A policy at odds with a minister’s theology

A policy at odds with a minister’s theology Josepha Madigan

It was a week of noteworthy interviews in the media. Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan had spoken at a meeting of the liberal group We Are Church and predictably this led to some radio interviews. On Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1), Tuesday of last week, she stressed she was speaking as an ‘ordinary’ Catholic, but I’d suspect it was her ministerial position that gave her the prominence.

It was odd to hear presenter Mary Wilson stressing, twice, to Minister Madigan that she, the minister, was a “committed” and “practising” Catholic. Who was it that needed the reassurance? Minister Madigan said women were “respected” in the Church, but only in certain roles and “certainly not in leadership roles”.

She ignored the significant leadership given by women, particularly in the religious orders, in lay religious groups (sometimes the founders) and in parish councils (a point Wilson didn’t make). However, I thought she did have a valid point in relation to some bodies in the Church where women could be more involved without any doctrinal difficulties.

Mary Wilson did ask a challenging question but there was a negativity about the way she phrased it – why did Madigan stay in a Church that told her “woman know your place”? She said she didn’t want the Church not to exist as it served the community, and that if “we” abandoned the Church it would never change.

A more interesting question might have been why she didn’t join a Protestant denomination whose theology was better aligned with her own, but that wasn’t pursued.

She wasn’t challenged as to how she squared her membership of the Catholic Church with her prominent promotion of abortion legislation, thus facilitating an ugly and cruel practice that is as diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching as you could get.


We got more of the same when the Minister got another outing on the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) last Thursday. The palsy interview started with Kenny in reassurance mode – calling her a “devout” and “committed” Catholic, and assuring us (or her?) that she wasn’t an “á la carte Catholic”. Later she said she liked the doctrine on the Church “in the main”.

Texters did the challenging that Kenny didn’t – one brought up her support for abortion legislation, but she said that was “irrelevant to this conversation”, stressing “choice” and saying that was “not necessarily a decision I’d make myself”.

On that matter I thought it was telling last Monday morning that, across several programmes, a US anti-abortion group setting up in Dublin got much more (negative) attention than a story about an ad for the National Maternity Hospital seeking applications only from those doctors willing to do abortions – questionable priorities.

Another interview last week was rather unsettling. On the Late Late Show (RTÉ 1) last Friday night, Fr Pat Collins spoke about his role as an exorcist. It was unnerving as he left us with his experience that Ireland, and indeed Europe in general, was suffering from “almost a tsunami of evil”.  Fr Collins was no alarmist, but came across as a level-headed priest, exorcist and psychologist. In fact the early part of the interview focused on psychological insights on fear, and how it holds people back, hinders relationships and ruins people’s quality of life.

His vocation story was interesting – more inclined to go into medicine than the priesthood until a special spiritual experience inclined him to the latter, even though as a young man he still found the priesthood unattractive. Now he was glad he stayed with it. He used to have theoretical notions of evil, but the reality of evil as literally a diabolical thing came to him in a revelation experience at the Dachau concentration camp site.

He cautioned against bring such realities into own lives – he  found that such  things could happen after people opened themselves up to the spirit world through séances, ouija boards and other occult practices.

One other interview that I found impactful was on Claire Byrne Live (RTÉ 1) on Monday of last week.  In a time of such polarisation her guest Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan had died in the Omagh bombing, was a model of gentleness, reflection, balance and empathy as he spoke about his personal loss and the possible consequences of Brexit for Northern Ireland.

Claire Byrne became choked up with emotion near the start of the interview – a genuine and touching TV moment.


Pick of the week
Sunday Sequence
BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday, February 24, 8.30 am

Topical religious and ethical issues.

Everybody Loves Raymond: The Angry Family
Channel  4, Thursday, February 28, 7.45 am

The whole family meets Fr Hubley to uncover what  is to blame for the constant family bickering.

TG4, Thursday, February 28, 10 pm

Can cognitive sciences help us build a better kind of school?