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Sex and the Catholic Church
By Brian Judge

     On 13 March 2013 a new Pope was installed and he took the name of Francis. After centuries of European, mainly Italian Popes, he was the first from Latin America.
     On that day, one of his first duties was to receive the Cardinals individually - several hundred - where they would profess their fealty to him.
     However, on hearing that it was raining outside and that crowds had gathered in St. Peter's Square, he interrupted this procedure and went up to the balcony which became illuminated, signaling the imminent announcement to the people waiting below and to the world that a new Pope had been chosen.
     He then appeared and addressed the crowd not in the customary flowery language and in 60+ languages, but in two simple words. "Buena sera" - 'Good evening'. This seems to have set his style as the humble, friendly and very likeable person he has been portrayed on TV screens around the world ever since.
     Soon after, this new, Pope giving an interview to the media, on board the plane on which he was travelling, when asked his attitude towards 'Gays' replied "Who am I to judge". Well, this was a major change from what had been repeatedly perpetrated as the line taken by the Vatican on homosexuality up until then. And many, not only Catholics were astounded to hear these words.
     John Paul 2 (currently being considered for sainthood) - described "Gay Rights advances - same sex marriages, as a new ideology of evil".
     Now, it has been revealed that Francis has a very interesting clerical background. He was ordained as a Jesuit Priest and in his thirties attained high office in the Catholic Church in South America. However, he was perceived to be authoritarian and he is said to have been a very divisive factor amongst the clergy throughout the continent. At that time several countries there were ruled by oppressive military dictatorships including Argentina and this may have affected those in charge of the church. But later, after a period of reflection, in exile from Buenos Aires in the city of Cordoba for a period of two years, he seems to have metamorphosed into what he appears to the world now.
     So, let us first consider, Celibacy.
     It was said to be 'a special gift of God to more easily remain close to Christ so they would dedicate themselves to God and their neighbour'. They would also receive special 'grace' from heaven to help them to remain chaste.
     When did it begin and why was it made compulsory?
     Let us go back to the year 1000 when it was common for men to take several female partners both wives and/or mistresses. Pope Benedict VIII (not the recent Pope of that name) banned Priests from being married and having mistresses in the year 1022. This seems to have been largely ignored because about 100 years later Pope Innocent II voided all marriages of Priests. I wonder whether any provision was made for the discarded wives and children.
     The reason for these edicts had nothing to do with morality or self-sacrifice by the way, it was simple economics. Unmarried men were cheaper for the community to support than men with wives and families.
     Now, this far reaching decision flies in the face of nature. Sexual activity in all its many variations is natural, whereas celibacy is the opposite in most people. And as far as is reported, some or all of the Apostles were married men.
     Of course there are certain such activities which in developed nations are criminalised such as sex with minors, the mentally challenged, bestiality and others of which most people I expect would approve.
     In recent years the Vatican has been faced with multiple cases of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated mainly by priests and sometimes by nuns. The widely reported accounts showed that the priests involved had been repeatedly protected by their Bishops who often moved them to other parishes to rid them of their local problem where they invariably continued to abuse young people, mainly boys and it seems these Bishops did not report these crimes to either the local Police or the Vatican. From 1981, the recently retired, Pope Benedict was the Prefect for the Congregation of the faith. This organization was/is responsible for the moral health of all religious persons within the church throughout the world.
     What did he know and what did he do?
     Following the wide reporting of such criminal behaviour in the media, many Catholic dioceses have paid out of court financial settlements to many victims, primarily in North America, Europe and Australia. How about the rest of the world's Catholic victims? And I have heard little of the Bishops who were party to this criminal behaviour being brought to justice either by the Authorities or the Vatican.
     However, there are several obstacles for the Vatican in dealing with sexual offences by their members. The Catholic Church is run by men, all of whom, from the Pope down to the simplest Priest have taken a vow of chastity, and all including the Pope are required to confess their sins on a regular basis and promise to mend their ways.
     So, to be true to their vows of abstinence, none can have any personal experience of a sexual nature with another human being. And yet the Vatican mandarins seem to believe that in their stupendous ignorance they can prognosticate on sexual matters.
