Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholic Church’

Stags and civil partnerships

1 July, 2010 3 comments

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.


Hitchens and Sullivan on the Catholic Church

29 March, 2010 1 comment

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.

In his weekly Slate column, Fighting Words, Hitchens writes:

Read more…

That the Catholic Church hindered social progress in Ireland

5 December, 2009 Leave a comment

This debate in the Hist was on 18 November, so before the publication of the Dublin Diocesan Report eight days later. Nevertheless, I think this showed the inadequacy of a student debating society as a forum in addressing certain issues of relevance in modern society. There are motions where one side or other is not sustainable. Sometimes this might be because of a debate on whether Russia is a threat to the West, which we held in early 2008. Many of the ordinary members of the Hist on that occasion had reason to believe the proposition, and put good cases from what they had researched. Then Sir Roderic Lyne, a former British Ambassador to Russia, spoke on the opposition, and it was clear given his unquestionable expert opinion, as well as that of former Irish Times correspondent Seamus Martin and retired Political Science Professor Ron Hill, that the case lay on the opposition.

But I mean particularly when even before the debate, those on one side know that the other is fundamentally right, and can only put their case by finding a nuanced argument, or focusing on particular points. Of course, in a competitive debating context, in its various formats, this is entirely appropriate. It serves a very good purpose in training the mind to think about subjects from different approaches. And I would not propose either that a one-sided motion is never appropriate for chamber debates, where the emphasis is truly on trying to convince the audience of a stance, and giving people the opportunity to voice their opinions. I would hold that in general, speeches in the chamber should be sincere, and that both the speaker and the audience benefit when this is the case. But I have on rare occasions myself during my many years in the Hist argued against my sincere belief, in order to capture a particular nuance, or to challenge myself to put a case. And at times when there is a somewhat imbalanced debate, it is reasonable for the Correspondence Secretary to ask good speakers to speak on the side contrary to their sincere belief to facilitate other speakers.

On this occasion, however, there was simply no contest as to which side was in the right. Despite one of the guests being the artist Cllr. Mannix Flynn, who had been through the industrial school system, the debate from student speakers’ point of view ended up focusing on issues like divorce, contraception and homosexuality. It was on issues such as these that there was at least a plausible case that Roman Catholic Church was merely in line with the mood of the time, though even then one has to ignore how much a part of that system they were, and the influence they had. I spent time myself on the question of illegitimacy, and how their stance truly affected people’s lives, but I can’t claim to have been satisfied with my speech given the enormity of the Catholic Church’s crimes and harms as we see them now. The debate put those professed Roman Catholics among us in an impossible situation, and I feel that they more than others should really be the ones to find the case for the proposition, as other than those directly harmed, it is practising Catholics more than those like myself who have been more affected.

I found this blog post difficult to write, to be able to convey the feeling properly, which is why it is here now that bit after the debate itself. I think it is only on the rarest of occasions that such a situation arises, and someone who appreciates the difficulty in selecting relevant and debatable motions, I do not mean to be critical. But there are some statements that cannot be debated.

The Roman Catholic Church and the EU

9 September, 2009 Leave a comment

Published in the Ireland for Europe blog

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.

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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.