Get Your Rosaries Off Our Ovaries

“Whoever invented that slogan is a GENIUS,” said Fiona. It’s very catchy, and the men can join in too, since each participant is chanting not about their own personal ovaries but about the universal ovaries of Ireland, which must be massive.

My tiny friend had joined me in Dublin for the weekend and we’d just crashed into a colossal protest march for abortion rights. My arrival had coincided with the start of the Savita Affair — an outcry resulting from the death of a pregnant woman who was refused an abortion which might have saved her life. It’s a huge scandal — even the Catholic Church has agreed in principle that abortions are OK when the mother’s life is in danger (if it’s only her health that’s at stake she has to tough it out and get disabled) but nothing has ever been clarified in law, and the government doesn’t even collect statistics about the number of legal abortions performed. Meanwhile, anybody who wants an abortion for non-life-threatening reasons simply hops over to the UK secretively, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which seems to satisfy the authorities but subjects the patient to increased risk, stress and expense.

Is Ireland “a medieval theorcracy” as one of my colleagues here called it? The church certainly has a level of power — and indeed relevance — that seems odd to a UK dweller, where even those who have religion are used to basically ignoring it.

I wandered along to the Irish Film Institute, the equivalent of the BFI Southbank or Edinburgh Filmhouse. It’s a splendid building with a fine bar and restaurant — I have to admit it has the edge on Filmhouse. Out of ethnographic curiosity, and because it was free, I drifted into a screening of Irish Film Archive material –

Note the casual approach to presentation, where line flubs are simply left in — who’s going to tell a priest he needs to do a retake? You can get yourself excommunicated for that. Note also the strange fluctuations in volume during the VO sequence, which impart a pleasing MARIENBAD quality.

I entered the cinema five minutes before the programme was due to start, but found it was already in progress. I kind of approve of this casual approach. Radharc, pronounced Riork, seemed like quite a benevolent, thoughtful TV show. The second episode was much more interesting than the livestock one. It dealt with the homeless, and took place a street away from the cottage I’m currently sat in, typing this. Interviews with homeless men were conducted with mutual respect: the interviewer genuinely wanted to know what his subjects thought, and the men had such automatic respect for the priest with the microphone that they all came across as intelligent, soft-spoken and naturally submissive, even as they confessed to being violent, temperamental alcoholics.

The most interesting moment was the guy, talking with his back to the camera to protect his identity, looking like a close-up from Peter Brook’s KING LEAR, who spoke of his lack of religious belief, and was allowed to do so without any comment from the interviewer or presenter: “There isn’t any God. A long time ago people were ignorant, but they’re educated now. I may not be, but some are. There’s nothing.” He’s asked what will happen to him when he dies. “I’ll be dead and I’ll go into a hole in the ground and that’s the last that will be heard of me.” He’s asked if that worries him. “That costs me nothing. It could happen tomorrow and I wouldn’t care. I’d be better off.”

The poor guy has figured it all out, and it hasn’t done him any good. I suspect his social situation is the reason he’s allowed to speak his mind without criticism — he’s regarded as someone who will make atheism look bad. They probably wouldn’t have let an Oxford professor espouse the same views…

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7 Responses to “Get Your Rosaries Off Our Ovaries”

  1. “There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.” – James Joyce

    There’s a scene in Preminger’s underrated THE CARDINAL, where the Priest, an Irish-American goes to a hospital where he’s sister is going into a troubled labour over a child she had out of wedlock. The doctor asks the priest that he ought to choose to abort the kid and save her life or let the kid survive and his sister die. Not quite the same as the case with Savita Halappanavar but the same callousness is there when he(Tom Tryon) says, “The Church does not allow abortion” and the doctors have to comply.

  2. This case seems even worse since there’s no way the fetus could have been saved: it looks as if, for fear of prosecution, the medical staff let a patient die for no reason at all.

    I must watch The Cardinal: it has a great title sequence, but I never got past that.

  3. I think the theocracy has been severly dented by the acumulation of child abuse scandals and the appauling response by the church to them.

  4. Having said that ‘Get your rosaries off our ovaries’ is the kind of chant we should remember here in Scotland – its already very hard to get an abortion in the West of Scotland and a big reason why I’m for a No vote in the referendum is that I don’t want west cost politicians to have a say on this issue.

  5. Wow, now I really feel as if I’ve seen the movie, and in under eight minutes!

    Yeah, the various forms of sectarian and religious bullshit in Scotland are a cause for concern if we ever go independent. As long as we’re just a small part of the UK, they’re so neutralized one forgets they’re there.

  6. The whole of Cardinal is just as good, showing Preminger’s impressive mise-en-scene and it has one of Romy Schneider’s best performances. Chris Fujiwara makes a strong case for it as one of Preminger’s most interesting films, and its unique for being a totally secular look at the Church as a political organization.

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