     Marriages break down for numerous reasons. But no, says the Church - 'till death do us part' - 'Marriages are made in heaven'. Any evidence of this?
     Nowadays it is generally accepted as natural for some persons to love another of the same sex, by the people of advanced nations, and this is demonstrated by the laws increasingly being passed and accepted by the general public.
     The Catholic Church proclaims that God made us all. If that is true, then He made something between 5 and 10% of the population (male and female) of the entire world, regardless of ethnicity, educational development, or colour of skin, homosexual.
     The good news however is that Pope Francis by metaphorically opening the windows of the Vatican to let some fresh air in, is introducing a modern approach to the old thinking of the ignorant and prejudiced dinosaurs in Rome. He seems prepared to drag them with him into the 21st century, for example by welcoming re-married divorcees and others back into the church. He is also in favour of Civil relationships for homosexual couples bringing informed thinking to his position.
     He will undoubtedly face stiff opposition from the conservatives but I think radical change may well occur in time.
     I don't expect miracles any time soon but he has certainly made a very promising start.
The End
Muse Abuse
By April H. Center

     "You need to do a reality check, chickie." She throws that tidbit out as she traipses through my psyche dressed completely in black leather right down to her wide wrist band. Sporting tats of barbed wire around her neck, and kohl black mascara and eyeliner, her face is grotesquely white. Her short hair, shaved on the right side of her head, is pitch black. She's back. Helen - or 'hell on wheels' as I think of her. I try to ignore her taunts. Sitting on my desk, she crosses her left leg over her right and begins to swing her left leg, encased in thigh-high black leather boot with a stiletto heel. Each swing comes closer to me as I stare at my blank computer screen.
     "You can't even get a job at Starbucks, for chrissakes!" The left side of her hair falls across her forehead, which she flips back with a toss of her head and laughs with a smirk. Jeering is Helen's favorite pastime and it is honed to perfection.
     "Who do you think you are kidding?" She speaks with nasty derision in her voice - she might as well be driving nails into my head with a nail gun. "Your family knows. Certainly your ex-husband knows. And your friends will figure it out: you are unremarkable and unmarketable." Leaning toward my ear she whispers, "A total loser." My muse's right hand with its shiny black nails is lifted against her forehead and forms the letter L with her thumb and forefinger. "Loser, lady, loser."
     "Let's skip down the memory lane of your life, shall we?" Reaching into her skin right leather jacket she pulls out a pack of cigarettes, taps the pack, and deftly slides one out between her blood red lips. Cradling the cigarette she lights it with a Zippo lighter that always accompanies her. The cigarette paper and tobacco sizzle when the flame hits. Helen takes a deep drag, her eyes closed as if in religious repose. Smoke comes out of her mouth reverently. She opens her eyes.
     "Where were we? Oh, yeah. First you pretended to be a lawyer. That was a joke. You couldn't hack it, could you? I give you high marks for deluding yourself and others for a considerable length of time - quarter of a century." Her voice drips with sarcasm and she continues, "So fucking what? Just because you had a law license doesn't mean you were any good. Remember what your ex said when you asked him for a reference? He said he didn't know if you were a good lawyer. Hilarious! You graduated with honors and even your ex wouldn't give you a recommendation. How funny is that?
     "Then you switched to calling yourself a writer. That is funnier than the lousy lawyer charade. At least you have a law degree. But you have zero, nada experience as a writer. Writing contracts and opinion letters does not constitute writer status. Smoke from her cigarette is circling my face, making my eyes burn. "And don't recite that crap to me about a writer being someone who writes," she snorted. "What a load of shit that is. Some namby, pamby blue hair dreamed that up to make money off you poor suckers. You have to hand it to her; she is as good as Mary Kay selling cosmetics. But, like Mary Kay, it's all a façade. There is nothing under the mask." Cigarette ash drops unheeded by Helen. I watch it hit the hardwood floor. I rub my temples because my head is beginning to throb.
