Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Drunk Britons shatter peace of Lourdes

I love the place, but I have not been to Lourdes for years. I hate the drunkenness, I hate the fornication, I hate the abuse of the liturgy, I hate the lack of real spiritual care for the young helpers. Last year all my antipathy was confirmed with a picture of one of our English bishops performing a drag routine, dressed as a nurse, even so I hadn't realised things had got to this state...

From the Daily Telegraph By Peter Allen in Lourdes

For millions of pilgrims, a visit to Lourdes to take its miraculous healing waters is an intensely spiritual experience. Since Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary almost 150 years ago, the shrine has become a place of quiet contemplation and religious devotion.

Hail Mary or Bloody Mary? Lourdes is home to tacky gift shops and numerous bars and clubs

But now the town's peace is being shattered by thousands of British tourists whose behaviour has become so bad that officials have brought in riot police. The decision to deploy officers from the notorious Compagnies publicaines de Sécurité (CRS) came after local gendarmes admitted that they were unable to cope with the nightly excesses of British visitors who, after going to the famous shrine, take to the town's bars and clubs.

"We are carrying out late- night patrols because of the threat to public order caused by increasing numbers of night-time drinkers," a spokesman for the CRS said.

"The local gendarmes cannot cope with all the trouble, and the situation has been getting out of hand. The British are particularly fond of their drink and have been some of the worst offenders. There have been numerous complaints about their behaviour, and it cannot be tolerated."

In Lourdes's busy streets, there is plenty of evidence of alcohol-fuelled exuberance in the town's numerous bars and clubs.

At Bar Angelus, a few hundred yards from the shrine, bare-chested men, and women wearing skimpy tops and crucifixes, swayed to the blaring music including Madonna's Like A Virgin and Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

"We come here to party after being reverential all day," said Susan Clare, a 19-year-old student from south London.

"Some of the lads go a bit over-the-top, but none of us set out to cause trouble. It's just our way of letting off stream. It is worrying to see these elite police patrolling in their vans and on foot, but I suppose they have a job to do."

"We're just typical Brits enjoying ourselves," said Phil Cross, a 22-year-old from Manchester, who was accompanying a group of handicapped pilgrims.

"None of us mean any harm, but the situation can get a bit tense when the police take exception to what's going on. You do see a few of the older pilgrims who are still up late looking a bit worried by what's going on, but you're only young once."

Later, as the bars continued to serve cocktails at £2.50 a time, revellers were seen running across the roofs of parked cars, indulging in mock fights and vomiting into gutters. It is these types of crime, along with minor acts of vandalism and "lewd behaviour" between amorous young Roman Catholics, that dominate the nightly reports of CRS officers.

"Offenders from Britain are easy to spot because they usually all wear the same coloured T-shirts and hats," said one CRS officer. "Last week a couple sneaked into the grounds of the Rose Basilica and became very amorous in a very holy place. It's not the kind of thing other pilgrims want to see."

Since February 1858, when the first apparition was witnessed by Bernadette Soubirous, more than 200 million people have visited the south-western French town, which has a population of 15,000.

There have been 67 recognised miracles, the last involving a 41-year-old Italian woman who was suffering from severe heart disease.

However, concerns have been expressed that the commercialisation is at odds with Lourdes's importance as a religious shrine. In addition to its drinking spots, the town is home to dozens of shops selling cheap gifts and a profusion of fast-food restaurants.


Anonymous said...

who was the bishop dressed up in drag?!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Not telling, unless you are the Bishop.

Anonymous said...

The present-day youth culture of getting extremely drunk is very sad' It is even sadder that this is carried into a holy place like Lourdes. But......

I am in your diocese (but not your parish) and my daughter went to Lourdes for the first time this year. The young people pay a fair amount of money to help out (they only get a small reduction from the normal price). The hours are long, with next to little time off. These youngsters work hard and I guess they feel they deserve a bit of relaxation in the evenings. Unfortunately, some of them do overdo it and that is a shame. But, if you are critising them, I think you should mention how hard they work too.

As for the bishop who dressed up in drag....... to be honest, I am not sure what I think. I guess I would be happier to know that my bishop was trying to make himself approachable to the young people, rather than being stuffy and unapproachable. And I am not sure that having a bit of fun occasionally is a sin - even for a bishop!

Fr Ray Blake said...

I agree with your comment about the young people who work hard and I am sure you are right about bishops and other clergy having fun and not wishing to be stuffy, however it is not my idea fun.
Certainly many members of our own diocese go to Lourdes year after year and receive a great deal from their experience. I do not.
Our diocesan pilgrimage is, I think, the largest from Britain and is a marvel of organisation and I am very pleased that this year several of my parishioners were, like your daughter, able go. I choose not to do so, at least not during what some of the priests of the shrine call "the English season" for the reasons I state.

Anonymous said...

My experience the year before last was that ther was plenty of drink, drugs and sex if you wanted it.
The priests and the bishop were great, at times, a bit like embarrassing dads. They tended to join in rather challenge anyone. I have been to some events run by the Friars of the Renewal and the Community of St John, I would go a gain if they had people like these looking after the helpers.

