Secrecy, power and the hidden agenda behind the singing Priests
I’m thinking of submitting this article to Comment is Free: Belief. But the Guardian on-line would never publish something like this…
The Priests: the politics behind the singing sensation
They may be popular among ordinary Catholics, but the cult following of The Priests serves the hierarchy’s political purposes well
Some commentators have argued that “the cult following of The Priests, though stimulated by their families and fellow clergy, grew among ordinary Catholics first” and even die-hard atheist commentators seem to have accepted the idea that the both the wider cult and the ongoing success of their live shows are characterised by a spontaneous outpouring of devotion amongst the faithful. But far from being a grassroots movement, The Priests have been vigorously marketed by a powerful political entity – the Catholic church.
The very real enthusiasm for The Priests amongst many ordinary people is undeniable – they are approachable figures, much more so due to their historical proximity to us. But the PR benefits of their live shows (four countries in June alone) for an ailing church should not be underestimated. Indeed, from the very earliest days, devotion to The Priests has been carefully cultivated.
The story of The Priests rise to fame is one of scandalous propaganda and central to this story is the church, within which the two brothers and their friend lived for much of their lives. The hierarchy set to work almost immediately after the three boys met at school, to promote Martin, Eugene and David as The Priests. Music teachers, priests and religious devoted their lives to helping the young men to pursue their vocations to the priesthood and their music. The sincerity of their actions is clear—they believed in the teachings of the Gospels—but their ethics were questionable.
Over time, the church refashioned The Priests for public consumption, manipulating their legacy by sending the boys to seminary and actively stimulating interest in them when they sang for Pope John Paul II. When they were discovered by Sony Classical, PR people took over the job, selecting pictures of The Priests, creating a new face for them through highly stylised portraits.
However they were always supported by Rome and the genesis of devotion to The Priests was from a top-down, no bottom-up process. The Priests as confected by the church and by Sony were useful for the church as young, optimistic, spiritual, happy clergymen for a new age. They embodied the examples of chastity and meekness which the church felt contemporary men were lacking. The late 20th century saw the slow but steady decline of vocations to the priesthood and role-models like the The Priests were just the thing to counter this alarming trend. Their singing careers were fast-tracked and they were able to record parts of their debut CD in St Peter’s in Rome.
The Priests’ eponymous album, The Priests, was second only to Take That’s The Circus in terms of sales in 2008 and many will feel they have derived genuine benefit from listening to their songs during their live shows, but we must recognise this phenomenon as part of the agenda of a Catholic church whose social proscriptions have become obsolete and for whom political expediency comes before popular opinion.