A Church that is too liberal becomes akin to a hippy commune

A Church that is too liberal becomes akin to a hippy commune Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese

The Irish now favour a “more liberal, less dogmatic” Church, according to a new poll carried out by the pollsters Ipsos/MRBI. This turns out to mean, first of all, that many people favour an ending to celibacy in the priesthood and are for the ordination of women.

I wasn’t aware that these practices were ‘dogmas’. Celibacy of the priesthood was only formally imposed in the Middle Ages. And according to some canon lawyers, there is no doctrinal obstacle against ordaining women.

Priestly celibacy could be ended tomorrow without a dogma being touched. I’ve met several former Anglican priests who are married, and have subsequently become Catholic priests.

Ironically, they often moved away from Anglicanism because it had become too ‘liberal’ and because they didn’t agree with women being ordained.

And, as a matter of fact, from the 1970s onwards, the Catholic Church itself was becoming increasingly liberal. The homilies of the Bishops and the priests writing in Catholic publications had embraced Vatican II with some fervour, and with it the many decent principles such as inclusiveness, forgiveness and the message of love.

A late friend of mine who listened attentively to Sunday sermons, summed up the theme of most of them, from the 1980s onwards, as ‘All You Need is Love’ – as in the Beatles’ hit.

It is plausible that some of the liberalism in the Catholic Church  contributed to the paedophile scandals. I heard Cathal Daly – a good man – say that “forgiveness and a firm purpose of amendment” could overcome all sins, including paedophile offences.

This message was too liberal. Forgiveness for the most heinous crimes is indeed embedded in the Christian message, but it’s balanced by the notion that some things are forbidden, anathematised, and deserving of retribution.

The Ipsos/MRBI poll revealed also that most Catholics agree with contraception, which isn’t a surprise. Three-quarters of Catholics said that gay marriage should be recognised by the Church – a view aligned with the population as a whole, secular and religious. A majority wanted “inclusivity and diversity” within the Church and that the Church should embrace those who do not agree with Church teachings.

Nobody ever said the Church wasn’t open to all. And any institution of a billion people is going to be diverse by definition.

It’s a Christian ideal to practice tolerance. But a Church that is too liberal becomes something akin to a hippy commune. And hippy communes always end in collapse, corruption and debauchery.

Without standards, and without what the secularist columnist Eoghan Harris calls “good authority”, there can really be no Church at all. There has to be a balance between tolerance, reform – and the upholding of values.


I mourn the decline of the death notice in the daily newspapers. More and more families now seem to announce a death either on the radio or online at websites like RIP.ie. I can see the convenience – and the budgetary advantage – of using online obits, but the print versions had a matchless substance and a contribution to the historical record. Though I recognise that they can be pricey.

Regrettably, I have missed the deaths of relations and friends because they weren’t recorded in print form.



I would suggest that the Vatican does need a few more correspondence secretaries. Both Mary McAleese [pictured] and Catherine Corless – the local historian who uncovered the distressing circumstances at Tuam – wrote to the Holy See. Both women reported that they received no answers.

This is bad manners and bad policy, too. There should be enough personnel at the Vatican to attend to correspondence sent.

Why doesn’t the Vatican copy Buckingham Palace’s practice? Queen Elizabeth has a rota – I believe it is six – of ladies-in-waiting whose sole job is to answer letters to the monarch. Surely Rome could hire a few such stewards of courtesy – of either sex, or both – to do likewise?