We have a national broadcasting station called RTÉ, which is paid for by licence fee. These fees are collected by the State, and RTÉ is the only broadcaster to benefit from them.
RTÉ is a State-funded and controlled operation, as is the BBC.
Now, we also have a provision in our constitution, Article 44.2.2, which says that The state may not endow any religion, and this is more than the Brits can claim. After all, their Head of State, Queen Elizabeth the Second, is also the head of their established church, the Church of England.
Good for us secular Paddies then, yeah? Good for us.
Well, not exactly.
I was listening to RTÉ yesterday, and they were reporting on the visit of the Pope to France, and more particularly, to Lourdes.
Lourdes, you know? Where miracles happen. The place where people come out of the water in new wheelchairs.
Nothing. If you want to roll around in a filthy, cholera-infested pool full of piss, that’s your business. The Lourdes story is uplifting to some people. For Christ’s sake, even Leonard Cohen, a Jew, wrote a beautiful song about it: The Song of Bernadette.
But unfortunately, it’s also a load of bollocks, in the very same way that Medugorje is, though less sinister. After all, the Medugorje thing only started up when Church authorities decided to close a notoriously corrupt Franciscan friary. Somehow, as if by a miracle, three astoundingly telegenic children saw visions there, just beside the friary, and of course the poor Franciscan friars were taken completely by surprise when the money started rolling in.
What a miracle that was. A miracle so enormous that even the three factions in the Bosnian war observed a truce around the shrine. Including the Bosnian Muslims! And this truce had absolutely nothing to do with the huge amounts of tourist cash the thing was bringing in. Of course not.
Interestingly, the bishop dropped his plans to close the friary, but anyway, I digress.
Look, we’ve all had hallucinations, so I won’t blame poor little Bernadette. I’ve had hallucinations. My friends have had hallucinations. Turn on the TV and look at the American election candidates. Tell me that’s not a hallucination.
So we’ll make room for poor deluded little Bernadette. What we won’t make room for though, is the money-grabbing racket that sprang up around this little town of 15,000 souls, with a capacity to process five million visitors every year. Serious cash.
And another thing I won’t make room for is our national broadcaster reporting that Pope Ratzo the First visited the shrine where Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary.
Not “claimed to see”. Not “was said to have seen”. No.
Where Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary. Reported as fact by a national broadcaster in a country whose constitution guarantees that no religion will receive special treatment.
And while I’m on the subject, who exactly is this Virgin Mary person?
Let’s not be too curmudgeonly though.
Here’s Jennifer Warnes with Lenny Cohen’s beautiful song.
Also on Bock: