I have a bone to pick with the people behind the #NopeToThePope campaign. Their reasons for protesting are absolutely fair, but I think the way they’re going about it is disrespectful and mean. My opinion may not be a popular one, but it’s valid. Before you brush me off, hear me out.
For those of you who haven’t been following the campaign online, #NopeToThePope is a protest against the arrival of Pope Francis in Ireland. The 81-year-old will tour our Emerald Isle from 21st – 26th August in what’s been called the World Meeting of Families (an international event which takes place every three years). Given recent revelations about corruption and abuse within the Catholic Church, hundreds (if not thousands) of people are unhappy about this papal visit. A number of them have bulk-reserved tickets to the Pope’s ceremonies, despite having no intention of going to see him. Their plan is to book as many tickets as possible and not show up; thus preventing genuine mass-goers from attending, and leaving the Pope with a tiny audience.
"Protest is legitimate and okay, but denying other people the opportunity to attend an event is most unfair..." – Leo Varadkar
One man who spoke to RTÉ’s Liveline said he secured almost 700 tickets, all of which he planned to destroy. To me, that’s disrespectful. Disagreeing with the Catholic Church (which I do too, by the way) doesn't give you the right to take away other people's oppourtunity to go to see the Pope. Brenda Drumm, media and communications manager for World Meeting of Families 2018, told the Irish Times it was “disappointing that some people would try to undermine the right of ordinary families to go to mass with the Holy Father, showing little respect for the right to religious freedom.” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is of the same opinion. Speaking in the Dáil he said, “Protest is legitimate and okay, but denying other people the opportunity to attend a mass or an event is not legitimate protest in my view and is most unfair. It should be condemned.” He went on to say such actions are "petty, intolerant and certainly the opposite of progressive".
A more accepting approach
According to the 2016 census, 78.3% of the Irish population are Roman Catholic. For the most part, these are honest and decent people; they aren't responsible for the corruption within the church. What's more, they deserve to see the Pope if they want to. Statistics show more than 550,000 of Irish Catholics are over the age of 65. For many elderly people (and, indeed, Catholics of all ages), attending mass is an important part of the week. What if it were your grandparents, parents or neighbours? Surely these people have the right to choose whether or not they attend mass with the Pope. Surely, if you truly believe in equality and fairness, the right thing to do is let people make their own choices. Bulk buying tickets for the sake of destroying them actively takes that choice away.
It's important to remember we're all human. We all believe in different things; we all feel different ways about certain things; we must be accepting of people whose beliefs differ from ours. If you don't want to see the Pope, that's fine. And if you want to protest against his visit, that's fine too. But perhaps a less-invasive, less controlling protest would be kinder. It's something to think about.
Photo: Vatican News, Instagram