Kevin Myers: Church’s first mission lies at home, not in Honduras
Published 01/04/2011 | 08:00
Surely the most pitiful lifebelt that the Irish Catholic Church is now reaching for is the Trocaire notion that its primary duties lie in providing a sort of human rights movement for the poor in Central America.
That, certainly, is the thrust of Trocaire's Lenten television advertising campaign. This includes a winsome little girl called Digna, with rather startlingly shampooed hair, who tells us (via subtitles) that armed police came into her home and scared her.
Another ad says lugubriously that gang warfare in Honduras is rampant. What? Gang warfare, rampant? How shocking.
Yet another ad concludes with a shot of a dancing little girl who, the voiceover warns, when she grows up, will have to sell the only thing she owns...and as the camera gazes on her little body, the voice goes deeper as it intones, ‘night, after night, after night’.
This is nauseating stuff: cheap, grisly and exploitative. How would we like it if the Honduran Catholic Church made such TV ads about us? Not much, I suspect.
So is Trocaire simply offering another form of cultural imperialism, in which the Great White Man once again dispenses wisdom and cash to the less fortunate, duskier breeds?
Yet there's another aspect to all this: for it's as if Trocaire has found in Honduras an ideal pseudo-Irish historical theme park, complete with land issues rather like those of late 19th century Ireland.
They can thus endlessly and satisfyingly re-enact the dramas of Irish history, as they become a virtual Land League, gallantly opposing the cruel absentee landlords of Central America.
Moreover, in that Trocaire ad, we are told: ‘Digna is in danger... You can keep her safe.’ From the police, you mean? How, pray?
And, rather tellingly, the Trocaire Lenten campaign doesn't even mention Lent, or Jesus, or his 40 days in the desert, or his imminent torture and murder.
So, perhaps unsurprisingly, when we dig deeper, we discover that one of Trocaire's stated aims is the achievement of ‘gender equality’.
For an arm of the Holy Roman Catholic, Apostolic and Patrician Church, with its all-male priesthood, to be preaching this particular message is only marginally more entertaining than hearing the Chief Rabbi solemnly adumbrate upon the vital necessity of retaining foreskins.
No doubt the Trocaire-ites would justify their focus on Honduras on the grounds that their work there is a practical enactment of the principles of the Sermon on the Mount.
But those who believe that the duty of Catholicism is the promotion of the Catholic faith can, with perhaps more validity, point to Jesus's own words: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.”
And since a) there are already many, many Third World charities and b) the Irish Catholic Church is already manifestly failing in its primary mission to render unto God the things that are God's here in Ireland, it's just a little strange that it's also choosing to take on the Caesars of Honduras.
Fire brigades extinguish infernos. They don't arrest burglars, though they might sometimes give a hand. Doctors treat patients. They don't man trawlers, unless in an emergency.
Police officers uphold the law. They don't cut grass. And the Roman Catholic Church's defining duty is to promote the tenets and the dogmas of the Catholic faith.
So, a word of advice for the Bould Seanie Brady, the Card of Armagh.
Forty years ago, what was then an almost all-powerful Irish Catholic Church established Trocaire as a minor auxiliary |arm in order to promote some |corporal works of mercy in far-away lands.
But it was always meant as a sideshow to the Catholic Church's main duties of promoting the word of God through its teachings in Ireland, with the daily consecration as its moral and spiritual focus.
Let us remind ourselves of the fate of the Sovereign Military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, which once raised and trained mighty armies to drive the forces of Islam from the Holy Places.
But now look: the Knights of Malta — having forgotten their primary purpose — are reduced to a few pimply youths in baggy black uniforms, watching football games on wet Sundays afternoons; and Jerusalem is as remote as a seagull's cry in the Skagerrak.
Bear that in mind, Your Grace: the primary duties of the Irish Catholic Church lie at home.
Forget those and you may as well just forget about everything else, too.