I respect my mother and the faith of all my Irish Roman Catholic relatives. Saint Anthony works full-time for us finding things we have misplaced. My sentiments regarding the institution of the Catholic Church, the most powerful patriarchal cult on Earth, are, however, another matter. I would gladly keep my beliefs to myself, but why should I observe discretion when 200,000 raving imported Catholics are allowed to scream their creed in our requisitioned streets?
Why Toronto? is the obvious question. Because the "leader" of this fast-disintegrating urb is only too happy to hand the whole town over to anybody (except social activists) who asks. Movie shoots? Sure! Just show up with a crappy script and Toronto is Chicago at your service. The Vatican? Having PR problems with those pesky rapist priests? Don't worry -- we're too broke to provide for our own, but, hey, we can mega-subsidize your massive make-over show.
Passive Torontonians will roll over for road closures they'd never permit on account of mere killer smog. And getting proselytized on the pilgrim-packed subway provides fun for tired working people.
Pilgrims, these flag-wrapped loudmouths, parading down the street disrupting my precious sleep for the third day in a row, don't seem any different than soccer fans. But I'm used to suffering. "Offer it up," my mother would say.
It's when they inconsiderately refuse to pipe down at night that my pagan tolerance is sorely tried. The night belongs to witches! -- a fact that's proven when both my neighbour and I step outside at the same moment to deliver a chastising message to which the hyped-up brats are obviously unaccustomed.
Fortunately, the Church has taught them blind obedience to anyone who assumes authority. The next night the kids return to make a point of shrieking in front of our homes loud enough to damage their immature throats. All for the Love of God, of course.
But the pontiff's visitation at least provided an opportunity for advocates for the homeless to take over a symbolic building. Last Thursday the Pope Squatters marched, by my faulty estimation about six or seven hundred strong, with drums and bikes and lots of teachers, including Catholics.
But I see none of the World Katholic Kids. Just women in robes who offer me a temporary tattoo endorsing ordination for women. Hey, when I believe women priests will salvage the Catholic Church, I'll get a real tattoo. We march all the way to Roncesvalles. That explains the lack of WYDaze hordes. The optimistic TTC had expected them to hoof it more (or crawl on their knees if they're serious), not lazy up to every bus and streetcar in sight.
South and east on King, we head to a building that, in a neighbourhood of turreted Victorian castles, stands out as one of the ugly exceptions. The original front of this four-storey old thing has been knocked off and rebricked in the style I would call Typical Toronto Hideous: 1510 King West, across from a House for Sale advertising a Lake View (never mind the Gardiner).
An OCAP banner is unfurled from a window. Horns blow. Bells ring. This time they've had the good sense to take the building the night before. From within the place comes the news that a lot of cleanup is in order, as the landlord hasn't left it in good shape. Piles of old, weird garbage can be shifted from the former rooming house, but the eviction of dangerous black mould growing in the rooms will be difficult.
Taxes have long since lapsed, the owner corporation dissolved. "Technically speaking, it's not owned by anybody. Now it's owned by us." I think back to when the anti-rooming-house city threw me out of my home, also on King Street -- I had to go to Vancouver for a place to stay.
In Mexico and Quebec they fought to separate church from state. In Toronto, City Hall, Queen's Park and all points in between have been offered up to a 100-times-larger-than-life staging of the stations of the cross. Subway stations, however, are closed to those who wish to enter. Go home.
Thousands upon thousands of zealots gaze at Jesus on the huge crane-hung video screens erected in a hospital zone. Silently, behind the barricades of a station of Jesus' journey, the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics and supporters of a woman's right to control over her own body raise banners and signs.
Pseudo-Jesus passes, his side vision blocked by his lightweight cross. (In Mexico, the fake Jesus has to haul a cross heavier than the original.) After respectfully observing the passage of the procession, Cherie MacDonald talks to the crowd about the thousands of women who die in agony no man could imagine when safe operations are unavailable. A "Boo!" goes up to heaven. Fetus posters are flung out. The brave band of pro-choicers is roped in by rosaries and chants of "John Paul II, we love you!"
I just wonder what those little Catholic chicks will do: enforced heterosexuality, no birth control, relying on their inseminators to take care of them forever. Today they are invincible, but circumstance can bring anyone down.
Jesus hung out with poor people. Catholics like the Sisters of Saint Joseph attend to the needs of Torontonians living in our streets. Ignoring poverty will never make it go away. Just tell Mel -- squatting is big in London, Amsterdam and all the real World-Class Cities.