Don't Mention the Crusades


Catholics are people who believe that the entire universe was created just for us by a loving and benevolent and all-knowing God who came to earth in human form in order to sacrifice himself to himself to avoid his problem of having to send all the humans he made to hell for the sins he knew in advance they were going to commit.

These are the people who will be descending upon Sydney this month for World Youth Day. Yet the NSW Government, apparently unsatisfied with existing laws against vilification of the mentally ill, has decided to introduce special police powers to keep the Catholics happy and stress-free.

Of course, the part of these powers that has aroused the most comment is the power to arrest and fine those who "cause annoyance" to World Youth Day "pilgrims".

On the face of it, this seems like perfectly reasonable and even-handed repression – how can a society truly be called civilised if annoying people are allowed to remain free? – but there is a disturbing subtext.

We know why it’s Catholics in particular who are being shielded from annoyance by the State Government. For a start, Muslims are too easy to annoy, making such laws unfair, while Jehovah’s Witnesses are too difficult, making such laws pointless.

But the main thrust of the crackdown is, as usual, the typical government hatred of people having fun. Morris Iemma knows how much fun it is to annoy Catholics, so he just has to spoil it for everyone. This anti-fun philosophy is behind government bans on all sorts of things, such as drag racing, and heroin. God forbid any decent, hard-working Australians enjoy some harmless Catholic baiting at the end of a long day. God forbid anyone experience the simple pleasures of a urine-soaked crucifix.

However, as a serious investigative journalist, I have a responsibility to be even-handed about this. Just what is World Youth Day, and why should we try to ruin it?

Well, according to their website, it is an event where "young people throughout the world will make a pilgrimage in faith, meet, and experience the love of God". Just like Schoolies Week. It also lasts six days, demonstrating the same puckish Christian sense of chronological inaccuracy that inspires the traditional Easter belief that there are three days between Friday and Sunday.

Like all good celebrations of youth, WYD is centred around an 81-year-old man. Pope Benedict is all about the young people, whom he needs both to keep the Church vibrant and relevant, and to hold him upright during the daylight hours.

After all, as Benedict himself has said, "audiamus oportet accuratius". Can anybody really doubt the truth of this?

Now it may seem that WYD is a slightly exclusionary event, in that it excludes almost everyone, but this is an over-simplification. While it is true that if you are a Protestant or a Muslim or a Mormon or a Seventh-Day Adventist or a Hindu or a Buddhist or an atheist or a Ba’hai or a Zoroastrian or a Scientologist or someone who dislikes creepy teenagers clapping along to awful music, the event has little to offer you, that doesn’t necessarily mean WYD is completely off-limits to the wider community.

The funky exciting events on offer include a "Papal boat-a-cade", which sounds so wonderful that I might suffer a massive stroke just imagining what it involves, as well as the traditional Stations of the Cross, in which enthusiastic young people will trek around the most picturesque areas of Sydney re-enacting Jesus’s last moments in a truly inspirational celebration of death and torture.

If that’s not enough to bring people together, Guy Sebastian has written a WYD song, to be performed by himself and Paulini, which will surely unite people of all faiths and creeds in a collective attempt to gnaw off their own heads.

Even more heart-warmingly, little Sophie Delezio has been granted a special audience with the Pope, during which she will plead with him to ask God to stop throwing cars at her. Sophie says that while at the meeting, she will be "praying for all the sick kids", so if your child happens to die any time after WYD, you’ll know who to blame.

World Youth Day truly is a spiritual event that will bring together many people from all walks of life except those walks of life that aren’t Catholic. And so, weighing it all up, although it may be a profound inconvenience to Sydney residents, a massive waste of taxpayers’ money, and a disturbing assault on the principle of separation of Church and State, it is also true that Catholics can get pretty nasty when they’re annoyed, so it’s probably best to leave them alone.

Therefore, it’s important, when walking around Sydney between the 15th and 20th July, to avoid some simple mistakes that could cause annoyance:

– Avoid using contraception when Catholics are present.
– Do not wear T-shirts with inflammatory slogans, such as "Priests Do It Til You’re Pubescent" or "I Got Hammered With Christ".
– Be careful not to blurt out insensitive remarks, like "Anselm’s ontological proof is an absurdity that does nothing to demonstrate the necessity of an omnipotent deity, as Gaunilo of Marmoutiers effectively shows", or: "Catholics are crap".
– Refrain from having abortions for the duration of the event.
– Don’t mention the Crusades.
– Do not mug World Youth Day pilgrims or attack them with blunt instruments (in many ways, this is good advice for other times of the year as well).
– Do not under any circumstances point out how stupid Catholicism is.

Most of all, do not read this article out in public or email it to all of your friends. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s annoying Catholics. If you know what I mean.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.