as the subject matter touches those close to me also.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Would be delighted to see you back, Marie. No shame in Googling Caitlin Moran at all! I’m very surprised that I rank so highly in the search page.

      Thanks for calling in. 🙂

  9. I’m a first-time reader as well. This is a great piece. I’m just sorry that you’ve had to run across such ugliness; the world breaks my heart sometimes.

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Lots of Ugly to go round, Girl. If that really IS your name. 🙂 Trick is sharing the good bits, I guess, so that nice people will help share the crap too. Loved your Hoarders piece. Will be back for more. Really nice to see you here in Neglected Blog Central.

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