A matter of words

A matter of words Oliver Callan

I have felt for a long time that the Church needs to get its act together on same-sex attraction. There have been too many own goals, too many myths, too many misunderstandings. I’d suggest what is needed is clear, orthodox and challenging teaching expressed and effected in the most modern, empathic, compassionate and pastoral way consistent with that teaching.

On Oliver Callan (RTÉ Radio 1, Wednesday) the host indulged in another cheap swipe at the Catholic Church – in my opinion abusing his privileged position in publicly funded media. He declared (‘without evidence’ of course) that the Catholic Church is “the largest homophobic organisation in the world’, and that the Pope lives in “an enclave of total corruption” . I found his tone demeaning towards Pope Francis personally, speaking of his ill health and him being ‘propped up’ to receive a gathering of comedians at the Vatican last Friday. Mr Callan was not among the guests. He’s really something of a loose cannon, or loose Callan. I’m all for engaging with the culture and judging by the coverage I saw from RTÉ News and Colm Flynn’s reports for EWTN, it went well – striking to see Ardal O’Hanlon (of Father Ted fame) getting Pope Francis to bless rosary beads!

On Today with Claire (RTÉ Radio 1, Thursday) we learned of another own goal on the Church’s part (covered in last week’s The Irish Catholic issue) – the Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus being refused permission to have their annual concert in St Andrew’s Church in Westland Row after initially being able to book the venue. Patrick McNamara from that choir was ‘massively disappointed’, but we got only one side of the story apart from the official statement from the church in question. This said the true nature of the event was not made clear to the church, Mr McNamara claims otherwise. It was a phone booking, which I thought was unusual, so it’s hard to know what exactly went on. Even when there’s good will on both sides there can be different versions of events in people’s heads. I thought Claire Byrne was sympathetic to the choir and not challenging enough, but she did put it to him that ‘there might be people’ thinking the booking was made to provoke a response from the church. It would have been better if she had asked that question more directly. There was confusion over the nature and purpose of the event. The church felt that being in June and being called ‘Pride in the Name of Love’ it was linked to the Pride Festival, and given Church teaching they couldn’t support that. Mr McNamara said it wasn’t linked, which I thought was disingenuous, as did a texter to the show. It felt like another ‘gay cake’ controversy to me.

The controversy shows how delicate it is for churches to host concerts – those in charge of booking would need to thoroughly examine any proposed event, but this works best if the promoter is upfront about all aspects – not saying they weren’t in this case. I was reminded of the case last year at the Edinburgh Festival when a gay-friendly venue cancelled a show that they felt wouldn’t align with their values.

Away from such controversies we learned of the courage of Church people in Heart and Soul (BBC World Service, Thursday). This episode told the moving story of Christians currently suffering in Gaza. George Antone, sheltering in the compound of Holy Family Church, the only Catholic church in Gaza, has been staying in touch with BBC reporter Catherine Murray and indeed Pope Francis keeps in touch with them daily. They are an understandably dwindling community, and it was good to see their plight getting some coverage. They were determined to stay on as they feared if they left there would be nothing left of that Christian community in Gaza.

Mr Antone spoke of the terror of the nights when the area was bombarded by the Israeli Defence Forces. We learned of the two women, a mother and daughter, that had been shot by snipers as they crossed the compound, and of Fr Gabriel Romanelli, an Argentinian priest attached to the church who was away when the war started and was unable to return for months.

It was clear that the Eucharist was of huge importance to these beleaguered Catholics – they devised a way of making their own Communion hosts when the regular supply ran out. Inspiring!


Pick of the week

BBC Four Tuesday June 25, 10pm

A Storyville documentary that tells the enthralling, edge-of-your-seat story of a defiant journalist’s battle for freedom of the press and against state-censored media.

ITV Thursday June 27, 9pm
A four-part comedy drama about cancel culture, set in the world of television news, starring Hugh Bonneville.

RTE 2 Friday June 21, 9:55pm

Based on real events, the story of an unsung hero, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.