John Waters is that rare thing, an original thinker. He proved it again the other day when he wrote a piece in the Irish Times. In it he expressed admiration for Pope Benedict, was critical of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, and had some tough words for those people who call for greater democracy in the Catholic Church.
“Last week, on the publication of an opinion poll on behalf of the Association of Catholic Priests, commentators who had never written a sentence indicating genuine interest in, or affection for, Catholicism – who never miss an opportunity to attack the Church and its leadership – struck up demands for 'democracy', purportedly on behalf of what they depict as the downtrodden and ignored 'faithful'. Why? Why do they care whether the Catholic Church is democratic or not? What is it to them?”
I don’t agree with all that Waters says in the article, but I’m completely with him in much of it. I don’t believe Pope Benedict is deserving of uncritical admiration: his response to a number of matters, including his reception of married Church of England clergy and their flocks into the Catholic Church, and his attitude to women priests, is up the left. Or up the right, in his case. And the Catholic Church could do with a health-giving infusion of democracy. And there are quite a few Catholic priests who think we're still living in the 1950s.
But Waters nails it exactly when he questions criticism of the Catholic Church by many commentators. It should be obvious to even a short-sighted man on a galloping horse that a wide and deep strain of hostility to the Catholic Church runs through the Irish media, north and south. As Waters says, these commentators have no commitment of any kind to the Catholic Church, yet they lose no opportunity to express their outrage at rulings in the Catholic Church, and strain to indicate that anyone who follows such rulings must have a weakness in the head or be a lick-spittle lackey of the Catholic clergy. And as Waters also says, why do these commentators care? If you don’t play golf and have no interest in it, wouldn’t it look odd if you repeatedly wrote articles about its rules, its organization, its worth? Except, of course, you were contemptuous of the game and those who played it.
The Irish media, by and large, is relentlessly “liberal” in its assumptions, and works hard at impressing those assumptions on the rest of us. Part of this is Catholic-Church bashing, resoundingly and at regular intervals. We should be glad there are people like Waters. Very glad.