The Truth About World Youth Day 2008


Well, it’s a topic that’s got all of Sydney riled up. Is it worth shutting down half of Sydney so that a guy from Italy can come for a day? Well, this is the conundrum that faces the organisers of World Youth Day 2008. What could have been the Catholic Church’s PR dream is fast becoming a nightmare. You could have been going out with Alicia Silverstone circa 1998, but instead you’re going out with Britney Spears circa 2008. What are the issues? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s my take on the whole thing.

1: What is World Youth Day?

Well, it’s not exactly a ‘day’ so much as it is a week. It’s a week of celebrations by the Catholic Church as an attempt to encourage young people to seek out and investigate spirituality, as well as go to concerts and hear teaching from a Catholic perspective. Ultimately, it a chance for (what they hope to be) tens of thousands of pilgrims flocking to one place for a big time gathering. It’s been going on since the 80s, is hosted in a different country every year, and this is Australia’s first World Youth Day. Everybody with me?

2: Why are people so upset by it?

Good question. However, something I’ve learned while living in Sydney is that everyone has an opinion on everything. Even if they have no idea what the real issues are, people will leap at the chance to protest something – anything! Take APEC for example; 90% of the protesters at APEC didn’t even know what APEC was an acronym for. Yet there they were protesting against world hunger, global warming and American imperialism. Give me a break. I bet 4 out of 5 protesters don’t even know what imperialism means.

It’s similar for World Youth Day. Most of the people who plan to protest against WYD are those who don’t necessarily have a problem with the festival itself, but have a problem with the Catholic Church. However, it’s not even as simple as that. Why? Well, because most of the people who have a problem with the Catholic Church, really only have a problem with a select few people in the Catholic Church.

For example, someone may have heard about a Priest sexually abusing a young child. While yes, this is morally heinous, but it was committed by one person. The point here is that while there are sections of the Catholic Church that may have done terrible things, there are significant portions of the Catholic Church who have never done anything like this, and do a lot more good than a lot of the protesters ever will.

It’s very easy to put all your eggs in one basket. If one football player does something wrong is it right to label all footballers as morons? Ok, bad example because all football players are morons. Try again; if one person from a large organisation commits fraud is it right to label everyone that works for that company as dishonest? Hmm, that’s a bit better. In the same way, World Youth Day shouldn’t be condemned cause of the terrible actions by a minority.

Now, I’m not part of the Catholic Church. I don’t agree with a lot of their stances on Christianity etc. However, I’m not going to go protest their right to have a good time. World Youth Day is about a celebration of the best parts of Catholicism and a forum for young people to try and contribute to Catholicism being the best it can be. It’s not about protesting against some priest in some other country who is dodgy.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m refusing the rights of people to protest. If you have sincere issues with someone participating in World Youth Day, then go right ahead. Take a placard and do your thing. All I’m saying is that putting everyone who participates in World Youth Day under the same heading of ‘evil’ is a total crock.

3: Is the cost of it an issue?

Well, this could be a legitimate issue to be fired up about. The event will cost some $160 million which will be funded exclusively by the taxpayers. This is, to say the least, rather controversial. If World Youth Day gets Government funding (for what is essentially a Catholic conference) then why don’t other religious conferences get the same funding? Why doesn’t Hillsong get funding to hold its annual conference when they attract as many people annually as World Youth Day will for its one off event? Why doesn’t the Lambeth conference which runs every 10 years get Government funding?

Also, none of the previous cities that have hosted WYD have received any Government funding. Think about that.

The point here is that the Vatican is mighty, mighty rich, and to ask for exclusive Government funding to hold their conferences around the world is a bit messed up. So, if you’re going to protest, don’t protest the church. Instead, protest the NSW Government for forking over the damn money.

That’s actually the least of Morris Iemma’s worries… but that’s another column.

4: Will people really be inconvenienced by the traffic closures?

No. No they won’t. Anyone who reckons that they will is being absolutely stupid. It was the same garbage during APEC. I work in the city, right next to the closed areas and you know what? I didn’t notice squat. I could barely tell that APEC was on. It’ll be the same for WYD. Anyone who is up in arms about road closures should just shut up. Shut the hell up. Please shut up. Just shut up. For goodness sake, just shut the hell up!

The issue of transport would have been the Railcorp strike on the Thursday. Talk about chaos! A rail strike would be catastrophic on any work day – let alone the day the Pope visits the CBD. On this note, why the hell do Railcorp think they deserve a pay rise? Trains are constantly late, overcrowded, breaking down and just plain terrible… and they want a 5% pay rise? Please. It’s the equivalent of you not turning up for work for 6 months and then demanding a pay rise because of your outstanding performance. Yes, that was a clever pun wasn’t it!

So, if you’re going to protest, don’t protest World Youth Day. Protest the NSW Government or Railcorp, because both are seriously messed up.

The question you may be asking is – Dylan, will you be attending World Youth Day? My answer would be no. I’m going to the Hunter Valley that weekend; I might drink some wine, play some golf, play some cards, and put my feet up. But if I was staying in town, I wouldn’t be protesting. I’d ideally take a Dictaphone and ask half the protesters why they’re there? Then, I’d laugh at their lame answers.

That’s what I’d do

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Alicia Silverstone
Alicia Silverstone was in
her prime circa 1998.
Apec Protesters
There is no better word to describe
the APEC protesters than: Muppets.
Morris Iemma also comes under
the category of: Muppet.
Crowded Train
The Sydney trains aren't
quite this bad... but close.