     "Running out of identity options, aren't you?" Without lifting her head, my mocking muse's golden feline eyes become riveted and a sly smile lifts the edges of her lips. "Hmmm, what's left? Ah, yes. Poet. Now you have plummeted from pitiful to pathetic. Admit it - you say you're a poet because no one expects poets to actually accomplish anything let alone support themselves. Perfect cover; it will keep your secret safe for a while. You know your secret - you are no-talent, lazy and crazy. You can't make it in this world." Helen shifts and spits out each syllable in short, staccato sounds. "You - can - not - make - it - in - this - world.
     "Look at you. Five years. Five fucking years and you have finished nothing. You have published nothing. For fuck's sake, you don't even send anything out - you hold on to every word as though it is precious. You are destined to a life of mediocrity, bitch. What don't you understand? Writing may be a nice little diversion but you will never amount to anything.
     "Anyway, your stuff is just too depressing. You had cancer - wa-wa. Your parents died - wa-wa. You got jilted by your lover - wa-wa. You went nuts and ended up in a psych ward - wa-wa. Who cares? Nobody, that's who. This country wants to be coddled, wants rom-coms, and flag wavers. Nobody wants hard truths - especially from you. Wake up and smell the coffee, girlie. If anybody wanted to read your shit, they'd have done it by now. You know, they're always hiring at McDonald's. That's where you belong."
     Tentatively, my fingers move over the keyboard and I begin. It's the only thing that will shut Helen up.
The End
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Aging Parents
By Jennifer Hein

     The horror, fantasy, and science fiction story that is written as an incident report to lessen your burden as an aging caregiver for your parent.
     My Aging Parent, My MOM
     This is only a phone call, but a positive change from the past two years. My parent as she ages, tends to make up stories about people and things when these visitors interfere with her personal space when they do such a dreaded thing as visit.
     To view the setting, you need to imagine that as the old woman ages, she has less details to remember yet she has so many possessions in her three story 1890's home she cannot seem to keep track of where she has squirreled away her possessions when she decided to store things. At 83, this old woman appears reasonable to others. She has had high blood pressure for 10 years and has adopting ways to use doctors' medications with some success to fend off problems with her processed foods diet which has contributed too many blood pressure crisis. The older woman would not be so difficult or annoying if she would not be filled with anger, at the way things did not or did turn out in her life.
     The old woman has continued to accuse two of her daughters of "stealing" items with only sentimental value from her home, when she cannot locate them. Ironically when they are found, they must have been returned on their latest trip "because I missed them."
     Her recent anger had suggested the children had taken some sentimental doo-dads from her younger years, a Chinese vase, a ceramic old couple …. These were all happy things she acquired in her early days as a young adult. The reason given behind the guise was that one of her middle daughters had decided to profit from the sales of her recent sewing project, the clothing she makes for a mid-size princess doll.
     This popular doll is the second doll she has made clothing for, maybe 100 outfits each, which she finally came around to after years of making clothing for tiny "Barbie" size dolls, who only the old woman seemed to find adorable. No one appreciated her dolls no matter how many porch sales she had, or store windows she displayed them in.
     The now 83 year old woman had no concept that 3 or 4 generations had passed and none of them appreciated the same kind of tiny doll she thought was so novel in her daughter's generation, let alone it was not even possible to make these in her youth. Plastic did not allow such detailed precision when she was a child. Or, was there even plastic, we would have to research that online. The old woman thought these tiny dolls were adorable and yet her daughter's all thought them to be cheap and cheesy. How could that be?
     The great grandma who could soon be a great-great grandma did not think she had a problem remembering where items had gone, but she was sure they had been stolen.
     The problem as the old woman stated was finding out which daughter had taken these things. Maybe the younger one who had not visited for 2 years could not be blamed anymore since items were still vanishing. The daughter did not visit because she had been accused of stealing from her parent's home and did not appreciate the anger in the old woman's voice accusing her of such ludicrous things on the phone, over and over.
     After time had passed, the old woman decided to call her youngest daughter and discuss whether she could ask incognito whether the middle daughter had taken these items, especially since she recently had a yard sale trying to sell things for a profit, just one month ago. She must have taken these doll clothes from the old woman's house so she had more items to sell. The great grandma had accused the daughter of being duly influenced by her previous husband because of course we would never have supported any such shenanigans in our home.
