Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Beauty and the Priest

Published:Monday | February 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Michael Abrahams, Online Columnist

I have the most respect for Father Richard Ho Lung. His work, as a religious leader, with the poor in this country, is probably unparalleled.

The Missionaries of the Poor, an organisation he founded, includes more than 500 men from 13 countries who have taken vows of poverty, obedience and celibacy, to care for the destitute, the abandoned, the sick and the disabled.

The organisation operates not only in Jamaica, but also in the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and the United States. He has also made an enormous contribution to the performing arts, working with, and helping to hone the talents of, countless young Jamaicans, with his productions generating revenue to be utilised for looking after the needy. The man is an icon, a living legend, a hero and an inspiration to me.

But despite all his accomplishments and accolades, he is still just a man, and his recent tirade against Lisa Hanna simultaneously amused, offended and perplexed me. In an article titled 'Lisa Hanna: Disappointment of the Year 2014', published in The Gleaner on Friday, January 30, 2015, Father Ho Lung referred to the posting of the now-infamous photograph of Ms Hanna on Instagram as "the most disgusting of acts". He claimed that she was "just short of complete nudity" and asked why she would "strip herself down and post herself on social media".

For those of you who have been living under rocks, inside crevices and in bubbles and are unfamiliar with the saga, let me to enlighten you. Last year, Ms Hanna was captured on camera, by her son, strolling on the beach wearing a two-piece bathing suit, but with her upper body, unfortunately, covered by a Bob Marley T-shirt. She subsequently posted the pic on Instagram, prompting a media firestorm.

I must confess, I was indeed disappointed with Ms Hanna's behaviour and attire, as the T-shirt was unnecessary and obstructed the viewing and appreciation of a fantastic physique. After all, if you Google 'women's beach wear', you will find that two-piece bathing suits are quite appropriate.

As a matter of fact, I think that the photograph should be submitted to the Jamaica Tourist Board to be used as a poster to entice foreigners to visit our country.

But in the 'Gospel According to Richard', the writer found Ms Hanna to be neither blessed nor highly favoured. He went on to rebuke her for being "empty of any values but the self" and stated that she reminded him of "Lucifer's fall from Heaven". You would think that he was describing Jezebel or Delilah.

A rant like that sounded like it was coming from a bitter and resentful person with whom she broke up and left for another man or gave 'bun'. But the author of this diatribe was unlikely to have been in a relationship with any woman whose name is not Mary, as Catholic priests are in love with 'the Virgin' but have taken vows of celibacy.

Father Ho Lung has been at it since I was in prep school, and I am now approaching menopause. I theorise that after all those decades of celibacy, the oil in his back has now reached his cerebral cortex and is distorting his appreciation of reality and severely obtunding his cognition. My diagnosis is acute seminal meningitis ('seminal' not being the adjective for the word 'seminary', but rather for a particular body fluid). Either that or someone spiked his communion wine with insane feline urine, prompting him to spew such rabid holy crap.

There were many disappointments in our country last year: our failure to keep the murder toll under 1,000; the incompetent handling of the chikungunya epidemic by our Ministry of Health; the questionable manner in which the Government handled the NHT-Outameni situation; the failure of our security forces to protect the life of a man in custody.

To declare a picture of a beautiful woman in a bathing suit as the biggest disappointment of the year is absolutely insane. Then again, I probably should not be surprised, as the Catholic Church has rather warped, archaic and repressed views regarding human sexuality and its expression.

For example, according to Catholic doctrine, masturbation is a 'mortal sin', which means that I booked my first-class non-stop flight to hell from in my adolescence, as I gave myself regular 'oil changes' back then. (There is a good reason why chik-V mercilessly attacked my right wrist.)

The Vatican also stubbornly clings to the banning of contraceptives, claiming them to be 'unnatural', while 800 women die every day around the world from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ironically, they still maintain the lifelong celibacy rule for nuns and priests, which, in my opinion, is 'unnatural'.

Paradoxically, by publicly admonishing the former Miss World for engaging in attention-seeking behaviour, Father Ho Lung has resurrected a dead non-issue from last year and brought her photograph to the nation's attention once again.

His article had more than 1,000 recommendations for Facebook, attracted more than 170 comments in The Gleaner, and prompted letters and articles such as the one you are now reading. Ms Hanna should thank him for the free publicity.
Having issues with the minister's performance in the Government is one thing, but to judge her and assault her character based on the posting of a picture taken of her during her down time is grossly unfair.

With our country facing so many challenges, we should be focusing on real issues - like Gully Bop's missing teeth.

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to and, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.