Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hail Mary full of pants

Mary MacKillop by Pants

We Australians simply love to be the centre of world attention, and we don't scrutinise too closely the credibility of its premise. I submit in evidence the sisters Minogue.

Speaking of sisters, the cause célèbre this sabbath is the canonisation of Mother Mary MacKillop, founder of the order of The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart or, as we compulsive diminutisers like to call them, The Brown Joeys. To this end, throngs of salivating believers and non-believers alike have gathered in Rome and all related orbits.

Interestingly, when it comes to sainthood, which is right up there with virgin birth at the leg-pulling end of the belief spectrum, one does not have to be an adherent to join in the celebration, apparently. The Catholic Church has shown a great generosity of spirit in offering Mother Mary as a saint for all Australians.

Speaking at a mass in Sydney, Father Graeme Malone gushed,

"One of the important things about a canonisation is that ordinary events and ordinary connections in life take on a grace dimension. Our history becomes holy while our present remains messy."

"Today we reflect on many things but especially on Mary's constant pursuit of justice even beyond personal persecution and a misunderstanding which in part evoked her excommunication from a church she deeply loved."

Well yes, that's all well and good. Mary MacKillop did open schools and hospitals and orphanages and shelters for the homeless and vulnerable women. And she did achieve independence for her order from the Pope to keep it from being corrupted by a spiteful priesthood. And she was ex-communicated for daring to challenge a paedophile priest. And she did this all over a hundred years ago before even the first wave of feminism. And she did it from within a stultifying organisation and in defiance of a Goliathan power base.

But this is not why she's being made a saint. No, she is being canonised because a couple of people got sick and then got well and they also happened to have prayed to Mary MacKillop. In the absence of any medical explanation, Mary is the default penicillin. Just so we're clear, the entire world, (so we are led to believe), is preparing garlands not for provable and proven acts of courage, compassion and all round jolly goodness, but for events with which a causal link to Mary MacKillop never has and never can be evidenced. She was, after all, dead when these events known as miracles occurred, which in my admittedly secular view, is a fairly big minus when it comes to demonstrating agency.

To be fair, it does take a long time to ascend to the canon of saintliness - well over a hundred years in MacKillop's case. It is quite unlike a Nobel Peace Prize, for example, where you can have one foistered upon you before you've actually done anything. I'm sure Barack Obama would have preferred to slate up a few more achievements in addition to being a pale enough black man to get elected President of the United States.

And you have to be dead to be a saint as opposed to being barely born to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Henry Kissinger won one and there is no evidence that he was ever actually born. It's interesting to note that very few women have won a Nobel Peace Prize, given that we start so few wars. Just sayin'.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year and sometimes it's quite hard to find a man who can stay out of mischief for that long. Sainthood isn't hampered by deadlines and, by Jehovah, doesn't that show. Some popes have a taste for it and it seems a fast track has been installed at the Vatican since the last white smoke event. Perhaps it's a case of new graces, new faces and god only knows (sorry Brian), the church has sustainability issues. There was a backlog to be churned through, but the current pontiff's appetite for ceremony has clearly benefited our Mother Mary.

It is a long and winding road. First comes death, obviously. You can do nothing to further your ambitions in Simon Templardom until you've firmly carked it. After a decent interval, say seventy years, comes the beatification or, as we Aussies prefer, being 'rendered beaut'. Mary reached that milestone in 1995, after several arch plots by evil scheming clergy to besmirch her memory. How she must have fumed up there in her new home of Hevnabuv and determined to get her own back by randomly selecting terminally ill cancer patients to ...

Enough. So why are we still playing this silly game? It's like saying it's only possible to have sex if you have completed a few rounds of Twister as a preamble. It's as if the children are keeping the Santa myth alive for fear of breaking the parents' dear little hearts. Can we not just grow up and honour Mary MacKillop for being a real woman who dedicated her life to the genuine care of humans with whom she actually came into physical contact? And what's with the Catholic Church and its sheepish obfuscation - who does it think it is, JM flippin' Barrie?