Like discussing the rules of quidditch

There’s nothing like a good healthy sense of priorities, is there. What could be more urgent for Irish Catholics than to pitch a huge fit about an art installation that has something to do with “the Virgin Mary”?

In Our Lady and Other Queer Santas, Chicana artist Alma Lopez will exhibit her picture Our Lady, a digital pastiche of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, a 16th-century Peruvian manifestation of the Virgin Mary…The Madonna in a bikini, basically…

On last Friday’s Liveline, one of Ireland’s most popular radio shows, presenter Joe Duffy was flooded with calls from irate Catholics mortified by this “blasphemous” artwork.

You see what I mean. That’s what these irate Catholics are irate about – a picture of something labeled “the Virgin Mary.” Not Magdalen laundries, not child rape by priests, not industrial schools, not the Catholic church’s relentless stranglehold on the people of Ireland for generation after generation – but a picture of a putative “manifestation” of a putative woman who lived (if she lived) two thousand years ago in unblemished obscurity like nearly everyone else in human history.

Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer chimed in, saying the university should not be supporting an event that was “overtly blasphemous and blatantly disrespectful” and that “those in charge at UCC should consider whether or not it is appropriate to permit this exhibition to take place on its campus without affording others the opportunity to present an alternative and balanced point of view”.

Point of view? Alternative point of view? Balanced point of view?

………….What would that be? A kitsch “Mary” from a souvenir shop? Our Lady of Guadeloupe in a burqa topped by a full set of sealskins suitable for winter in Barrow? Joseph in a Speedo?

Lopez has been under attack for her artwork since it was first exhibited in California in 2001. The current campaign is headed by America Needs Fatima, a Mariolatrous US group that organises anti-abortion and anti-blasphemy rallies…Ireland, meanwhile, is facing its first blasphemy controversy since the Fianna Fáil/Green government introduced a new blasphemy law. Buckley’s claim that all Irish people revere Mary chimes dangerously with that law’s definition of blasphemy as something likely to cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion”. UCC could yet have a case on its hands.

Priorities, people. Fix them.

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