Priests often have a prophetic role in the Church and society, and nowhere was this more evident than in the words of Fr Martin McGill at the funeral last week of Lyra McKee, tragically shot dead in Derry.
Fr McGill’s words to the politicians assembled at her funeral (“Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point?”) reverberated through the media all week, and seem to have given a kick start to new talks between the parties in the North of Ireland, with a view to getting the Assembly up and running again.
Fr McGill was interviewed on Morning Ireland (RTÉ1, Thursday), and his passionate advocacy for peace and reconciliation was admirable. Because Ms McKee was a prominent LGBT activist, that aspect of her life was raised in several discussions, including this one, though it had nothing directly to do with the awful circumstances of her death.
It was put to Fr McGill that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was a problem in this context – an awkward one to throw at him. He did his best to be sensitive without compromising any principles, though I’m not sure about his distinguishing between the ‘official line’ of the Church and a pastoral approach – I’d love to see Catholic spokespersons embracing more enthusiastically the harmony there can be between these strands.
Further, his suggestion that there was “a variety of views” within the Church on this issue begged a few questions.
One obstacle to the Assembly being re-established is Sinn Féin’s insistence on same-sex marriage and abortion. I’d say patriots of earlier generations would be turning in their graves. On Saturday With Cormac Ó hEadhra (RTÉ Radio 1) last weekend Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly was very insistent on not denying rights in Northern Ireland, but yet she has campaigned and continues to campaign to remove the very right to life of living unborn children, seemingly unaware of the irony and inconsistency.
Sinn Féin is very keen to emphasise that they wish to extend the same rights across the island, to both jurisdictions, but funnily enough they didn’t push that line when unborn babies had more rights in the Republic than they had in the North. Sadly it used to be the case that opposition to abortion was one of the few things that united Republicans and Unionists in the North.
Now Sinn Féin, among others, has created a new division as if we hadn’t enough of that, and in their support for abortion find themselves supporting another form of violence even as they’ve given up (thankfully) on violence of the more traditional kind.
Terrorist violence, this time in Sri Lanka, continued to be high up the news agenda during the week. On The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk) on Thursday Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, drew contrasts between reaction in the West to anti-Muslim violence and anti-Christian violence – he referred to a “vast double standard” shown by political commentators – very strong on the Christchurch killings at a Mosque but showing a much more muted response after the Sri Lanka massacre even though the fatalities were around seven times higher.
On RTÉ Radio 1’s The Leap of Faith (sadly, the last episode until the Autumn), Dr Jude Lal Fernando, a Sri Lankan with a Catholic background living in Dublin, had a nuanced take on the controversy. He felt that both Muslims and Christians shared the status of vulnerable minority and he was distressed to see Islamist extremists attacking Christians in their churches, which was most unusual for the country.
He thought that the motivation for the killings was primarily political, and that pursuing a global anti-Christian interpretation only contributed to a tit for tat narrative. He was glad to see Muslim communities offering support to the Catholics in their time of need.
It was a similar story on Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster) last weekend, when Audrey Carville interviewed Rev. Dr Maithrie White-Dundas, a Sri Lankan Methodist minister working in Belfast. She was glad to see both Muslims and Buddhists offering support to Catholics whose churches were closed that day and was strong in the view that governments must urgently address underlying sectarian tensions in any country rather than letting them bubble away under the surface.
That, she thought, was true for Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland.
Pick of the Week
RTÉ1, Sunday, May 5, 1.10 pm
Pilgrims at Lough Derg take part in Confession and the staff prepare for the end of the pilgrimage season.
Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery
BBC4, Sunday, May 5, 7 pm
One monk is a renowned iconographer, another creates manuscripts and rosary beads.
National March for Life, Ottawa, Canada
EWTN, Thursday, May 9, 4.30 pm
Live and complete coverage of the annual National March For Life in Ottawa.