Trinidad and Tobago


Altar Ego

March 21, 2001

THE way Roman Catholic priests were last week invoking designer curses upon the media, redefining truth and overtly defending gay lifestyles, you wouldn’t think it was the holy period of Lent.

Nor would you believe it was the very church which, for centuries, bluntly refused to perform last rites on persons who brought about their own demise.

Indeed, not so long ago, one of the priests involved objected to the song “My Way” being performed at his altar, on the premise that it celebrated suicide.

But utterances from Fr Reginald Hezekiah and the man they tell me will likely ascend to the Bishopric, Fr Christian Perreira, really put a new spin on Lenten contemplation of The Way, The Truth and The Life; targeting local media betimes for no greater a sin than reporting fact.

The RC ego had been severely bruised by the suicide of a revered devotee, a gay man, who taught at a high school for girls run by the church. Fr Hezekiah sprang to his defence with such recklessness, that Fr Perreira felt a need to invoke damage control.

But in his desperation to fix the story, Fr Perreira told us that The Truth was malleable and its relevance had more to do with The Way in which it was told and The Life of which it spoke.

His pontification came mere days before an Irish criminal court convicted yet another RC priest for fondling little boys. Fr Andrew Allen who, shall we say, practised here for 18 years and must have baptised any number of boys during that time, took his desires to Ireland. Snared by a society intolerant of such crimes, not even a Papal Bull could have saved him.

But instead of using his hotline to God to secure absolution of his brother’s widely known sins of the flesh, Fr Hezekiah waded into local media for reporting the facts surrounding the death of Andrew Woo Ling, another kinky friend of the church.

Delivering Woo Ling’s homily, Fr Hezekiah asked God to drop a customised curse upon us, designed to dwindle Express profits and sour food in the reporters’ stomachs, for saying verily unto you that Woo Ling was gay and at the time of his death, engaged in a peculiar sexual adventure.

Woo Ling clearly wasn’t immersed in a religious ritual when he expired. Police reports indicate he was dressed in leather underwear, with a noose around his neck and wrists handcuffed behind his back, while a chain and padlock kept his ankles together. Lawmen found a toppled stool a short distance away from his hanging corpse and concluded he died during a sexual episode gone awry.

What should have engaged Fr Hezekiah’s attention and his apparently exclusive right to the ear of God, therefore, was the fact that not even history’s most famous escape artist, Harry Houdini could have done all that by himself. But instead of demanding that police find the person who must have been with Woo Ling at the time (and therefore an accessory to homicide), the contentious priest, evidently operating on the principle that no noose is good news, took to lambasting The Express. Actually, methinks he protested too much.

Then, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, Fr Perreira, rushing to his brother’s defence, quite astonishingly suggested that truth may be manipulated to produce aesthetically pleasing results. Not surprising, I suppose, given that St Peter himself adopted that approach on the inaugural Good Friday, when asked if he were one of Christ’s disciples (John 18: verses 17, 25 and 27). But Fr Perreira makes the ludicrous leap to ask: “Does knowledge of wrong things and aberrant behaviour make us better?” He swiftly concludes that it doesn’t, devaluing at one swipe, the larger message of Sodom and Gommorah.

Frankly, because of my sensitivity to media bashing, I had hoped to not join the Woo Ling party, but the way the Roman Catholic altar responded to this recent rattling of its ego, one wonders whether The Way, The Truth and The Life are not all conveniently adjustable. Worse, if they haven’t already been reconfigured to bring us only the sanitised version.

Interestingly, Reuters yesterday reported that Vatican Radio has been threatened with disconnection of its electrical supply by the Italian Government, in an attempt to get the station that takes The Pope’s words around the world to reduce the level of electromagnetic radiation it emits daily. Studies by local health agencies turned up a higher incidence of leukemia among children and cancer in adults living near Vatican Radio transmitters.

The church, it would seem, is no longer waiting to defend the dead, but actually ushering people into the hereafter. Fat chance we would hear a comment on that situation from the local vocal. In the circumstances, my best advice to Reuters shareholders is to watch their stocks. And as the news agency’s reporters walk in the valley of the shadow of death, those intent on continuing to write fearlessly about Vatican Radio, should at least learn from our experience and take suitable precaution which, given Fr Hezekiah’s initiative, should include at least a large bottle of Kaopectate.


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