The mother is delighted with the new pope. Great man. He gets the bus.He pays his hotel bills. He cracks little jokes. He talks about love. One Direction for the arthritis gang.
Very unpopey yet you couldn’t knit yourself a better pope. He’s no George Clooney but at seventy-six, he’s just a spring chicken. The life in your pope is as important as the pope in your life. And! There’s no faint smell of Nazi off him. No taint of child abuse cover up. Ok. He was at the back of the bus gazing out the window when the junta in Buenos Aires started disappearing some of his Jesuit colleagues but look, when the Smart Boy Wanted sign goes up in the Vatican window you don’t expect to find the perfect candidate.
The point is that when the mother and her old friends get down on their hands and knees to clean the church across the road they’re pleased with the new boss. When they are washing the floor and shining the brass and polishing the wood and shifting their aching limbs about to do a job that nobody thanks them for they are happy that the man with the hat gets the bus from time to time. He’s humble. Humility is a good thing for the church to have these days. Humility and love.
We don’t talk much about the pope or his business when I call to the house of an evening. We talk about what’s going on in our mad little village and we talk about hurling. I was recently decommissioned from the Cork senior hurling squad after more than a decade and a half of good times and turbulence. The disappointment at how it was ended. That’s what we talk about. And how the club will go. In our house the pope might get his picture stuck to the fridge but Christy Ring was the only man we knew to be infallible and hurling has always been the one true faith.
Still. I’d like to know someday about how the mother feels about the fact that her son whom she loves won’t ever be allowed to get married in the church that she cleans in the village she has always lived in. The pope who gets the bus and talks about love is against gay marriage. He’s never been to Cloyne by bus or by car but he’s one of the last people on earth who cares that I am gay. If I find somebody I love the Pope won’t be letting me celebrate that relationship in the church which baptised me, gave me my communion, confirmed me and which will probably seize my body for burial if I let it. If I find somebody I love and we settle down and want to share our home with a child who needs loving parents the pope will have an actual hissy fit. Gay adoption, he says, is child abuse. That’s a pretty big steaming slice of ignorance for any badged rep of Catholic Church Inc. to be offering to the customers in this day and age.
In his new job the man from the Buenos Aires omnibus is in the perfect place to learn a little bit about the realities of child abuse. By the time he is finished reading all the reports in his in tray he may conclude that it would be best to keep priests away from churches and places in the community. Then he might go out (he has the outfits) and meet some real gay men and women and educate himself beyond the stereotype.
He works after all directly for a man who lived with his mother till he was thirty, who hung almost exclusively with men, or disciples (the fabulous ones as they called themselves in the instagram picture of the last supper.) HE turned the water into wine. Not stout. HIS only female friend Mary Magdalene described herself as ‘fag hag’ on her Facebook page And never shopped for shoes without bringing Jesus with her.
Luckily the Pope doesn’t apply his lazy stereotypes to the guy he works for. And when he learns some truths about real humility and real love he might look around the bus next time he’s on one and realise that the percentage of his fellow passengers don’t look or sound any different to anybody else and no matter what your belief they were created in the same way as everybody else.
The hurling season is starting and in Cloyne hurling is the great leveller. The Pope whether he is riding on a bus or on a donkey is a remote concept to us. We won last weekend down in Youghal. Some of us have played together since the time we could walk. Others are the sons of fellas who I played with in the past. My Dad was umpire. My friend Philip Cahill’s son Luke, scored three goals. My other friend Sean Motherways son, Owen made his debut. I won County Championships with both their Fathers. We all know each other’s histories so well that our default method of conversation is ripping the life out of each other. Come what may.
There’s a lot of love and humility there. We fight with each other some of the time but mostly we fight for each other come what may. Someday some fella like me is going to decide to get married in a little church in some place like Cloyne, just like the people he grew up with and the people he plays with. I wouldn’t want to be the priest who explains the Pope’s position to the mothers of Ireland when their done cleaning the churches and I wouldn’t like to be the man who bars the door to the community that makes up the church.
So my brothers and sisters the lesson for the day is: Taking the bus isn’t the same thing as walking the walk!
*Donal Og Cusack is one of Ireland’s leading sportsmen and the first ever to go public about his sexual orientation. He won three All Ireland medals with Cork hurlers.