Anonymous said...

Yes the diocesan pilgrmage needs friar of the renewal.

Anonymous said...

I've been every year for the last 8, the drink, drugs and sex thing is getting worse, esp. with the Brits

Anonymous said...

ps. most bishops/priests, 50+, are my grandads age - grandad in drag? Yuk

pps. haven't they got their own frocks - why do they need to borrow them from the girls?

ppps - franciscan friars wear cool frocks have you seen the 7ft tall one?

Anonymous said...

I am French,I help at Lourdes in July, I see many nationalities but the Engish, I have to say this, do not understand "pilgrimmage", It is penetential, it is not Falarak.

Anonymous said...

My son went to Lourdes once as a helper, some years ago when he was in his teens. He said the worst thing (for him, at least) was the over-emotionalism of the helpers at the Anointing of the Sick Mass. It was expected of the helpers to cry their eyes out, which they invariably did (apart from my son, who by that stage was throughly disillusioned with the whole thing).
The euphemism 'tired and emotional' springs to mind.....

Anonymous said...

Having read your piece on the annointing of the sick should, helpers be receiving the Sacrament of the Sick? Is this not another bit of liturgical abuse?

Anonymous said...

I think that some Pilgrimages have a form of anointing for helpers with something called 'The Oil of Gladness'. This is done by the leaders of their specific teams, I think.
However, it isn't a sacramental anointing, obviously!

Anonymous said...

Regarding my post referring to the Anointing of the Sick: it was not the helpers who were being Anointed, but the sick themselves. The helpers were just there, well ...... helping them! Therefore, no 'litugical abuse' took place!

df said...

I last went to Lourdes in 2000 with a English Youth Pilgrimage, made up mostly of boys and girls from some of the most prominent Catholic boarding schools in the country. Drink, sex, and drugs were prevalent at night, and the first two were unofficial pilgrimage virtues; all of which was followed by Communion in the morning, of course. Morning-after pills were distributed by the pilgrimage medical team to those Catholic girls who asked for them.

For several years prior to this last visit of mine the CRS were on patrol though the town to take care of late night antics.

Anonymous said...

"I think that some Pilgrimages have a form of anointing for helpers with something called 'The Oil of Gladness'. This is done by the leaders of their specific teams, I think.
However, it isn't a sacramental anointing, obviously! "

The Holy See said that the laity should not annoint with the sacramental oil or ant any oil at all.

Anonymous said...

Lay annointing even in para-liturgies is absolutely forbidden.

Anonymous said...

If what are to believe is true, then surely some of these antics with the younger helpers come under the realms of a lack of supervision and fall under a failure in Child Protection? AND the vulnerable adults.

When and where Diocesan / Group Pilgrimages are allowing this to go on, then this is neglect of the young people or, at, best, neglect of the malades in the care of the pilgrimage. Young people boozing without adequate supervision or helpers "of age" drinking themself senseless and then reporting for a shift at the Accueill still hungover?

Name and shame, please.

I am sure that pilgrimages like mine that have been well ran and proactive in this regard must be fizzing at the poor management and supervision elsewhere tainting their good name, their good times and their good works.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fr Ray Blake said...


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I stumbled on your blog, Father. As an American I would've never known these things. Now that I do, I know I'll never take my family to Lourdes.

This all sounds like the infamous World Youth Day in miniature and the inevitable flowering of "The New Springtime."

I can't tell you how hard I'm praying the Holy Father frees the old Mass in October.

St. Thomas More, pray for your people.

Anonymous said...

What are the bishops doing about it?

Anonymous said...

Why can't we name and shame? This smacks of the very secrecy which got and continues to get the Church into trouble with all the sex scandals.

I suspect that this Bishop has a serious personality disorder. There are plenty of British atheists who wouldn't behave in this manner whilst on vacation.

If you search around the web you will discover that Austen Ivereigh was a philanderer whilst teaching at Leeds University and yet he still managed to gain employment in the Catholic church as a spin doctor. Catherine Pepinster at the Tablet is another woman with an uncertain past. The information needs to be discussed and shared.

Murphy-O'Connor on his tour of Australia espoused a position on abortion during a radio broadcast that is worthy of comment. His position is identical to that of John Kerry during the US elections 0f 2004. This very position prompted an intervention by then CDF chief Ratzinger that suggested that Kerry could be barred from the reception of Holy Communion.

You do not have to be a Latin Mass lover, or right wing reactionary or even a fully paid up member of SSPX to pose the question is the Cardinal and the rest of the British heirarchy any longer in communion with the Catholic faith and the Church of Rome?

The irony of those who continue to apologize (and cover up) for the current status quo of the British Catholic church is that any defence amounts to nothing more than an ad hominem attack on those expressing concern. There is no dialogue. There is no naming or shaming. Just a chorus of abuse.

I suggest that you do that English bishop a favour and name him.

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