The last thing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wanted this evening was to be explaining Grindr to the ghost of John Charles McQuaid, but there it was, imagines Donal O’Keeffe.
A simple glass of sherry and Mahler on the turntable after a horrible day was all he wanted, but instead here he was attempting to placate the increasingly apoplectic shade of his predecessor.
“We’ve been over this before, Your Grace,” Martin said, with the sorrowful weariness he usually reserved for members of the Iona Institute.
“And frankly, I think such language is at the very least unhelpful. They’re called ‘gay people’ now and as a matter of fact the Holy Father himself has been most conciliatory, going so far as to ask who he is to judge anyone. And in point of fact, my issue was more to do with Maynooth’s prevailing regressive atmosphere than –”
No sooner had Martin spoken than he knew he had made a terrible mistake. The very air darkened and seemed to boil. The leather-bound books on the shelves began to shake.
“HE’S THE BLOODY POPE IN ROME!” McQuaid’s ghost trembled with rage and appeared to thicken. “That man is an utter disgrace! In God’s Holy Name, who better than the Pope to judge those deviants?
“It is an absolute disgrace that homosexuals are now legally allowed to go about their disgusting carry-on without the Civic Guards so much as locking them up and throwing away the key.”
“Well, Your Grace,” said Martin hesitantly, “On that very subject, there’s something I’ve been, em, something I’ve been meaning to say to you…”
“And you say that they have a device now which allows free reign to their filthy behavior? Using the telephone? Dear God, man! What about the poor post mistress? Does she have to connect these ghastly perverts with each other?”
“Em, I think you’ll find, John, that things have moved on a bit vis-à-vis the whole technology department since your day, not to mention certain, em, certain as it were developments in the whole area of social mores, not least among them the referendum we had only last yea…”
“Social mores?!” thundered McQuaid. “Social mores? Ireland has gone to the dogs since I went reluctantly to my eternal reward!”
(And here the ghost went suddenly quiet and seemed momentarily uncertain, even saddened. Martin found himself wondering, not for the first time, about McQuaid’s eternal reward and why it seemed mostly confined to haunting sporadically the study of Archbishop’s House in Drumcondra.)
“John?” he asked quietly. “John, you were talking about your eternal reward. Given our vocation, you will understand my, em, fascination with the concept of the afterlife and your own personal insight into life er post mortem as it were. As such, I would relish any particular…”
“Social mores,” said McQuaid with a snarl.
“Social mores my eye. Do you know Ireland doesn’t even have one single mother and baby home anymore? Not so much as a Magdalene laundry or an industrial school? Women are having sex outside of wedlock right now and getting away with it!
“They’re using contraception – which is bad enough – but some of them are getting pregnant and actually keeping the children themselves? No nuns, no sun rooms, no selling the children to our wealthy donors in the United States!
“Some of those dirty tramps are having sex and they’re doing it for pleasure!”
McQuaid’s shade grew huge and terrifying as he roared in Archbishop Martin’s face.
“WHAT HAS BECOME OF IRELAND?!
“And now you’re telling me Maynooth has been infiltrated by – what do you call them – ‘gay people’? I mean, it was always known that there was a certain, shall we say, ha, rough and tumble in Maynooth but you’re telling me homosexuals are now openly interfering with each other in the light of day?
“Thanks be to God for the Eighth Amendment,” said McQuaid, falling back down into –and partially through – the armchair across from Martin’s desk. “At least we have the Eighth Amendment.
“At least the hussies who can’t afford to travel to Perfidious Albion for abortions are forced to pay for their sins. (Ten a day or more. Do you know the bloody Brits give a discount to Irish women? I suppose what else would you expect?)
“I died ten years before the Eighth Amendment was passed, but I can tell you this much, I did everything in my power to make it happen. I moved might and main and I drove it on by sheer force of will. I mean, in God’s name, if a woman has sex, she has to pay for her sin, yes?
“What has become of this country? I wrote the Constitution, you know. Well, DeValera and I wrote it. A Blackrock College man, as you know. He had a keen mind and a deep concern about licentiousness. A good man. Moments of awkwardness, certainly, but overall a good man.
“It’s been a lonely station, you know, watching all that has happened to the country I love. I confess I haven’t been able to keep on top of everything but it has been deeply frustrating to see how far Ireland has sank.
“I watched as contraception became as freely available as chewing gum. I watched as homosexuality was legalized and divorce scraped through the second time.
“I watched as RTE – a hotbed of homosexuality! – and the Protestant Irish Times and a few other diseased organs of the media played up a few minor – unfortunate no doubt but nonetheless minor – misunderstandings over pederasty. And they dragged Mother Church down.
“And after Enda Kenny – a Fine Gael Taoiseach, mirabile dictu! – gave that disgraceful speech about the Diocese of Cloyne – a beautiful place, run by wise and decent men – I had to go away for a nice, long lie-down.
“And now I wake up and find the queers and the Protestants and the liberals are trying to tear the Eighth Amendment – our crowning achievement! – from the Constitution I dictated!
“WE MUST STAND FOR DECENCY!” screamed the ghost, his spectral head bulging dangerously close to exploding.
“Oh to Hell with this,” thought Martin, taking one last sip before setting his glass down.
It probably wouldn’t even be murder anyway if the victim was already dead, and perhaps it wouldn’t be even possible to give a ghost a fatal heart attack, but sure look it might be worth giving it a go anyway.
“Your Grace?” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.
“Have you heard at all about last year’s Marriage Equality referendum?”