Today’s column title is not a reference to the 1967 Swedish new-wave movie where a woman dreams of cutting her lover’s penis off and then kisses it – no, it is rather a declaration; I’d like to know what the Silesians and Poles think of the Catholic Church.
Most of you are used to newspaper columns informing you of their opinion. I’ve been doing it for years, with sledgehammer-like delicacy, and today will be no exception: it’s my belief that the Catholic Church is as much use to society as a turd in a field, beneficial to a few bloated flies, yet detrimental and disgusting to its immediate environment.
But what about you, the 5% who read my Gazeta Wyborcza column? After all my time here, I should have a fix on your opinion regarding this wealthy organisation who have done a terrible job carrying out the teachings of Jesus. But I don’t. I know there are lots of atheists around – hell, I live with one of them, but my bet is Poles would rather confess to being chicken molesters than to speak of a faith in the absence of a god.
I have a firm belief in a benign higher power because it fits in with my worldview and makes me happy. Trust me, when your father has been imprisoned and your mother can’t walk, you have to believe in something. I tried believing in Rock and Roll until I found out how much money Bono had hidden down the back of his couch and while many Irish have turned against the once saint-like U2 frontman, few in Poland, in social situations at least, are willing to serve up tough questions on the Catholic Church.
I know, I know, who wants to ruin a family occasion like a birthday or a party to celebrate a promotion, by asking how a country can commit itself to a male-dominated, authoritarian institution which suppresses dissent and attempts to control what its members may even discuss? A question like that kind of pisses all over your comfortable, cosy, cheesecake buzz. But if it makes it any better, that statement of curiosity didn’t originate from me. It’s a direct quote from Father Peter McVerry, a social justice campaigner.
He’s the founder of a the Peter McVerry Trust, a homeless organisation, and if the Poles want to take a peep at what organised religion should really be like, then turn off the Radio Maria documentary about the man who made it his life’s mission to sniff every single seat that Pope John ever sat on, and throw this Jesuit priest’s name into the googlebox.
If you do, you’ll find out how he devoted the last thirty years to helping the destitute and indigent of Ballymun. Ballymun is a Dublin ghetto and when the city was the heroin capital of Europe in the 1980’s, Ballymun was its putrefying black heart. Not only does Peter McVerry work in the shelter he established, but he lives there in a small flat with four other priests. He counts his friends as the homeless people he works with. His phone is on 24hours. If you called in tomorrow, you’d get to meet him and he’d tell you that the church established by Jesus was to be a community of brothers and sisters, free of all domination and Jesus warned against replicating the relationships of power that existed in the wider society.
And if you told him you were Polish, he’d probably tell you that the thing that angered him the most during his thirty years in the trenches was related to Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979.
“He was to stop off in our small church but was behind schedule and he passed us by on the way to meet the bishops and dignitaries in Dublin Castle. That really pissed me off.”
Father Peter McVerry, this man who questions the direction of the Catholic Church was recently made a Freeman of Dublin. Most of us in Ireland are in awe of him because he’s the real deal, a Christian in actions rather than words.
Are there people like this in Poland? I am genuinely curious about this. Do you think the Church here influences people to be good and help others?
Or do you think their time is up and through systematic appropriation we should flush their greedy asses down the drain to the sea?