Ireland: the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, the same country which repealed a constitutional ban on abortion, the same country in which the Taoiseach is homosexual and the President is basically Communist. With those actions and beliefs, you would be mistaken for thinking this once great Catholic nation is nothing more than a liberal hell-hole, run amok with woke, bearded youths dead set on laying waste to any semblance of tradition and normality. Unfortunately not.

Imagine a once-in-a-lifetime visit from Santa Claus, descending from the heavens on his sleigh to preach down to the common masses the virtues of a pure, repressed life. Imagine the children of the land flocking to a field, hoping for just one gift from their saviour. Such is the case in Ireland, where the half a million tickets distributed for the Pope’s mass are matched in scale only by the doomed attempt at a miraculous five-night stint at Croke Park by American country singer Garth Brooks in 2014, that not even the divine intervention of the blessed then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny could save.

Would you rather a collective amnesia of, or a wilful disregard for, as Emer O’Toole puts it in The Guardian, the Church’s brutalisation of Ireland?

The Catholic Church in Ireland is subject to immense criticism and rightly so, especially when one considers the physical and mental abuse at the hands of the clergy, indoctrination within education, the enslavement of ‘immoral’ women in Laundries, the neglect of infants, and human trafficking. These accusations and criticisms seem to be mysteriously forgotten at the expense of witnessing a sermon by the supreme leader. You see, a lifetime of doctrinaire charity is more than enough to make up for institutional rape of the vulnerable and powerless, which is, of course, why we apply such logic in the courts.

The Catholic Church is an antiquated institution, most evident through their fundamental opposition to the rights of LGBT Community. The current state of play suggests that rights are prioritised: a Catholic’s right to attend a Papal mass is superior to equal rights for all, including the right to protest.

Are we really to believe that Catholics are the single most oppressed group in Ireland, whose faith is so fragile that a challenge to their Father represents a threat to their fundamental rights?

Secularism is a smokescreen, the reality is Ireland is a Catholic country. We should be grateful that the Church allows us the honour of funding their schools and hospitals; it more than makes up for the €1.3 billion promised to the victims of child abuse at their hands. But surely this is not enough for such a generous organisation? Our compliant state is willing to fund, not just security costs, but communications equipment to facilitate the Pope’s address to his devotees too. It is common in pluralist societies that value freedom of religion for the state to fund religious services and PR stunts by private organisations on such a grand scale.

Of course, though, we would do this for any head of state or government gracing our emerald shores. It is standard practice to roll out the red carpet for benevolent dictators whose states have an embassy in every parish, a foothold in over ninety percent of primary schools, and a criminal history on every inch of the island. Although, if we are to regard the Pope as just another head of state worthy of the hospitality offered in a state visit, we must also acknowledge that no other head of state peddles their influence in such a manner. What foreign President uses their representatives and pulpits in Ireland to dictate to their parishioners their opposition to contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage and abortion?

The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

One thing that irritates me is being expected to remain quiet, to turn a blind eye to the actions of a criminal institution. A criminal institution which I regard as one of the biggest tools of oppression in the modern world. Faith and a desire to attend mass is irrelevant. I’d rather be called ‘petty and mean-spirited’ by the Taoiseach than be an apologist for the Catholic Church.

I have been told to mitigate my outrage. There must, always, be a middle ground. Well, I could be calling for the Church’s properties to be confiscated up to, and possibly exceeding, the money they owe to their victims. I could be calling for the Pope to be denied exit from Ireland until the money owed is paid. I could be calling for the Pope and every one of the Church’s representatives to be chased out of the country by a justifiably angry, Simpsons-style mob. I could use the tickets I acquired, for free, to visibly and vocally disrupt the Pope’s mass, no doubt upsetting attendees even more so than just not showing up. But no, I’ve opted to go the route of a relatively subdued protest, following an established tradition of empty-seating a public figure with whom, as a severe understatement, I profoundly disagree.

And to those who think such a protest is pointless and self-serving? All I have to say is the Pope’s visit is weeks away, yet this silent, invisible protest is already in the international media and attention is once again being paid to the crimes of the Catholic Church for which it has not made amends, and whose perpetrators it continues to protect. Is this not a primary aim of any protest? I’ll take that as a success.