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Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - FRONT PAGE - TOMMY TIER­NAN

T“Women bil­lion­aires! Have you ever heard the like? What next? Talk­ing wardrobes? Solic­i­tor pi­geons?”

here is a se­cret church for rich peo­ple not far from Stephen’s Green. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but I hap­pened to fall into it by chance a few years ago, and have been mean­ing to tell ye about it for ages.

It’s for bil­lion­aires only, so it wouldn’t be packed, but there’d be a few of them there. You wouldn’t recog­nise any of them, but they own ev­ery­thing, from the ridicu­lous to the sub­lime. One of them owns the al­pha­bet, while an­other col­lects all the fin­ger­nail clip­pings in the coun­try and turns them into aero­planes, which he also owns.

They are large, well-fed men, with baby-soft skin, and snake eyes ei­ther side of their ruth­less noses. They have ex­tra mouths sown into their necks, so that they can eat and talk and yawn at the same time, and eat other peo­ple’s din­ners as well as their own. They have tal­cum pow­der chests and frog crotches. Their leath­ery hearts also func­tion as wal­lets, and they only dream in num­bers. One of them has the Min­is­ter for Fi­nance work­ing for him as an ex­ec­u­tive PA, and their pass­ports don’t have coun­tries on them, just their names and a pic­ture of the world.

There’s no women in it. Women bil­lion­aires! Have you ever heard the like? What’s next, talk­ing wardrobes? Solic­i­tor pi­geons?

Now the rit­u­als and in­ten­tions are more or less the same as in your com­mon-or-gar­dener-type church, but these guys are en­ti­tled to the pre­mium re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence. They de­serve it, af­ter all they’ve achieved. The Bi­ble they read from is the orig­i­nal one, writ­ten in God’s hand­writ­ing with a lamb’s blood font, on sheaves of pure gold shorn from the side of the orig­i­nal Golden Calf.

The Pope him­self gets flown in ev­ery Satur­day night on a pri­vate jet and whisked in through the back door. Places are limited to 12, with all of them sit­ting at one side of a long table made from bits of Noah’s ark, and Fran­cis in the mid­dle. They wear long cot­ton tu­nics in colours that have only just been in­vented, and they also put on shoul­der-length wigs made fresh each week, shaved off the heads of Ro­ma­nian su­per­mod­els that are kept as pris­on­ers in a house near Tul­lam­ore.

Adorned on the walls, but sep­a­rated from the room by a one-way mir­ror, are live-ac­tion Sta­tions of the Cross, with sal­low-skinned refugees play­ing the parts of the apos­tles and on­look­ers. Ah, they get a few quid for it, like; they’re well looked af­ter. Re­tired guards play the Ro­man sol­diers, just in case one of the refugees gets up­pity.

They use a 300-year-old Chateau Mar­gaux for the wine, and Gucci do the Eucharist, which is sliv­ered bits of ac­tual poor peo­ple flam­beed in as­para­gus and chilli sauce, served on plates made out of bits of the Sis­tine Chapel.

The Pope then washes their feet in vir­gin olive oil (don’t ask) and dries them with what’s left of his hair. Then they hear his con­fes­sion, and he apologises for not be­ing as rich as they are.

He tells them that they’re more spe­cial than any­one else; that the nor­mal rules of so­ci­ety don’t ap­ply to them. That life is a game and they have won, and how God wants them to use other peo­ple as their play­things. He shows them that if the nee­dle is big enough, a camel can pass through the eye of it fairly handy.

He tells them that no, their lives have not been a mas­sive waste of time and energy, and that their re­lent­less pur­suit of money at the ex­pense of fam­ily and friends, of the weak and vul­ner­a­ble and of the planet it­self, was ex­actly what God had wanted. That they are be­com­ing more like him ev­ery­day. That sick and or­di­nary peo­ple were be­ing pun­ished for not be­ing spe­cial enough. That poverty is self-in­flicted. That they are right to be wor­shipped by other men. That so­ci­ety must serve them.

An ac­tual beggar is then thrown up on the cross and cru­ci­fied, and the bil­lion­aires do con­tem­plate this un­til he dies, or they fall asleep.

At the end of it all, they head back out into the world, and in­vari­ably and weirdly, it’s al­ways piss­ing down from the heavens when they do. Thank God.

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