Decades ago, during my first sojourn to the Emerald Isle, my backpack and I ended up on the steps of a strange establishment called “The Walnut House”, on the outskirts of Limerick. I was exhausted and broke, and not especially picky about where I’d rest my head, so I ignored the odd look in the proprietor’s eyes and paid for a night.
I should have known better, especially after an especially impudent Irishman, clearly some local wag with inside knowledge, guffawed at us through the open front door,
“Is this the Nuthouse?”
It was, indeed.
The owner of the place, Peter Fitzgerald, was a complete lunatic, even by Gaelic standards. When he wasn’t talking my ear off about his latest ecstatic vision of a virgin, Pete somehow was able to hang images of the latest pope and various papist martyrs every foot or so on every wall in his humble inn of five cluttered rooms. And I’ll spare you the details of what he served me for breakfast the next day on a cracked ceramic platter bearing the curious words,
“I’ve been to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico”
Peter Fitzgerald is shuffling up from my memory these days as I prepare to travel to the land he hated so to engage in a public debate whose title, I kid you not, is this:
“Be it resolved that the Roman Catholic church is a force for good in the world.”
Welcome to the Nuthouse.
I trust that all my gentle readers will know on what side of that proposition I will fall, when on April 24 I stand up at the oldest debating society in England and in the world, the Cambridge Union, and wrestle with that mad suggestion, face to face with some pious wanker of an opponent who thinks he can buy insurance in heaven with enough payments to the papacy.
Well might you ask why I’ll even debating such a ridiculous notion that the biggest criminal racket on our planet is “doing good”. Wading though the muck and mire of other peoples’ fallacies like that is about as pleasant a prospect to me as sitting with Peter Fitzgerald for another hour.
But naturally, I’m going to do it. I am part Irish, after all.
Far be it from me to spill the beans of what I’ll be arguing in Cambridge in a few weeks, but to employ one of Carol’s appellations for me, being pretty impudent and “cheeky monkeyish” myself , I can’t resist shooting a few of my arrows at the advancing enemy, even if it does give away some of my position.
Bumpy Johnson was a compassionate sort of killer who had this penchant to feed the hungry kids in Harlem with free turkeys every Christmas, back in the seventies.
The corpulent mobster would personally hand out the big stuffed birds to all his poor and adoring fans from the back of a flat truck off Lexington Avenue. Of course, Bumpy was able to garner the loot for such charitable works by first wiping out all the local drug dealers – his preferred method being to burn offenders alive with kerosene – and cornering their heroin trade in that part of the Bronx. But most people didn’t want to talk about that, even when their own relatives were overdosing and dying from Bumpy’s trade.
For New York City loved Bumpy Johnson with the adulation of True Believers, and the hordes of politicians and judges and media moguls who no doubt also drank from Bumpy’s trough mourned him greatly when he finally left this mortal coil.
Was Bumpy Johnson a force for good in the world?
Or how about Pablo Escobar, the Medellin drug cartel’s “robin hood” gangster who routinely funded housing projects and free medical clinics for Colombia’s poor families? Was Pablo a good guy? Is Monsanto Corporation a positive power on earth because it constructs schools for the kids of the third world farmers whose lands they’re adulterating?
The Mafia hoods are all good catholics who give routinely to charity and make all those church-sponsored charities happen, when they’re not whacking someone or laundering their stolen wealth through the ever-compliant Vatican Bank. And the Mob really must be good guys, after all, since “Pope Francis” himself hung out with them recently in Rome and taught them how to be nicer people. Or something.
Of course, you can engage in any degree of lies and hypocrisy when you’re a “pope” and your business pulls in a few trillion bucks a year. You can even traffic and kill kids and have Presidents have tea with you.
During my first year as a clergyman in Port Alberni, I learned quickly who was the worst child sex offender in town, mostly from his victims or their families. The bastard was an elder at the nearby Anglican church. He was also the head of the local Rotary Club and led their charitable fund raising campaign every year. He was the buddy of the Mayor and a “good Christian”. Nobody wanted to hear about what he did at night.
Yes indeed, this world is such a Two Faced Janus that it’s hardly surprising when the top worldly power, the Vatican Incorporated, embodies the madness of benificient monstrosity to such an ultimate degree that all one can do, apparently, is laugh.
Now, I assume that just smirking at my Cambridge debating opponent and tossing poignant barbs of irony and ridicule at him, or her, will not cut the mustard on April 24. The university crowd will want a good show that day, and being scholars, will clearly need to dissect and discuss and minutiae their moral substance out of existence. And yet some basic, disgusted part of me feels that there is little else to be done in the face of the organized mass insanity we are confronting, than to guffaw at it all.
Another mick, the writer George Bernard Shaw, prescribed exactly such a course a century ago, when he was asked for his reaction to the outbreak of another lunacy known as the Great War to “end all wars”. (Remember?)
George calmly said to the reporter,
“Soldiers on both sides should shoot their officers and go home”.
Later, the cheeky Irishman commented that the best way to bring down the rich and mighty was to laugh at them. For it is undeniable that something is shaken loose by doing so: not just the stupid and unwarranted air of legitimacy surrounding the psychopaths who rule us and tell us what to believe, but that thing within ourselves that plays along with the great dissociation and believes that yes, might must make right, and the butchers do have a good side, after all.
The next time someone insists that “There are also good people in the church, you know”, I plan to shove a ripe melon in their face. Or something worse.