Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Tony Deyal | Happy New Year?

Published:Saturday | January 7, 2017 | 12:00 AM

A drunk man who smelled like a barrel of beer sat down on a subway train next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his face plastered with red lipstick, and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his torn coat pocket. He opened his newspaper and began reading. After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked, "Say Father, what causes arthritis?" The priest replied, "My Son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath." The drunk muttered in response, "Well, I'll be damned," then returned to his paper. The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologised. "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?" The drunk answered, "I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does."

Even if the Pope does not have arthritis or even mild rheumatism, there is a priest in Italy who, if the priest in the story is to be believed, is a candidate for osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and polymyalgia all at the same time. Also some jail time. The priest, Father Andrea Contin, a 48-year-old parish priest at the Church of San Lazzaro in Padua, has allegedly organised orgies in his church's rectory and acted as a pimp for up to 15 women and living off their 'immoral' earnings. Three of his female parishioners have also accused him of "psychological violence". A variety of sex toys, pornography obscured with covers featuring the names of past popes, and videos reportedly showing orgies taking place on the church premises, have been seized by police. The priest pimped out the women on wife-swapping websites and enjoyed expensive holidays with his lovers in exotic locations, including Croatia, France and Austria. Among his trips abroad was a stop at a naturist and swingers resort in Cap d'Adge, located on the Southern coast of France.

The documentary channel, RT, said that female parishioners complained to the local bishop last summer, but church authorities did not contact the police at the time, saying they were conducting their own investigation. The Italian newspaper, Il Mattino di Padova, reported that one of the priest's lovers said, "he was sending me a flood of messages. He phoned me. He said or wrote, 'I'm happy when I'm with you.'" The first kiss followed. "I was with him at the rectory, we were in the study. He often called saying he had always needed me, that he could not help it. After a little, he came up and kissed me. It all started there." The 49-year-old church volunteer added that the two were having sex in the rectory "at all hours: morning, afternoon, night." She also told the newspaper, "There were a lot of women hovering around him. I didn't understand that at first, only later." While Contin hasn't been arrested, he has been suspended from his clerical duties pending the investigation. At this stage, nobody has explained why the priest has not been jailed (as any other pimp would be) and why the bishop did not act on the report as soon as it was made to him.




Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, has said, "Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church's credibility." Pope Francis has also passed new laws to remove bishops from office who fail to sack paedophile priests. Yet, in a recently revealed deposition in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a man who said a priest in the Syracuse diocese sexually abused him as a child, Bishop Robert Cunningham testified in a 2011 deposition that "the boy is culpable". In other words, the victims of child-molesting priests are partly to blame for their own abuse. In September 2015, during his visit to the US, the Pope met victims of sex abuse by priests and vowed that those responsible would face justice. The Pope had already apologised for the church's inadequate response to the US abuse crisis which severely tarnished the church's reputation and cost US$3 billion in settlements.

The problem going forward in 2017 is the emphasis we put on 'conscience' without recognising that (as Confucius say) a clear conscience is the sign of a bad memory. Generally, a conscience supposedly does not prevent sin, it only keeps you from enjoying it too much. The Pope said, "Sin, also for those who don't have faith, exists when one goes against one's conscience. To listen to and obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action." In some places, your conscience will bother you if you have only one wife and can afford several. In other places, when you marry one male member of a family, you also have to marry his brothers. Don't do that and your conscience as well as the people around you will be on your back and on your mind all the time. We say of a wrongdoer that the person is without a conscience without realising that it is a case of inadequate socialisation.

I read a few days ago that in Barbados, about 20 per cent of secondary-school students in forms one, two and three, in nine secondary schools admitted to being abused sexually. In Jamaica, a Moravian pastor alleged to have had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl on the night of Wednesday, December 28, 2016, was charged with statutory rape. In Guyana, the authorities received 233 reports of rape last year, but only 36 persons were charged. Overall, the World Health Organisation figures indicate that 47 per cent of girls and 31 per cent of boys in the Caribbean will be sexually abused before the age of 18. In Trinidad and Tobago, as we start the year 2017, there were 200 women and girls reported missing in 2016. Even for a humorist, optimist and punster like me, this is not a joke. It is not arthritis. It is a cancer.

- Tony Deyal was last seen quoting Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, "The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse."