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Was the WYD attendance disappointing?

by Dave Riley

A bit of sour grapes here :(source)
"AROUND 350,000 people attended the final mass of World Youth Day (WYD) in Sydney today, organisers say.Organisers had expected up to 500,000 people at Royal Randwick Racecourse and overflow areas in Centennial Park to witness the mass presided over by Pope Benedict XVI."
And I'd have to agree that 'disappointment' is a correct assessment.

Five years of planning. Costing millions of dollars with the local state and federal government throwing tens of millions more into the pot(an estimated $150million and NSW taxpayers at least $86million.). The national network of catholic schools organising and conscripting to shepherd and ferry youths from all over to Sydney for the event. Thousands arriving from all points overseas...esp Asia & the Pacific.

Among the practicing Catholics I know -- the only ones who went down from Queensland were young people organised by their Catholic schools.

And this gross piece if medieval theatre doesn't fulfill expectations. In the meantime the local Catholic Church was put further under scrutiny for its duplicity in sexual abuse and pedophilia. The Iemma government gets caught up in another attempt to stifle dissent....and, if weighed up, WYD may have led to a greater aversion to the Catholic Church in the broader community than what had existed before the event kicked in. While there is a tradition of anti-Popery in this country I don't think the response to this visit is in the mode of the Orange Lodge. But there's a cynicism surely --despite SBS's attempt to function as Channel Pope -- rather than a celebration of the church's doctrines.

I had to laugh at this report:Pilgrims boom Sydney sex trade
"Business is up by around 20 per cent in brothels in the city, Surrey Hills, Bondi and the lower North Shore. The owners are saying they have not seen anything like it since the Olympics."
But when you step back and look at it, this circus --which it was, grand scale meta theatre -- is a long way away from Vatican 2nd and Liberation Theology and the supposed caring spirit of the Gospels embraced during the sixties.WYD's frank charter was to win youth -- catholic youth -- to the "faith of their fathers". That's a militant hymn . It's the Catholic Church's English language Internationale . I think it sums up the WYD message.
Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.

Faith of our fathers, Mary's prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

It was about juicing the youngsters up so that they'd hang onto the faith as the get older and maybe go along with its social doctrines. Nothing more. The Catholic Church is shrinking in this country. Nonetheless, sotto voce -- WYD was all about saving Australia from itself.

And I'm sure the business of coming together and projecting almost a shrill idolation onto the far off figure of the pope sponsored a sort of groupie-ness or cult aspect that impressed many of the pilgrims. In the context of so much religiosity it was sure to impact on many pilgrims.But what was the platform being generated aside from a sort of gung ho church loyalty? What was the message worth listening to?

If it was indeed a pilgrimage where was the suffering in the attainment of it? It was akin to the adage that if the mountain won't come to Mohammed then Mohammed will come to the mountain. And those who suffered were the poor buggers camped out at Randwick with a dose of the squirts and a good attack of the flu while sleeping out a 5C.

This wasn't the haj. It was too easy. Too grandly manipulated.

But the fact that the No to Pope protests were held was taken up by media around the world -- especially in the context of Iemma's "annoy" laws and the Church was represented as hiding behind the wall of an oppressive state (nothing new there). In the meantime, the LGBT movement and the Womens Right to Chose movement has achieved an important pick me up out on the streets where it matters.

It may have been different in Sydney -- although I read a few pieces of protest by some dedicated priests in poor parishes -- but it seems to me that the Church hierarchy has rolled back the gains of the sixties and Vatican 2nd such that the liberation and activist wing of the
Church has been well and truly muted aside from a few marginalised parishes where lay and clergy do their bit and say stuff the rest.
See:Who’s afraid of Liberation Theology?
My personal view is that the re-assertion of the conservative wing of the Church which has been relentless since the downturn in the sixties radicalisation has triumphed primarily through an astute tactical deployment of the Pro-Life agenda as a means to promote the church as still ethically relevant to today. This has been achieved in alliance with many capitalist states and imperialism. The Church was a dedicated Cold War Warrior. Then there was a brief period of radical bent and outreach before the closure of that set in.But what holds it together in my estimation is the doctrine of the pope. That's the clincher as it holds every thread in the church hostage to what the whole institution gets up to.

I always feel that that's the tragedy for individual catholics.

Here in Brisbane there has been a relative strong tradition of Dorothy Day /Catholic Worker activism -- but these activists have even protested in the past against the women movement's support for abortion law reform despite their excellent credentials in matters anti-war and social justice. Their stance-- their left shibboleth if you like-- earnt them pariah status until they ceased to organise these public protests.

So will WYD cure the rot and revive the Cath Church in Australia? No way.The irony is that the event served more to expose its hypocrisy.
See: The Catholic Church and Public Money
See: Catholic Day a 'scandal'

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