I get a sense of the anticipation that’s growing with the prospect of public Masses being back from June 29. Some have wanted them sooner, others have urged caution, but unlike the anti-racism protestors the Church has shown great restraint and civic responsibility.
Last Monday Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was interviewed on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) on what approaches might be taken. There was talk about social distancing, priests wearing masks, Masses being oversubscribed and other concepts foreign to our experience of Mass in pre-covid times, when a Zoom Mass was a case of priest in-a-hurry.
The Archbishop wanted people to be ready and safe post lockdown, but also optimistic. He complimented the work of Crosscare during the pandemic in caring for the vulnerable.
A related item featured on Today With Sarah McInerney (RTÉ Radio 1) on Thursday. Evelyn O’Rourke presented a report on Little Flower Penny Dinners in the Liberties area of Dublin – inspired by the Little Flower, St Thérèse of Lisieux and allied to St Catherine’s parish in Meath Street. As with Crosscare, this was the Church at a core work of service, striving away under the radar in an era when discretion and low profile are not exactly fashionable. There was a “significant increase in demand” during the lockdown, but that very situation made it more challenging for the volunteers – a dining room for hot meals was replaced by food parcels and meals on wheels. One woman spoke of how “beautiful” the food was and complimented the politeness of the staff.
The anti-racism protests were anything but low profile and continued apace last week. Of course they have a good cause – racism is offensive and downright stupid, but the protests at times have taken on an air of mass hysteria, with everything from Fawlty Towers to a statue of Winston Churchill being targeted. You might have thought the moving statues phenomenon in Ireland in the 80s was strange, but these latest moving statues are causing new waves of polarisation as they move from plinths to rivers or museums or disappear into their own shielding lockdowns.
And yet there is a discussion to be had. I think some of these events amounted to cultural vandalism, and yet I wouldn’t fancy statues of Hitler lording it over any public squares.
I thought it really went pear-shaped when UKTV removed an episode of Fawlty Towers because of racial slurs. A few days later it was due back with “extra guidance and warnings” – do they think the audience is thick or what?
I think some of the modern cultural vandals are completely devoid of a sense of humour and wouldn’t know satire if it bit them (biting satire!). Yet I looked at the offending episode again and the Major’s racial slurs did certainly jar, and as in similar situations I’d cringe and think: “Oh they wouldn’t get away with that now.”
In fact, for me, it would make casual racism more disgusting and maybe that was the original intention.
The anti-racism protests were the subject of a lively debate between David Quinn (frequently seen in these here parts) and Richard Boyd Barrett TD of People Before Profit on Newstalk Breakfast, on Wednesday. Quinn played the trump card by citing the comment of Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan to the effect that the protests were a “risk to life”, and suggested that people just couldn’t pick and choose which cause was exempt from lockdown rules.
As the protests so obviously broke these rules I wasn’t impressed, despite what he said about masks and distancing, by Boyd-Barrett’s participation in and defence of the protests.
A related discussion took place on The Last Shoulder (Today FM) last Friday – this time more about the controversial TV shows. I was inclined to share one reviewer’s distaste for US reality TV shows like Cops which allegedly glorified police aggression, especially towards African Americans. Presenter Matt Cooper did well to tease out the implications of removing the offensive film and TV programmes – if stuff is removed for offensiveness why not do the same with the likes of The Life of Brian because it caused such offence to Christian? I have only ever seen clips of it but I can’t see how a parody scene of the Crucifixion could be anything but grossly offensive.
If you were to cull every film and TV offensive to Christians it would be quite a massacre!
Pick of the Week
Sunday Morning Live
BBC1, Sunday, June 21, 10.45am
Seán Fletcher and Sally Phillips take a look at the week’s talking points and explore the ethical and religious issues of the day.
NEW! EWTN Bookmark
EWTN, Sunday, June 21, 5pm, also Thursday, June 25, 10.30pm
Gerard B. Wegemer and Stephen W. Smith provide an illustrated collection of St Thomas More’s most important English and Latin works. Hosted by Doug Keck.
The Leap of Faith
RTÉ Radio 1, Friday, June 26, 10.05pm
Topical religious and ethical issues. Last episode of the season.