Easter, the Church and the same party line
It seems only fitting on this Easter Monday to reflect on matters spiritual. In fact, you could say that this is my Easter message...
So, how is religion for you? Are you enthused by your faith? Are you thankful that you have found salvation, while others - people like myself, for instance - are destined for the fiery pits of damnation?
Or are you, like Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, angry that Irish people have the temerity to criticise the Catholic Church?
Speaking last Thursday, Martin complained that people have used the sins of priests in the Church to have a go at, well, the Church itself.
While he admitted that he was appalled at the innumerable cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, he couldn't resist adding: "I am also hurt and angered by those who use such betrayals to attack all priests and the Church indiscriminately".
Martin, in fairness to him, is only parroting the party line which has been handed down by the Vatican for the last few years, but it is an incredible position for them to adopt.
Basically, they are saying that despite the fact that they are, as Chris Hitchens pointed out, the biggest paedophile protection racket in the world, they are the real victims because of the criticism they have received.
If you were to psychologically profile the Catholic Church, you would find that it is chronically paranoid, suffers from a massive sense of entitlement coupled with a persecution complex and a sociopathic inability to truly understand the damage it has caused.
And while Martin is quite right to point out that not all priests should be tarnished with the same brush, the Catholic Church is reviled around the world not just because it seems to attract a statistically high number of predatory sexual criminals, but because it has done so much to protect them and hinder prosecutions against the perpetrators.
That is why the Church in America is virtually bankrupt because of the number of successful civil actions against them by victims of clerical abuse.
What is truly remarkable about the Church is the arrogance of its spokesmen.
Every mealy-mouthed apology for the sickening crimes of its deviant priests is immediately followed by a "but..." as they call for the kind of sympathy and understanding which is invariably denied to their victims.
But we should not be surprised that an all-male organisation is paralysed by arrogance and condescension.
I had a disturbingly up-close-and-personal experience of that arrogance last week when I was involved in a debate in Maynooth College about euthanasia.
Opposing the motion that euthanasia should be legalised, some priest on the panel pointed out that suffering brings people closer to God and that it should be embraced rather than avoided.
He then went on to make one of the most disgusting analogies I have ever heard.
The starving people in Africa, he intoned, may be emaciated and within the last 24 hours of their life but that suffering brought them tremendous dignity and they were happy.
It was a profoundly patronising thing to say but it also displayed the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.
After all, its biggest advocate of human suffering was Mother Theresa, who denied the sick and poor of Calcutta even the most basic medical services, saying that their suffering brought them closer to God.
Yet when she herself fell ill she was quick to hop on a private jet to the most expensive private clinics in America.
But we're not meant to talk about that at Easter, are we?
Am I the only person find myself in a state of impotent fury at the new Bank of Ireland pass machines that are proliferating through Dublin's shops?
Where once you could avail of the in-store pass machine and take out the same amounts of money as you could from the more traditional holes-in-the wall, these machines will only dispense a maximum of ?120 at a time.
But in an interesting snapshot of how polite the Irish can be, I noticed one man taking out the full amount, then heading to the back of the queue to let other people take their share before going back to take out another sum of money.
It was a perfect piece of social pleasantry and one which is all too rarely seen in this country.
Parenthood can do strange things to people, but it would appear that the Swedish couple who want to name their new kid after Metallica were probably quite strange to begin with.
Swedish authorities are less than happy with the proposed moniker and are refusing to register the kid under the name of the band.
Still, it could have been worse. The hard rocking parents could have named their kid after Cradle Of Filth or something.
All things considered, Metallica is actually quite tame.