The 2017 Secular Scrooge Awards

The 2017 Secular Scrooge Awards An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
David Quinn casts his eagle eye over who was hot and who was not in the secular world


In the run-up to Christmas, Pope Francis noted that out of a sense of “false respect” for non-Christians we are airbrushing Christ and Christianity from the festival.

The Pope said: “In the name of a false respect for non-Christians, which often hides a desire to marginalise the Faith, every reference to the birth of Christ is being eliminated from the holiday. But in reality, this event is the one true Christmas!

“Without Jesus, there is no Christmas. If he’s at the centre, then everything around him, that is, the lights, the songs, the various local traditions, including the characteristic foods, all comes together to create the atmosphere of a real festival.”

He continued: “But if we take [Christ] away, the lights go off and everything becomes fake, mere appearances.”

Francis might have had in mind what happened at Beaumont hospital just before Christmas. Senior managers there decided not to put the crib on public display despite it being a tradition for years and years. This has to make them the ‘Secular Scrooge’ of 2017.

Staff and patients objected to the ban and a petition was started which gathered over 1,000 signatures.

Absurdly, hospital managers tried to justify the ban by saying, “the wider hospital community is multicultural and therefore multifaith”, and because of this the hospital operates “on an interdenominational basis, with chaplaincy facilities shared among the accredited Churches assigned to the hospital, namely Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic.”


Perhaps the hospital executives never received the memo that other Christian denominations also treasure the crib, and that many non-Christians do as well simply because there are few things that resonate more deeply in human nature than the Christmas story. Even the atheist, Richard Dawkins, said he attended church on Christmas Day. Why? Because it is such a integral part of the Western tradition and one that only a true, secular Scrooge could object to.

Prof. Dawkins announced: “Lovely to listen to Kings College choir on Christmas Day in Peru. Attended part of the Mass in Lima Cathedral yesterday. Merry Christmas everyone.”

Someone else who was getting in on the ‘secular Scrooge’ act was Fr Tony Flannery who used a column in the Irish Independent two days before Christmas to tell us that much of the Christmas story is false and so, it would appear, is the idea that Christ rose physically from the dead.

Fr Flannery’s intention is to lead us into a more ‘mature’ faith but apart from the fact that a man named Jesus was born somewhere in Palestine 2,000 years ago this more ‘mature’ faith seems to leave very little of the Christmas story (or much else in the Gospels besides) intact. His more ‘mature’ faith looks more and more like the vanishing of the Cheshire Cat, but in this case what is left behind is not a smile, but a big, quivering doubt.

Fr Flannery might believe that doubt really equals ‘maturity’. If so, then Fr Flannery should give more of his time to questioning the adamantine and ferocious certainties of political correctness.  Or does Fr Flannery share those particular certainties?

Leo Varadkar was another secular Scrooge. He decided to follow the precedent of recent Taoisigh by neglecting to mention Christ or Christianity in his Christmas message.

This, no doubt, was also out of a “false respect”, as Pope Francis put it, for non-Christians. But is it really respect? How many Muslims, Hindus or Jews want to see cribs removed from public spaces or want our political leaders to excise Christ and Christianity from their Christmas messages? Would they want the equivalent to happen in their countries of origin? If you lived in India would you expect Indians to remove Hindu symbols from public spaces on your account?

In fact, secularists are often simply using minority faiths as an excuse to attack the historic faith of their own countries. Multi-culturalism becomes a generalised attack on your own culture, especially its religion. You can have your faith, but it must be private, even if that means removing virtually all traces of Christianity from public view in its historic lands.

But even most secularists like Christmas and find little to object to in the public display of cribs and other such symbols of faith.


Would any but the most hardline secularists really have been outraged had Leo chosen to mention Christ and Christianity in his Christmas message?

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, did mention Christianity in her Christmas message, as previous Prime Ministers of recent times have done.

May said Britain should be proud of its Christian heritage, adding: “As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us celebrate all those selfless acts – and countless others – that epitomise the values we share: Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people all faiths and none.”

The roof did not cave in on her head for saying this, despite the fact that Britain is a far more secular country than Ireland.

Leo is not a religious believer himself, but he could have said something along the lines of what Theresa May said, if need be stating “as Christians celebrate…” instead of “as we celebrate…”.

To leave out what Christmas in fact celebrates looks less like an act of tolerance and more like cravenness or else secular intolerance. I don’t believe Leo Varadkar is an intolerant secularist, so it looks more like a craven capitulation to the tenets of multi-culturalism. Why are our leaders so continually guilty of this?

Multiculturalism should not entail the denial of your own culture, but at Christmas time this is exactly what we get year after year whether it be from the management of our hospitals, or from our Taoisigh.

Leo, please try not to be a secular Scrooge next year.

David Quinn is author of How we Killed God (and Other Tales of Modern Ireland).