Friday, February 01, 2008

Catholicism's Funny Bone

Catholics produce great humour. Religious cultures with visual imagery, colourful rituals and idiosyncratic behaviour will always provide material for satire and even ribald humour. As a young Catholic I think the image of THE NUN loomed larger than life. We lived close to a local convent and were quite used to the sight of the walking "clotheslines" of women who only showed their faces.(Except for the rather amazing sight of the annual swim when they would all process in angelus formation and regulation bathers at an hour when there were few people on the local beach) I grew up in a family with our very own "live-in 'Nun". Well, she never really lived in, but as my aunty her piccie in habit was prominent.

Prior to the liberating 60s the religious women who taught me in primary school were nowhere near as exciting as Chaucer's creation,My primary school principal at St Patrick's in Geelong West was a woman swathed in synthetic who went by the androgynous name of Sr Austin.This woman, I suspect, invented corporal punishment. She was miscast in a primary school and a generation later would have walked into the role of the Vinegar Tits in Prisoner. The regulation habits and "closed door" enclosures made for all sorts of satirical imagery. I really love this one from Pete and Dud":




Despite the shift in the lifestyle of women who live in religious congregations the old images hold sway. In the USA they have a real live classic "Nun" in the truly whacky Sister Angelica of EWTN . No wonder French and Saunders can still raise laughs with this clip" . It is also a very funny commentary on the cult of personality which has become part of the modern papacy. Essential viewing for anyone going to Sydney for the World Youth Day!!!

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