I KNOW a man here in Ireland who is a very devout Catholic.
He goes to Mass, prays, goes on retreats, follows as strictly as he can the full teachings of the Church.
He will go to the church sometimes just to sit and think.
He reads the Bible. He will often say something kind or giving that mentions a Saint or a prayer.
He also had a marriage that broke down. This hit him very hard though he was still very young at the time.
After a while he rebuilt his life, met somebody, through a Church group, and eventually sought to remarry.
They did marry, had a full Church wedding and have gone on to have a large, joyous family, with whom they attend Mass, receive all the sacraments, and live a fully Catholic life.
He’s a good laugh this man and well worth having a pint with.
As a point of interest, though, it is worth pointing out that this man had to go to the Pope to get permission to marry again in his local Church and had to appeal to have his first marriage annulled.
It wasn’t easy. It took a lot out of him. An appeal to the Pope. A marriage annulled. But all very important to him in order to get married in a Catholic Church and follow Catholic teachings.
I suppose that is the extent to which people of faith will go.
Apparently, though, if they are wealthy, powerful, and well connected they do not have to go to any extent. Any extent at all.
The rank and nauseating hypocrisy of a man like Boris Johnson being able to arrange a marriage for himself in, perhaps, the primary church of Catholicism on these islands is simply the Church once more reaching lows we would never imagined it could reach.
The Catholic Church, it never ceases to amaze, I’ll give it that.
So, clearly, being previously married twice is no barrier to marriage in a Catholic Church if you have a certain position in society.
No annulments were necessary for Boris Johnson. No appeals to the Pope were necessary. Just a couple of phone calls, perhaps, to book for yourself the finest church the faith in that particular country had.
Now, I must admit, I was not aware Johnson had been baptised Catholic. Nor was I aware that if you then went on to disavow the Catholic faith and take confirmation in another Church, in Johnson’s case the Protestant Anglican faith, that you could still quite easily marry in a Catholic church.
What my devout friend thinks of all this I can only imagine.
I also accept that the old condemnatory approach to human failings that bedevilled the Church I grew up in is no longer.
So the fact that Johnson has a history of showing disregard for the institution of marriage, is, let us be honest, of no relevance in the eyes of our Church.
Mine and Johnson’s shared Church.
The Church that recently updated canon law to take into account those human failings and address its own failings with regard to child abuse.
Although it has to be pointed out that the Church has inserted in to Church law the provision that penalties for crimes such as sexual offences against children are to be reduced if the perpetrator of the crime was acting in the heat of passion, was drunk or was ‘gravely and unjustly’ provoked. Provocation? From a child? Overcome with passion? With a child? Drunk? With a child? Oh, the Church. Lower again than could be imagined.
Boris Johnson’s Catholic marriage is merely symbolic.
I would imagine, primarily, to him but also as a symbol of how bereft of conscience the Church is. The truth is, and always has been in the Catholic faith, that there is one law for those of privilege and power and one law for the rest.
Belief and faith do not come into it. Being a faithful and true believer in the teachings and laws and strictures of the Church is of no relevance.
It will, in fact, hinder your attempts to live a faithful life. Trampling all over the teachings of the Church, though, living a life in direct opposition to them, is no barrier, it seems, if you went to the right school, know the right people and have the right accent. God above, isn’t enough, enough?
Joe Horgan’s book People That Don't Exist Are Citizens of A Made Up Country is available here.