For the next six months, it’d probably be helpful if each time we hear Ian Óg Paisley speak, we imagine a little bubble coming out of his head with the words ‘It’s the election, stupid’. Between now and next May, Ian Óg’s every public utterance will be aimed at the voters of North Antrim.
His latest pronouncement expresses his satisfaction at ‘an end to the once all-knowing and powerful hand of the mother church in Ireland’ and urges Protestant churches to get in there and convert these bewildered Catholic misbelievers to the Protestant faith.
Now I know it’s a striking image: Ian Óg perched crowing on the corpse of the mortally-wounded Catholic Church, but like with Mark Twain, the reports of its demise are much exaggerated. Most Catholics know that we are all sinners and there but for the grace of God go I and/or Ian Og Paisley. Their faith is in Christ and the doctrines of the Catholic Church, not in its frail and sinful, or even in many cases the strong and good priests and bishops.
What Ian Óg is intent on doing is setting up the tired, sad, sectarian vision of a Catholic Church locked in struggle with the Protestant churches: eternal damnation with one, eternal salvation with the other. Ian’s daddy was doing that kind of thing as far back as the early 1950s, when he sought to save the soul of a misguided young Catholic woman. Like father, etc.
The Murphy Report excites dismay in many Catholic hearts but it’s not dismay with the Church’s doctrine and core beliefs: it’s with a number of corrupt priests and bishops who have engage in or covered up paedophilia. Is Ian Óg suggesting that were Catholics to move into the Protestant churches, they’d be moving into a paedophilia-free zone? That’s not what the research into child sexual abuse shows. Paedophilia exists in every area of society. Catholic priests have no monopoly of evil.
No, Ian’s not really thinking of all the Catholic souls to be saved from eternal hell-fire and subservience to the Anti-Christ; he’s a man with a constituency on his mind called North Antrim and a man on his mind called Jim Allister.