This year, World Youth Day was held in Sydney, and its effects could also be seen in Melbourne where any trip into the city over the past fortnight has involved contact with roaming bands of young "pilgrims" from other countries.
I've avoided the topic for a couple of reasons. One is that I'm just sick of the media coverage and would rather ignore this sorry episode as much as possible. It's not as if my attitude to the Catholic Church, with its pathological morality of misery and guilt, is any secret. And, too, I feel genuine good will toward the young people who are guests in my country, much as I abhor the religious morality preached by their hierarchs. I am, of course, appalled by the outrageous attempts to legislate to suppress the freedom of speech of people protesting against the Catholic Church, and I applaud the fact that the worst of this legislative effort was struck down by the courts. Things have come to a pretty pass if governments are even going to think about banning peaceful forms of protest against a highly controversial religious worldview. I am also appalled that many millions of tax-payers' dollars have been spent promoting that same worldview - I do not want the mechanism of the state promoting ideas that I, for one, oppose and seek to undermine by intellectual critique and satire. Why should the dollars of the citizenry and the might of the state be spent on such blatant, one-sided distortion of the community debate about ideas about metaphysics and morals? The fact that associated tourism may have ended up making the exercise profitable for Sydney, and Australia in general, is beside the point. The issue is not that the expenditure has harmed our economy - it probably hasn't - but that the state has taken sides on a huge scale in an important controversy over the truth of religious doctrine.
Imagine the outcry if tens of millions of tax-payers' dollars were spent promoting a major event organised by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to rally the world's youthful atheists (complete with laws criminalising efforts to "annoy" the atheistic pilgrims, such as by handing them religious pamphlets in the street).
Anyway, the whole thing is over now. Hopefully, many of the young Catholic pilgrims used the trip more as an opportunity to see the world, enjoy Australia's lifestyle, and engage in a certain amount of pleasurable sinning.