From members of both government parties, I found something depressing about the stances they adopted on the Wildlife Bill. On the part of the Greens, given all they have agreed to since going into government, was this so much more important than taking a stance against NAMA or the continued aid to Anglo-Irish, or other such issues, to take the example of cystic fibrosis mentioned by Prof. Brian Lucey in a letter to Saturday’s Times? Equally, on the part of backbench Fianna Fáil TDs, what made protecting this hunt so much more of a cause to speak up and question government policy than many other issues, as Vincent Browne argued yesterday in the same paper. It is because of their priorities on issues like this that I would feel that the Greens are not the ideal coalition partner during an economic, fiscal and banking crisis.
But because of a bill will pass its final vote in the Dáil later today, despite all that, at the next general election, I will cast my fourth preference, after the likely three Fine Gael candidates, for the Green Party, such as it will remain in Wicklow. After reading David Quinn in the Independent on Friday and Breda O’Brien in the Times on Saturday, I warmed more to the Greens. There are many other issues which I would disagree with them on, such as on GM food, touched on by Quinn. But on certain cultural issues, I stand where they do. What sort of mentality is to describe John Gormley’s of the Roman Catholic Church’s contribution to the debate on civil partnership as “kicking an institution when it is down”, as O’Brien does? Badly phrased on Gormley’s part, a church has as much right as I do to comment in the public sphere, but while the institution still exercises the influence on curriculum in more than 90% of primary schools, and while those in the hierarchy who knew of crimes committed by priests against children still hold positions of influence, that institution is not down.
The Green Party have secured the Civil Partnership Bill, which should become law later this year. It is by no means a perfect bill; not only does it seem a little backward to introduce only civil partnership when to date seven other European countries have allowed gay couples to marry, but it has considerably fewer guarantees and protections than the Civil Partnership Act which the United Kingdom introduced in 2005. I am not convinced that this is the best we could have got constitutionally, but I could believe that it might be the best that could have been achieved politically. Without the Green Party in this government, even these protections in this bill would not have been introduced this year, and I will give that credit where it is due.
I must admit that I was first drawn to two of the political commentators whose work I most enjoy for reasons that could be dismissed as being based on group identity: First, Christopher Hitchens as an atheist, later Andrew Sullivan as a gay man. In both cases it is as much their wider political outlook that I relate to, given my admiration for both Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke. Both are Englishmen, born in 1949 and 1963 respectively, now resident in Washington, D.C. Hitchens became a United States citizen in 2007, and Sullivan is in the process of becoming one. Hitchens spend his youth on the Luxemburgist wing of international socialist politics, while Sullivan studied the conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott. Both initially supported the 2003 war in Iraq; Hitchens has remained hawkish while Sullivan has since regretted this stance. Were they to return home, Hitchens would be on the Euston Manifesto wing of New Labour, while Sullivan would be on the Alan Duncan—David Davis libertarian wing of the Conservative Party.
Last week, both Hitchens and Sullivan wrote on the crisis within the Roman Catholic Church, which extends from parishes in Ireland, Massachusetts and Bavaria to the Vatican, with even Pope Benedict XVI himself implicated.
Sunday’s This Week program featured an item on Cóir, who are claiming to represent the views of Catholic voters. They also interviewed prominent Catholic commentator, David Quinn, who had changed his mind from last year. He voted No last year because of his concerns on issues of religious sensitivity, but is now satisfied with the guarantees on abortion, religious education and the family, and will be voting Yes this time. The Tribune’s Conor McMorrow also featured an insightful article on Cóir, which is well worth reading.
[wpaudio url=”http://blog.irelandforeurope.ie/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/RTECoir6th.mp3 ” text=”This Week, 6th Spetember.” dl=0]
In fact, while the Roman Catholic hierarchy has not taken an official position on the Treaty, they have assured voters that there is no reason whatever that a conscientious Catholic could not vote for the Treaty.
In a recent Irish Times op-ed, the Jesuit priest Edmund Grace, SJ, wrote in response to the claims that the Lisbon Treaty could threaten our stance on abortion.
If we vote for Lisbon, we will be insisting on one area of fundamental disagreement, but in a context of trust and mutual respect. As the underlying weakness of the secular world view becomes clear we will be in a better position to make the case for the equal rights of the unborn based on a world view that protects liberty by placing it in its rightful context of human solidarity and mutual respect.
Before last year’s referendum, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said, “I do not believe the Lisbon Treaty changes the current position with regard to Ireland’s position on abortion within the European Union”. At a speech at the Institute for International and European Affairs entitled, “Christian values and Irish membership of the EU“, Archbishop Martin spoke quite positively of the European Union, “In many ways Brussels is not the problem, but it is recognised more and more as an essential part of the solution.”
Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in 2004, as Cardinal Ratzinger, spoke favourably about the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In a speech entitled “Europe: Its Spiritual Foundation: Yesterday, Today and in the Future“, while acknowledging the challenges for Roman Catholics in areas such as marriage, he saw these as something to work constructively with. Ultimately, as can be seen at the end of this lengthy speech, he concluded by stating that “The Charter of Fundamental Rights may be a first step, a sign Europe is once again consciously seeking its soul.”
Perhaps Catholics looking for moral guidance could turn to these members of the church hierarchy rather than those who would set themselves up as defenders of the faith.