What would you think if you were listening to a radio phone-in show, and every time the presenter mentioned Muhammad, he said peace be upon him?
You’d draw inevitable conclusions, wouldn’t you, about the presenter’s religious convictions?
Nothing wrong with that, you might say, if you happen to be listening to a religious radio station, and I’d completely agree with you. Private funding means independence. But suppose you tuned in to a State broadcaster such as, for instance the BBC. If one of their presenters continually used the phrase Muhammad, peace be upon him, maybe you’d start to ask yourself if this was appropriate for a station funded out of public money, paid by people of all religions and none.
And you might think the same about RTÉ, which is supported by a licence fee that comes from all inhabitants of the land, whether they happen to be Catholics, Jews, Muslims or atheists.
What if a radio presenter continually referred to Buddha as the enlightened one? Speaking for myself, I’d find that a bit creepy, and more than a bit objectionable.
So what about Joe Duffy constantly talking about Our Lady?
We know what he means : the Virgin Mary, but that’s not the point. Our Lady is a phrase uniquely belonging to Catholics. Our lady. Not theirs. Our lady. An expression that automatically excludes people who don’t consider this person to be their lady. That would include Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Mormons and anyone else who doesn’t happen to be a traditional Irish Catholic.
When someone says Our Lady, they are automatically inviting their audience to buy into the concept, which is fine when one Catholic is talking to another. But when speaking to the audience that pays your substantial salary, it’s necessary to be slightly more professional, and to ask yourself whether Our Lady is a term all of them would use, or even understand. Not all of them are Catholics, and therefore would never use this term to describe the biblical character. Even if they were, not all of them would use an expression like Our Lady which would be perceived as coming from Cardinal Cullen’s book of childish Irish Catholic clichés.
To assume that the listeners would identify with an expression like Our Lady is to offer them an insult — something Joe Duffy is no stranger to, admittedly. It means that the speaker is unaware is unaware of the diversity of opinion in Irish society. Or else it means he’s so arrogant he doesn’t care.
I doubt if most people are that ill-informed, but for Joe Duffy, I’d make an exception.
The Virgin Mary is a name universally recognised, by people of faith and also non-believers. It carries no overtones or connotations, and it conveys precisely the meaning intended. Unfortunately, this is not enough for Joe Duffy, who prefers the vaguely infantile Our Lady, thereby alienating many of his listeners, though not the maniac who said that it should be a crime to be a non-believer.
I’m still not sure whether Duffy uses the term Our Lady because he wants to assert his fervent belief in traditional Irish Catholicism (which has been such a force for good over the last century) or because he’s too ignorant to understand the significance of his words.
I’m inclined to think he’s just too thick. You can pretend to be a student radical all you want, but in my opinion, once a gobshite, always a gobshite.