On 25 August, when Pope Francis becomes the first pontiff to travel to Ireland in 39 years. The “Say Nope to the Pope” campaign is organising folks to book free tickets to papal events in order to leave the seats empty. Yet even this is too radical for the Irish political establishment. The leaders of our two main political parties have spoken out against what they clearly deem an act of religious bigotry. Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil called the action “petty, intolerant, and certainly the opposite of progressive”. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar agreed, deeming the campaign “Wrong, petty, and mean-spirited”, adding that it was not “legitimate protest”.
Less than a decade ago, the Ryan report into child sexual abuse in state-funded, church-run institutions was published, costing the Irish taxpayer €82m. It uncovered decades of horror endured by children in the ostensible care of Catholic organisations: rape, physical violence, neglect and emotional abuse. The government’s redress scheme for the victims of the church cost €1.5bn; a further €176m was spent supporting survivors with health, housing, education and counselling services. While the government hoped that the costs of redress could be shared 50:50 between the Catholic church and the Irish taxpayer, the church has contributed just €192m to help those it tortured and abused.
In 2009, the Murphy report on the sexual abuse of children in the archdiocese of Dublin revealed that the Catholic church’s priority in dealing with paedophilia was not child welfare, but rather secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of its reputation and the preservation of church assets. In 2011, the Cloyne report found that Bishop John Magee, acting on a “secret letter” from Rome, covered up child sex abuse rather than reporting it to authorities. The Ferns report, the Raphoe report, the Limerick report – all have revealed cover-ups, callous disregard for child welfare, and concern predominantly for the character and coffers of the church.
Irish taxpayers financed all of these inquiries, and now they must pay up to €20m to welcome the head of the organisation responsible for these crimes. But peacefully protesting the Pope’s visit is “intolerant”.
In Magdalene laundries, women were incarcerated and forced to perform backbreaking work without pay although they had committed no crimes. In mother and baby homes, women’s children were taken from them, illegally adopted, or put into abusive institutions where they could be neglected to death and thrown into unmarked graves. Brutal symphysiotomies carried out in Irish hospitals traumatised and disabled women for life because the church had some insane objection to caesarean sections. But booking tickets for a mass that you don’t plan to attend is “wrong”.
Suffice to say: protesting about the pope’s visit – with empty seats, placards, or any other peaceful means – is legitimate, warranted, progressive and necessary. It sends the message that we are sick of paying – spiritually, emotionally, economically – for the evils perpetrated by the church; that we want religious orders out of our state schools and hospitals; that we want our politicians to act on evidence, not religious beliefs; that we deserve a secular society.
Taken from here