     The old woman stated, she could not of possibly of learned that from me, her middle daughter must be the thief since she had been influenced by her shady husband. 
     You can see where this is a story of an aging parent with hardening of the arteries or blocked arteries. The personal twist is that the youngest daughter appreciated this turn of events. The youngest has been amused for almost a week because her mother finally had a pleasant phone conversation after two years of being called a thief and having notes written to her that she should confess and return the items. Early on, she had tried to be rational with little success.
     Which items are missing? The youngest had asked. The missing contents seemed to change along with the missing memories from day to day, week to week.
     So time went on and the youngest adapted to being called the thief so her confused parent should have someone to blame.  But this time was different, they had only a few positive phone conversations in the last few years and this time the old woman had said, "It must be your sister."
     How could the youngest daughter be so amused with this? How could she not feel the same pain she had earlier felt from her confusion when she was accused?  Should she feel remorse that she had not defended her sister more vehemently?
      NO, she was enjoying the moment when she was finally, "out of trouble."
     Yes, it's a parental control issue and yes we all continue on in our life expecting praise from our parents. No, we never did enjoy being scolded or chastised over anything we did or did not do. Maybe that is a parent's rite to continue to "sculpt" our virtues, even if there are no vices or virtues to sculpt.
     Why as we age do we expect our parents to act as parents when they are grandparents? Is that the turning point when you should expect the role reversal? At what point in their degeneration do we realize that they have regressed to a childish state? Is it when they begin to blame others for their problems? Or is it when they begin name calling others through their frustration? When do we accept that their actions are more like a 5 year old or even a 10 year old but no longer our parent?
     At least, there are multiple children in this family, and they have somewhat found support in their siblings. The daughters have a general awareness that the old woman continues to change her story around, "It could be her, No it must be that one. "
     Over the last five years the old woman has found any number of items missing and now she has said that the boxes were moved around, there is a box that I never had and it has someone else's hand writing on it.
     "Did your sister have you write something on it? It looks more like your writing. It is not your sisters writing but I am sure she DID it, the last time she stayed overnight."
     The youngest daughter did add, "Yes, we had talked on the phone and she said you both had to clean off the bed so she could stay there overnight, but she made sure you came up with her and moved the items around. You were in the room as you both straightened out the piles of boxes off the bed."
     This did not phase the old woman, she continued to offer the insight that "they were in a different order and I never bought anything with that product name on it. Plus it seemed to have your writing on it."
     "Did she have you mark a box of my doll clothes? "
     In all fairness to the old woman, I am astonished and amused that she continued on in that same phone conversation to tell a very detailed lucid story about their recent car trouble and how they had AAA tow them 50 miles. They had 2 garages and gas stations look at their 15 year old vehicle. We discussed how nice it was to have AAA plus membership. I especially remember that my recent bill of $162 came in the hard mail delivered by the post girl to our mail box just this week. In our day, very few bills come this way, as a piece of paper in an envelope addressed to the house where I reside, so I remember them easily. But knowing the state of affairs at the old woman's house, I know that all of her bills come this way.
     Does she still have the mental acuity to pay her bills on time? Only a visit to her parent's house will give the youngest the answer to that query accurately. The daughter is unsure whether to ask such a question about mundane details since the last time she had discussed this was when the old woman had decided that the youngest was trying to take control of her finances and this was a bad thing.  The old woman had made sure the youngest knew that the bookkeeping was the only remaining job and she intended to keep working at her job. This has worked OK over the last two years.  Has it been that long? The youngest daughter, the bookkeeper type in the family had pressed the old woman to get the household bills lined up online. This insistence was why she was not trusted over the last few years so she knew to "tread lightly".
     In remembering that I am a baby boomer, is it not surprising that I still wonder, why does my mommy get angry with me? What did I do to make her so angry?
     I regret that it does not take much to make us regress to our childhood. I hope this incident report will lessen your burden as an aging caregiver for your parent. Possibly even make you chuckle, since this entire story is about small doll clothes that have vanished but no one wanted them to begin with.
