I’m a practising á la carte Catholic. I don’t know anyone who isn’t. Like the á la carte menu in a restaurant I pick from the menu of policies of the Catholic Church. I admire the work of catholic missionaries many from this country in developing countries abroad. There are some admirable catholic clergy here who make the state uncomfortable by addressing issues here at home. There’s also a select band of courageous clergy and nuns who have challenged from within the Roman Catholic Church a growing dogma of retrenchment when faced with challenge. I have never accepted the churches teaching in relation to sexual morality, I’m proud to have canvassed against the 8th amendment in 1983, proud of Barry Desmond for first liberalising laws in access to contraception, Mary Robinson, Mervyn Taylor for bringing in divorce, Ruair Quinn for providing a diverse patronage in schools and the role Labour played in decriminalising homosexuality. There will be more to come too that will conflict with Christian teaching, for 20 years I’ve accepted that the X case must be legislated for and that only doctors and mothers must be trusted to make the best decision with the life of a mother . The role of some Catholics in sustaining right wing politics is also something that has concerned me historically in South and Central America and more recently in Rwanda. It should make the rest of us Catholics think.
The Irish Catholic Church seems to be one of the last national units of Catholicism which is retrenching against secularism. While many nominally call themselves catholic in our recent census (83%) weekly church attendance would be less than half this figure. It seems the Catholic Church would be happy to swap their many schools over which they have patronage if they could retain control over some schools, schools which the suspicion is that would be select. In the UK desirable primary schools generally are under the patronage of the RCC. It seems that the church may be going down the road of quality rather than quantity of souls to be saved, leaving me and perhaps many like me in Limbo!
The response to child abuse and poor internal governance within the catholic church appears to be tighter central control over those entering the priesthood. Separating clerical students in Maynooth from the lay student body to my mind cuts the next generation of priests off culturally and socially and reduces the opportunity for clerical students to interact with their peers. Centralisation will also facilitate the delivery of streamlined thinking both nationally and internationally among priests. I think this is a big mistake. The censure of priests, who were deemed to have gone too far, because they tried to set out the case for equality between sexes, married priests and birth control smacks of a corporate intolerance to independent thought. Last year I attended a wedding of a family member in a COI church where the co celebrant was Fr Brian D’arcy. D’arcy is very highly thought of in his native county and is himself a victim of child abuse. An honest man with an always positive message who kept his head up during the worst of what the 1970’s and 80’s could throw at the people of this island, his Passionist monastery is now a nursing home for the elderly in Fermanagh.
I always believed the word Catholic meant universal and was an inclusive term. There are many Anglicans who think of themselves as being Catholic. Seems I was wrong! Under the present administration the church will become exclusive with a limited menu, take it or leave it.
The decision of the principal of a Catholic second level school in Munster to refuse entry to a 16 year old girl because she was a single mother underpins the notion of a rudderless church that has lost its way in a changing world. If it was raining soup, some in this church would get chop sticks out. I always thought that 2,000 years ago the Nazarene sided with the downtrodden against those who put dogma first but maybe that was then and this is now! Famously David Trimble once admitted that Stormont had been a cold house for Catholics. Well St Peters isn’t exactly warm either for those of us who would beg to differ.
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