*WARNING. THIS POST CONTAINS SENTIMENTS THAT MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO MEMBERS OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH. THE AUTHOR MAKES NO APOLOGIES FOR THE CONTENT. ALL VIEWS ARE PERSONAL. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*
So, the Pope is coming to town. World Youth Week is about to hit Sydney and the locals are bracing themselves for inconvenience of a magnitude last experienced during the 2000 'best ever' Olympic Games. The main event will be happening at Randwick Racecourse. The season is over for the winter, thoroughbred horses have been moved to alternative stables and the site is being transformed from a place of hedonism to a place of worship. Latest estimates put the cost of World Youth Week at $150 million costs for the Catholic Church and $86 million costs for the NSW taxpayers. And yes, I'm sure the pilgrims will bring money with them. But let's face it, it's World Youth Week. How much money do you think these teenagers can spend on t shirts and Pokemons?
Cardinal George Pell is the head of the Catholic Church in Australia. He is, readers, a man with the charm and charisma of a wet paper bag. I have been in his presence and let me tell you he didn't have much of one. But I digress. Today Georgie boy presided over the official opening of a souvenir tent opposite St Margarets Cathedral. Obviously we're not talking about a two man tent here, it's a great big thing and it's on public property, sitting loud and proud in Hyde Park. Products on sale include t shirts, rosary beads, baseball caps but sadly no Pope on a Rope soaps will be available. Shame.
Now, then. I'm not a Catholic. I don't have a religion. I try to be respectful to the belief systems of others. Personally, I think religion amounts to nothing more than people having an imaginary friend but I don't openly voice this opinion unless someone is trying to ram their personal beliefs/imaginary friend down my throat.The Catholic Church in particular gets right on my goat. AIDs is a pandemic, it's killing people and nowhere is its spread more prevelant than Africa. But does the Catholic Church sanction contraception? Noooooo. Has it considered, oooh, I don't know, having a rethink on the 'every sperm is sacred' approach, even though some sperm is deadly? Hell, no. Instead it teaches abstinence. It's a successful approach, isn't it? People are still becoming HIV positive, children, women and men are still dying. But the Church says contraception is wrong and so that's that. And what's with this confession bollocks? Do something wrong, go and sit in a box, tell a man in a dress that you did something terrible. He makes you say sorry, say a couple of prayers and you're done and dusted. And the Pope. An unmarried, celibate man. Elected by unmarried, celibate men. Need I say more?
Anyway, back to a more positive approach. Oooh, look. There's an Olympic Catholic torch. I particularly like this bit -
WYD ’08 Coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher said: “The purpose of the WYD cross, Icon and Message Stick are to invite young people to World Youth Day and to spread a message of hope, peace and Christ’s love for humanity.”
“Sydneysiders will again feel the excitement of an international event, as they did during the Olympics.”
No, Anthony. We're all bloody well dreading it. We're dreading the inconvenience of disruption to public transport for a week. We're dreading the road closures. We're dreading trees being chopped down so that they don't get in the way of the pilgrims. We're dreading the taxpayers bill that will come with this event, despite Catholics only making up 25% of the Australian population. We're dreading the closure of the Harbour Bridge so that thousands of pilgrims can walk across it. We, the people of the areas encompassing Centennial Park, Randwick, Clovelly and Coogee are dreading being stuck for the weekend due to the closure of a major road, again so the pilgrims can walk to the racecourse. Oh, and special thanks from me for deciding to start night roadworks to get the road ready to be trampled. 11pm is a great time to start. After all, Anzac Parade is as busy at 11pm at night as it is at 6pm in the evening. I'm sure my taxi driver enjoyed the extra $15.00 that was added to my fare by sitting in the 4 lanes into 1 chaos of last night.
And now we're being told we're not allowed to annoy or inconvenience the pilgrims. Hilarious new infringements of our human rights have been introduced. If, for instance, I approach a group of pilgrims and attempt to give them free condoms, I could be arrested. To add to the ridiculousness of the situation I can be arrested by a member of the police, or a member of the fire brigade or even a volunteer with the SES. So, Colin from Caringbah can detain me for dishing out free rubber johnnies and I can be fined $5,5oo. Yet far from being deterred from annoying the followers of Pope Benny, the great NSW public are gearing up to push the powers that be to the limits on this one. Here's a selection of the latest t shirt slogans -
- You can fine me $5,500… But I still won’t believe in God
-WYD08: We close 300 roads so 300,000 can close their minds
- Good luck Pope – I've been waiting for a miracle at Randwick for years
- "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who wear t-shirts that cause annoyance or inconvenience..."
- I survived a Christian Brothers education
- Oh no, I stepped in Dogma
- Too many Christians, not enough lions
– Randwick 2008 - annoying & inconvenient
- I've been touched by the Catholic Church, so where's my $2 billion?
- World Youth Day: You can cross yourself, but not the city
Look. I don't dislike Catholics. Some of my best friends are Catholics. But I'm mightily pissed off at the inconvenience. I'm mightily pissed off at the use of public spaces at taxpayers expense. I'm mightily pissed off at my civil rights being further eroded and all of this because of an outdated, out of touch, prohibitive, anti female cult. What? You think cult is a bit strong? Here's a definition of a cult - typically a cohesive social group devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding population considers to be outside the mainstream. I don't know about you but I'd say believing that IVF is wrong isn't exactly mainstream these days. I'd also wager that most people wouldn't agree that representatives of a chosen religion should have to remain celibate and single in order to serve the community.
What's the point of all this? I'm buggered if I know. What I do know is that I'll be doing my best to be miles away when the show hits town. And I'll be wearing a t shirt with an offensive slogan.