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25 Years of TGIF
A quarter century ago, on what I called Ash Friday, Thank God It’s Friday began. To mark the anniversary, here is the sixth TGIF, Papal Bull, in which I think I found my length; it was certainly the first that had me denounced from the pulpit/minaret. In 1988, Emile Elias led the Family Planning Association.
Normally, I feel pretty rotten on Easter Sunday morning. It’s very rough for a good Catholic boy to wake up and realise that, two thousand years (or so) ago, today, Jesus Christ rose from the grave and you’re not going to get out of bed to go to church. It’s especially bad nowadays when, relatively speaking, it’s so easy to go to mass. The Roman Catholic Church has become very user-friendly.
At one time Catholics had to go to mass every Sunday. Now, it’s just Easter Sunday. At one time, women were not allowed into church without hats. Now they can go in without bras. At one time mass on Sunday was exactly that. Then Saturday evening was deemed to be the same as Sunday morning. Soon, I expect, Rome will allow Friday mass to do for Sunday on long weekends; you’ve got to get the punters in somehow.
I didn’t go to mass to celebrate Easter, but I did have the chocolate egg. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. I have to think: Who died? Who got married? The truth is, though, I couldn’t go. Confession is a prerequisite in my case and God alone knows when I made my last confession. I don’t even know what confession looks like now.
Is there still a bank of priests in a long line of confessional booths along the church wall? Have they instituted a fast-teller line? Do you take a number and wait?
Or has the trade slowed down so only one priest will do? Is there a hole-in-the-wall automated telling machine? The prescribed confessional form would be the same, though, I’ll bet:
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 15 years since my last confession...” “Fifteen years, my son?” “Yeah, Fa’r... probably 20, actually.” “Wow! That’s a long time. I bet none of the other priests ever had one so long... Go on, my son.” “Yeah, it’s been plenty years since my last confession. I accuse myself of telling lies five times, having impure thoughts six times, being disrespectful to my parents seven times and I can’t read the last thing on the list but that was only four times.” “Right you are, my son, at today’s rates those sins will set you back five Hail Marys and an Our Father. Let me wave my hand in front of my nose and your soul will be clean. Yo te absolvo, yo MTV raps. Right, send in the next sinner.”
But I’m in the major league, sin-wise, now. Thank God. Life’s too short for nickel-and-dime, five Hail Marys, venial sin. It’s mortal sin or bust. Give me sin you can sink your teeth into. I’m a red-meat sinner. What were once vices are now habits. If I did make my confession, I would have to pay in thousand-novena bills. But even if I wanted absolution from my way of life, which I don’t, I couldn’t get it from the Church. Could I even bring myself to confess my sins to a Catholic priest? These guys are not prepared for the real world, Father Kent notwithstanding. You have to coddle them. Even if everything else they believed in was sensible, which it isn’t, these are men who do not believe in birth control.
The world is overrun with human beings. If we had anything else—rats, locusts, eagles, mosquitoes, anything—in the numbers we have people, we would call it a plague and would be fighting it tooth and nail in a justifiable battle for self-preservation. But try to sell condoms in gas stations in Trinidad and holy men come out in droves to pray on your head.
It could make you laugh out loud: every day, all over the Third World, poor, stupid, uneducated peasant women are popping out skinny babies they have no hope of keeping alive, and they are doing it on the direction of a man who has taken a vow of celibacy and will never himself risk the responsibilities of parenthood; Jesus would have laughed until he wept.
Catholic doctrine declares the Holy Father is infallible on matters of doctrine and that would be all well and good if he was right all the time. The stuff about loving your neighbour and saying grace before meals is okay, but, Breds, you’re dead wrong about birth control. Anybody could tell you that. The amazing thing is, many Catholics do not think birth control is evil. They practise it. But they will say they are wrong, not the Pope. I’ve heard it time and again. They get married according to Catholic rites and promise to accept children from God. Ha! If Catholic couples were honest, half their children would be called “Houdini.” And surely at least the older priests must know. Surely they’ve noticed people have stopped bringing babies to the baptismal every year like clockwork?
But Catholics will continue the masquerade that birth control is wrong because the Pope is infallible, you see, and good Catholics must believe in him, even when he is wrong. For every credibility gap there is a gullibility fill; but there is a line between faith and stupidity. I believe, to quote Judy Raymond, that it is reason which will save us, not faith. And I think that, in time, people will begin to understand what is meant by papal bull.
BC Pires is no relation to Emile Elias.
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