Sunday, I decided to brave the crowds to stand in solidarity with the survivors of rape by priests, clerical abuse in industrial schools, forced and illegal adoptions, survivors and victims of Mother and Baby Homes, slavery in Magdalene Laundries . . . .
Crowds often = panic for me, so I don’t usually go to marches or rallies, even when it’s a cause I strongly support. We’d been inundated with months of media on how the crowds would be massive and, while admitting that it wouldn’t be like 1979 because the country has changed (3/4 of the entire population turned out for JPII), everything was being set up for the most massive mobilization of crowds into the Phoenix Park in 40 years with everything else shut down.
We’ve had months of media nostalgia for “memories of the last Papal Visit”. Not to twist the knife for people who heard the Pope say “Young people of Ireland I love you” and then not only suffered rape and abuse by the Church’s representatives at home but then gaslighting, victim blaming, and cover-ups by that pope, his successors, and their representatives who continued to protect the criminals and leave them free to rape and abuse with impunity. So much that Colm O’Gorman, the head of Amnesty International Ireland and a survivor of clerical abuse himself had enough a few weeks ago and decided to organize a rally in solidarity with those who’d been harmed by the Church.
I still wasn’t even sure Saturday I’d be up for traveling and crowds as the only way for me to get into town would be right past one of the designated entrances for the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park and we’d basically been warned that aside from special transport to and from the Mass, transport around Dublin would be all but shut down. (With taxpayer support, and free transport for people going to Mass . . . on taxpayer money.) And then I started seeing some of the pictures of the “crowds” for his parade around Dublin in the popemobile Saturday, and decided I could do it.
Hats off to Hozier, you guys. I hadn’t really paid much attention to him as a musician before now, but he’s good people. He’s playing a series of concerts in Ireland with all proceeds going to homelessness support.
We had about 2 hours of music and readings, finishing with a short powerful address by Colm O’Gorman and a silent march from the Garden of Rememberance to the site of the last Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street.
Well, almost silent. A woman behind me, holding a sign describing the abuse, destroyed life, and eventual death of her brother, was sobbing.
Another protest took place in Galway, and at least 1000 people protested at the sight of the Tuam mother and baby home where (thanks to the tireless activism of Catherine Corliss) the remains of nearly 800 babies were uncovered discarded in an old septic tank.
So what did the turnout for the Pope look like?
Those numbers also don’t take into account two things:
1) The Papal Visit was the culmination of the “World Meeting of Families [that fit our very narrow conception of what an acceptable ‘family’ looks like and certainly doesn’t include families with gay people]” conference, that had attendees from all over the world.
2) The majority of the crowds heading in and out to the mass that I witnessed were parents dragging at least three children with them. Those numbers are seriously bulked up by small kids that didn’t have a choice in the matter.
I do know one person who went to the mass. He’s atheist. He’s also a father of five and he dragged all his kids to the Phoenix Park because he thought it would be something they’d want to be able to talk about when they were older. And there were meant to be free sandwiches.
And hey, free concert:
(Don’t ask me to explain Daniel O’Donnell. I can’t.)
So . . . did the Pope do anything to redress the wrongs? Apologize even? Like fuck he did. He went to Galway . . . to Knock Shrine in Tuam, not the site of the mother and baby home in Tuam.
Even better . . . when he met a few survivors Saturday, he had the gall to claim he “didn’t know” what the Magdalene laundries or industrial schools were.
Guess who has the power to do something about it? That man right there. Don’t “ask for forgiveness” while covering up and denying knowledge, atone. Don’t call people who want accountability “fixated.”
So, yeah. That final hashtag in the blog title line was gaining popularity on Irish twitter for a few days: #FTP Fuck the Pope.
Ireland doesn’t need him. Doesn’t want him. Old “Catholic Ireland” is gone, replaced by a more open, more supporting, more accepting Ireland. We just need our institutions, politicians, and media to cop the fuck on and catch up.