By JP O’Malley
Between 1914 and 1915, the Jewish Czech writer, Franz Kafka, wrote the mesmerising novel, The Trial.
Today, 100 years later, it illuminates the connection between bureaucracy and power.
In The Trial, a young bank official, Joseph K, is arrested for a crime that doesn’t seem to exist. He is taken to a quarry outside of his town and killed.
The word ‘Kafkaesque’ is overused by journalists, but it is appropriate in describing my experience when attempting to ‘excommunicate’ myself from the Catholic Church. Attempting to leave this immensely powerful organisation is like being locked in a crystal maze with no exit sign in sight.
Ostensibly, my official attempt to depart from Catholicism started last October. But the philosophical quest began 18 years ago. As a young boy, the Catholic Church was vital in shaping my cultural and intellectual identity.
There was a picture of the Sacred Heart in my bedroom. Every night, until I was eight years old, my brother and I would kneel and say prayers before sleep.
A decade of the rosary was said in the family when someone got sick or when there was a crisis. As a small child, one Lent I attended mass every single morning. My uncle is a practicing Catholic priest in Limerick City. And my father still has many close friends who are priests. All of them are good, decent, honest men, with strong moral convictions.
Historically, even for all its failings, the Catholic Church played a positive role in people’s lives.
The rhythms and rituals of prayer divided the day into sections that gave people meaning. The introspective space of a building provided a place to seek spiritual comfort, to create community networks, and to enable people to believe in the idea of a cohesive society with a shared sense of purpose, rather than a cluster of random individuals.
I recall these positive outcomes, because it’s insulting to the generation that came before my own to somehow believe that their value system, which derived from Catholicism, can now, rather facetiously, be seen as farcical.
However, these positive traits, were, over time, supplanted by an obsession with power.