Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has used his World Day of Peace message to appeal for a “mature” debate about the role of faith in society and warned against crude caricatures of religion.
He also said that society must acknowledge that despite the scandals, the Church’s overall contribution to Ireland has been positive.
Speaking at Mass this morning attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, senior ministers and members of both Houses of the Oireachtas Dr Martin said: “the Catholic Church, the faith of the majority of the citizens of the nation, had a dominant influence on the values which keep our social interaction intact.
“A new situation now exists and this requires a change in the manner of interaction between Church and State. Faith in Jesus Christ cannot be imposed on any individual. When attempts are made to impose faith on a society then the originality of faith is inevitably damaged,” he said.
However, he warned “this does not mean that faith has no contribution to the political or even the economic life of a society.
“There have been dark moments in the history of the Catholic Church which have been unveiled in recent years. Church leaders have over the years overstepped the boundaries of their legitimate mandate. Yet the contribution of individual believers and of the Church as an institution to Ireland’s development and social culture has overall been positive. A mature future-oriented dialogue between Church and Irish culture should build on those positive aspects of our past,” he said.
Dr Martin said that criticism “or even rejection of the Catholic Church and what it represents is legitimate.
“But criticism is different from negative and cynical caricature of faith or spin. Caricature of faith does little to build up in society the values that endure.
“By its very nature spin can turn into perpetual motion in which there remain few anchors around which to base values. A society which seeks only quick answers is the least apt to identify the values that endure,” he said.
Turning specifically to the Church the archbishop said “a mature dialogue between Church and society in Ireland requires renewal in the Church.
“The International Eucharistic Congress, which will be held here in Dublin this year, must become a moment in which Catholic Christians reflect on what their faith in Jesus Christ means in today’s society. It must be a moment in which all of us attempt to ponder on who Jesus is and on his significance for our lives in our century,” he said.