The Taoiseach (to outsiders, Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar) recently responded to a call for crucifixes to be removed from the walls of Irish hospitals:
Charities and religious bodies that run hospitals and such should have regard for the fact that in modern Ireland there's now diversity of views on religion and so on. It is the 21st century; a lot of patients, a lot of kids aren't religious, maybe aren't Roman Catholic and the ethos of a publicly funded institution should reflect the public.
He was commenting on a new government report on the relationship between the state and hospitals run by religious orders. The report stated that hospitals should be conscious of the negative impact that Christian “décor” can have on a patient, but did not address whether the absence of Christian “décor” could have a negative impact—whether particular patients might desire Christian iconography within his or her view at times of great anxiety or sorrow.
The review concluded that the “life and well-being of patients” must take precedence over religious ethos. The phrase “life and well-being” might carry many meanings, but it is hard to envisage any risk to life and well-being arising from an artifact of a particular religious faith hanging on a wall—especially if that religious faith was the founding ethos of the hospital you happen to be in. To decide that a wall-mounted crucifix can be reduced to the phrase “religious ethos” and then marked for disposal is not merely illogical; it is bigoted by virtue of supporting bigotry over belief—a bigot being someone who is “intolerant towards other people's beliefs and practices.”
The likely result will not be to protect any belief or even to equalize all beliefs, but to bulldoze things to the level of the lowest hatemonger. “Call in the decrucifixers” is a perfect encapsulation of “modern Ireland,” where every belief is welcome—except the belief upon which our civilization has rested for 1,600 years.
According to reports, crucifixes will be removed if a patient so requests. A mischievous friend poses an interesting question: Will the crucifix be put back where it was if the next patient requests it? This reminds me of a philosopher I know who described to me how, during Ireland’s divorce referendum of the mid-1990s, his next-door neighbor told him that although he was himself opposed to divorce, he was going to vote Yes, because their neighbor in the house opposite had a difficult marriage and might at some time wish to dissolve it. He thought that would be the “Christian” thing to do. My philosopher friend meditated upon this for a moment and then said: “Excellent, and presumably our neighbor opposite will himself be voting No, in deference to your beliefs?”
Such logic is unavailable to Ireland now and may never be returned to us. The point of the crucifix fatwah, of course, is not its impact in individual situations but the symbolism it offers our treacherous and ludicrous leaders in their efforts to present themselves as heroic crusaders against the “Catholic Taliban” that has allegedly been running Ireland for hundreds of years.
In Europe, it generally tends to be Muslims who object to crucifixes. But in Ireland, such complainants are joined by others who proudly regard themselves as having no beliefs at all but are in favor of “tolerance.” Taking their empty-headed assertions at face value, you might gather that, by seeking a “level playing-field,” they wish to defend minority forms of belief against the implied supremacy of others. But going deeper, it becomes clear that in such gesturing there is but a momentary, opportunistic “solidarity” with the allegedly beleaguered belief-system of the “offended,” a solidarity that will evaporate as soon as the “defended” entity seeks to assert the ineluctable absolutism of its own outlook. Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist sensitivities offer merely a rhetorical shield in the crusade to create conditions in which no religious beliefs will be tolerated. Such interventions invite not “pluralism” and “tolerance,” but the banishment from the public arena of any form of absolute certitude about the meaning of the mysteries that define humanity. What is elevated, implicitly, is the non-engagement of the self-styled “non-believer,” as though this was a neutral position rather than one seeking to impose its ennui and pessimism on everyone.
The advocates of this “pluralism” imply that every conceivable outlook in this category is being accorded equal recognition and respect. But the only perspective that is really esteemed and provided for in this new dispensation is that of the disgruntled skeptic, nihilist, or cynic. Those eschewing beliefs on an ideological basis, or those possessing different beliefs of a distinctly un-Irish character, will be allowed to impose their unbeliefs/anti-beliefs/alternative beliefs on Christian believers, who must agree to become the hole in the doughnut. There is an irony in the fact that only those Christians with real beliefs will be affected—lukewarm or Sunday Christians will simply shrug and turn up the TV. In the end, at some of the most vulnerable moments in their lives, Christians will be deprived of the solace offered by the sight of the crucified Christ—and this our Taoiseach describes as “diversity.”
The levels of stupidity now invite nothing but despair. I have tried to alert potentially sympathetic individuals in other countries to the crisis besetting Ireland, to let them know that we are in deep trouble. But almost nobody gets it, least of all in America. Most think I am over-egging things and that, passing turbulence aside, Ireland is still the same loveable country of their fantasies or nostalgic yearnings.
I tell them that taking at face value certain reductionist labels to describe recent events in Ireland—“gay marriage,” “abortion”— prevents them hearing what those of us who live there all the time are saying: that our situation becomes increasingly desperate. “It’s much worse over here,” they respond, although in many cases they have not been in Ireland for decades, if at all, whereas I visit the United States several times a year.
We did not just introduce abortion in Ireland last year; we set up the constitutional right to life of the unborn child like an Aunt Sally and knocked it down with a whoop and a punch. We did not merely introduce “gay marriage” in 2015; we disintegrated the meaning of marriage, parenthood, and family by inserting in our constitution a provision that insists upon the “equality” of homosexual and heterosexual couples, thus implicitly removing all protections for male-female complementarity, natural procreative function, and biological connection—and at the same time handing to gay couples the right to attain “equality” as parents and families in whatever ways scientific developments might in due course render possible. Three years before that, we voted down a provision of our constitution that restricted state interference in families, with the (at the time unforeseen) effect that parents henceforth seeking to protect their own children from the folly of sex-change would be unable to do so.
Rod Liddle, an estimable colleague who writes for The Spectator, not long ago voted Canada “the most batsh*t crazy country in the world.” He was wrong: Ireland takes that crown, as well as the one for unequalled liberal hypocrisy, the one for the most implacable indifference to the consequences of Cultural Marxist insanity, and, above all, for the title Most Anti-Christian Country on Planet Earth.
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of ten books, and a playwright.