     Oh but wait, they do reappear when the old woman misses them… OH how can that be?
The End
News Worth It?
By Mattie Lennon

     "The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them: inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehood and errors."
     So said Thomas Jefferson. I don't agree with that but now I'm going to go on a bit of a tangent.
     You know when you need two screws but you are obliged to buy a packet of twelve? Or when the sitting-room clock battery needs replacing and you have to purchase a brace of them? Annoying isn't it? Well, market forces do that kind of thing to me every day but especially on Sundays.
     You see, newspaper magnates are biased against people like me. We have no interest in sport and lack the finances necessary for an interest in the Travel, Property and Finance sections of newspapers. Yet we are forced to purchase the complete newspaper while reading, maybe, only 25% of it. I weighted last Sunday's Sunday Times. The total weight was 641 grammes. While the parts that I read or wanted to read weighted only 139 grammes.
     The price of that particular paper is three euro but… if I were allowed to buy only the sections that I wanted, according to my calculations, I would be paying only 65 cents.
     In a restaurant if you don't take the side-salad you don't have to pay for it. When purchasing a loaf of bread in a Supermarket you are not compelled the buy a pound of butter as well. Although I will admit there is no refund when I leave the Yorkshire Pudding behind on the plate or refrain from using the shoddy Rawlplugs that come with flat-pack furniture.
     In one of these supplements there is an ad which offers me a residence in Glenageary at 4.5 million Euros or a house to let near Laragh for a meagre 40,000 Euro a month.
     Do I look like a potential customer for either of those? My little dog usually sleeps on predictions of the outcome at Landsdowne Road, Croke Park or Dalymount Park and I am obliged to bin, unopened, financial advice by Eddie Hobbs (A friend of mine pointed out that anybody who needs Eddie's Advice doesn't deserve to have money in the first place.) How many beautiful trees gave their lives so that me, and my likes, could fill the recycle bin with pictures of swimming pools in Barbados, Estate agent's descriptions of Ailsbury Road, a full page account or a row at the match between Rathnew and Tinahaley and the latest figures from Dow Jones?
     And another thing. I'm sure you have noticed that you seldom see a witty headline in the financial, business or sports section of a newspaper. The best headline writers seem to avoid or be steered away from those sections. But you will find some very clever headlines in the main section of even Provisional papers.
     A couple of years ago there was a little bridge swept away during a storm at Ballinastockan. Because of formalities and regulations it took the local Authority a long time to replace it. The headline in the Wicklow People? "New Bridge held up by red tape." You wouldn't find anything like that in a report about Denis O Brien in the Financial Times.
     When there was an industrial dispute at Arigna mines the Leitrim Observer had the headline, "If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile."
     And the health supplement of the Irish Times told us, "New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group."
     The long gone Evening Press was reporting on a bit of a situation pertaining to reproduction at Dublin Zoo. The headline read, "Pandas refuse to mate; vet takes over."
     The Irish Voice in America revealed in a headline that," Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft."
     What gave me this idea about only paying for what I am going to use? I think it may be genetic memory. My grandfather was about to appear in court… something about trespass of livestock. He went to a local solicitor for advice. The solicitor did his best, told him what to say in court… and more importantly what NOT to say. When the session was finished the grandfather took his hat up off the floor and headed for the door. The solicitor called him back and reminded the grandfather that he owed him twenty guineas. "For what" said the grandfather. "For my advice" replied the solicitor. "At" says the grandfather, "sure I'm not taking it."
     All newspapers, Sunday, Daily and Provincial, have a section or sections in which I, and many more like me, do not have any interest. So I am suggesting to the Media magnates of the world that you introduce a pay-as-you-read system. That way those who only need the salacious accounts of the carryon of celebrity society will not have to pay for accounts of how a club footballer in Manorhamilton missed a free.
     Charles Lamb said of newspapers that no one ever lays down one without a feeling of disappointment. I haven't that statement but maybe he had a point..
     You know, I think I'm wasting my time. Nobody will pay any attention to me. I'll have to go on buying a, largely, unwanted Wicklow People where last week we were informed that, "The Cold Wave is Linked to Temperatures."

The End
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