I left a shorter version of this comment on the Irish Times article titled ‘Mater board priest says hospital can’t carry out abortions’
What the hell is going on here? It seems there is a priest who says that the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital will not perform abortions in order to save the life of a pregnant woman. Since when did priests get to decide what medical treatment women ought to receive? Since when did priests have a say in determining women’s reproductive rights? Are we living in some kind of patriarchal theocratic backwater? Answer: this is a Catholic country.
The imperious ejaculations from the Catholic Church with regard to ethos are all a means of obscuring the real ethos of the Catholic Church. It has nothing to do with ‘the healing ministry of Jesus Christ’. It has to do with making money. Tabernacles full of money. And, in the case of health services, making tabernacles full of cash out of people’s pain and, in the particular area of women’s health, out of the subjection of women.
Reflection time: Mater Misericordiae. That means ‘Mother of Mercy’, right? Well, what kind of mercy is it that requires a cash payment, as is the case with the ‘Mater Private’? That kind of mercy sounds to me like the sort dispensed by hitmen and mercenaries: pony up €5,000 or lose a kidney.
Sketching out the common characteristics of the so-called PIGS countries in 2011, political scientist Vicenç Navarro pointed to the fact that Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Greece had all been ruled by deeply conservative forces for the greater part of the 20th century.
But whilst it is recognised that peoples of the other three countries were subjected to dictatorships, an implicit distinction is drawn in the Irish case. From the point of view of Ireland’s political and media establishments, Ireland is the site of a liberal parliamentary democracy of impressive longevity.
To hold Ireland up as a beacon of democracy entails ignoring certain inconvenient facts about this ‘Catholic country’: an array of brutal carceral institutions -industrial schools, slave laundries and psychiatric hospitals; wide-ranging censorship; impunity for corruption and fraud by the rich; the longstanding privileges afforded to financiers and property speculators at the cost of the public’s welfare; the systematic evacuation of poorer sectors of society through the safety valve of emigration and their subsequent loss of the political franchise. The neglect and abuse of children. A constitution that guarantees the subjection of women and enforces drastic restrictions on their reproductive rights. A meagre and judgmental welfare state and a public culture that prizes charity over solidarity. Decisions made by unaccountable cliques. A reluctance to challenge authority for fear of retribution and winding up in hell with the filth of the world.
None of these things could have been achieved without the backing, the blessing, and the active collaboration of the Catholic Church, with its hatred of democracy and its love of hierarchy and privilege. It has long opposed the building of institutions in Irish life that are seen as basic achievements of democratic life in other countries, including universal health care and free education. The hierarchy said such things would lead to totalitarianism. It supported Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain and denounced those who fought against it. Its priests subjected children to heinous abuse, and its bishops covered it up. It promoted the ownership of property as a bulwark against revolutionary change. In every city, town and village throughout Ireland where it operated it fostered an awe of the rich and powerful and contempt for the poor, who were to be patronised and stigmatised.
It is a major player in maintaining Ireland’s two-tier health and education systems. Some of the priests, like the one on the Mater board of directors, are awful, but some of the lay members are worse: millionaire private health investors who fund conservative think tanks to produce anti-abortion materials and campaign for state funding of private schools.
If it is anything, the Catholic Church in Ireland is a racket operated in order to protect the regime of property and the privileges of the rich. Casting it out of public institutions would be a useful first step toward a democratic society.