World Youth Day
I think World Youth Day sucks for all kinds of reasons.
I don't think that any of the tiers of government should be financially supporting any kind of private religious celebration, and the fact that NSW Labor is speaks to the corruption, the social conservatism and the dominance of the Catholic church in that party. It's just not healthy, no matter how you care to spin it.
I also resent the fact that WYD is really just presenting one face of Catholic spirituality, and its a pretty ugly face. It's a kind of Nuremberg Rally of right-wing Catholicism, and I resent being exepected to be excited about it. Don't tell me how much money it's going to contribute to the local economy (not half as much as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which gets zilch from the government), or how wonderful it will be to have the streets filled with wholesome, Christian young people intent on doing good. I would suggest that the central message of WYD does a lot of bad to, for example, young gay and lesbian people, or young people who might happen to be Hindu or Buddhist, or young people who might want to retain the freedom and integrity to formulate their own beliefs free from the dogma and dictates of an authoritarian institution.
That said, there are going to be some fabulous high-camp moments that I am just not going to miss. These include:
1. Viewing the body of the Blessed Pier Giorgio - we rarely get to see the fossilised remains of dead people in Australia, and I wouldn't miss this macabre spectacle for the world.
2. The live Stations of the Cross - high-camp, real-life drama in the tradition of Jesus Christ Superstar. And the guy playing Jesus is a fox!
3. The Religious Orders Fun-Fair in Hyde Park - that's right, just across from the Cathedral they're setting up a kind of garden fete to encourage kids to join religious orders. Will there be a Franciscan jumping castle? The Benedictine super-slide? Put the balls in St. Therese's mouth? The possibilities are endless, and the implications of a pilgrims' fair are way too Chaucerian for me to pass up. I'm secretly hoping they will be selling indulgences.
4. Mary Mackillop's Tomb as Disneyland - the good Josephite sisters are ramping up operations at their actually quite tasteful headquarters in North Sydney. They are installing porta-loos and hot dog stands and charging punters 10 bucks to get into the church and spend some quality time at Mother Mary's tomb. Or you can buy a $30 all-day ticket which includes a continental breakfast and a whirlwind tour through the bizarre museum out the back that no-one ever visits.
I'm sure that there are actually some good and worthwhile events happening too. I am aware, for example, that the wonderful people at the World Christian Meditation Community - genuine good guys - will be operating an alternative space all week at the Paddington Uniting Church, where people can go and meditate and spend some quiet, genuinely contemplative and spiritual time. But for the most part the whole WYD event is an exercise in bombast, chauvinism and tackiness, and on balance it has done enormous damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church in Australia.