Dear Editor, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s reminder that the Society of St Vincent de Paul should not neglect its identity is a vitally important one and something more of our charities would do well to heed. Pope Francis, after all, in his very first Mass as Pope cautioned us against becoming simply a “compassionate NGO”.
It’s worth recalling, after all, that Amnesty International was founded by the Catholic convert Peter Benenson on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, with the Quaker Eric Baker and our own Seán McBride joining him. The Church was long a strong ally of the organisation as it campaigned for freedom of conscience and human rights all over the world. Now, though, no Catholic with an informed conscience could stand by the organisation as it campaigns to deny all rights to the most vulnerable human beings of all. The corruption of the best, as they say, is the worst.
Amnesty’s fall shows how inspirational organisations founded on Catholic values can be hollowed out by lobbyists and those who see the charity sector as a career path. The danger, of course, is that more explicitly Catholic organisations might forget their distinctly Catholic identity, and simply become generic NGOs.
When we look at the Irish charity landscape, we see more than anything the mark of the Church: Trócaire, Focus Ireland, Merchant’s Quay Ireland, Peter McVerry Trust, Crosscare, Cuan Mhuire, Social Justice Ireland, Ruhama, Threshold, the Order of Malta, L’Arche, the Capuchin Day Centre, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Misean Cara, Aid to the Church in Need.
The list goes on and on, and every single one of these is called to maintain its Catholic identity. We’d do well to remember this.
Tallaght, Dublin 24.
Logical reasons for Lourdes’ financial uplift
Dear Editor, Mary Kenny is correct that the financial situation of the sanctuaries of Lourdes has improved and is back into positive figures. However, the reason she gives is incorrect. With the new Chapel of Light on the opposite bank of the river from the Grotto, there is a renewed focus on candles. However, the candles within the domain are not and never have been for sale.
Instead, an offering is suggested (and it is not €2.50), and people are free to give what they can afford. While there has been an increased income from candle offerings, it is a small part of the overall financial improvement. Further, it is more than an exaggeration to suggest that “the sale of candles remains a key aspect of Lourdes’s economy…”
There were two key changes that took effect in 2018 and made the difference. First was a substantial reduction in costs that delivered savings in the order of €2m. Second, and very significantly, an increase in the “participation fee” or daily per-pilgrim offering expected of organised pilgrimages.
Up to 2017 the expectation was an average contribution of €3.90 per pilgrim per pilgrimage. As of 2018, this changed.
Also referred to as the “shrine tax”, in 2018 this was raised to €2.00 per pilgrim per day and extended to small pilgrim groups. This rises to €2.50 per pilgrim per day in 2019 and in 2020, it is scheduled to rise again, this time to €3.00 per pilgrim per day.
With the majority of the Irish diocesan and religious pilgrimages being five days, in 2019 this will mean a charge of €12.50 per pilgrim per pilgrimage.
In 2018, the participation fee delivered an increase of almost €1.2m.
Bunbrosna, Co. Westmeath.
More heartbreak ahead
Dear Editor, In the upcoming referendum we will be asked to facilitate more liberal divorce laws. We will also be asked to pave the way for the recognition of divorces granted abroad.
We already have in our country too many victims of shattered households. Those of us who are involved with homeless services, youth support or societies like St Vincent de Paul, are all too aware of the heart ache and confusion caused by divorce and the fragmentation of families.
Every marriage worthy of the name has to try to withstand the storms of life; it is more than just a fair-weather relationship. More liberal divorce laws would definitely bring more broken hearts!
Strandhill Road, Sligo.
So much for freedom, minister
Dear Editor, When abortion was introduced in 2018, the Minister for Health gave firm assurances that conscientious objectors would be respected. Despite this, advertisements for medical posts now specify duties which include “elective termination of pregnancy services…as part of their practice plan”.
Also, generous financial incentives are now given to co-operating GPs.
Furthermore, the names of participants will not be published – another measure to ensure our highly regarded medical professionals as well as ancillary personnel and indispensable cleaning staff comply.
With regard to conscience, “the supremne authority of conscience” was affirmed by that renowned figure Blessed John Henry Newman who further attested to “the duty of obeying our conscience at all hazards”.
In addition to all this, the Minister for Health has proposed that a security zone be set up around all abortion clinics to prevent members of the public from making a peaceful protest at what they regard as a further degradation of this nation which formerly held such an honoured position in the eyes of the world.
A strange irony that a government which so recently and spectacularly celebrated the freedom of this country from external domination should now be denying its own people the supreme right of freedom of conscience and the universal and basic human right of peaceful protest.
Discredited regimes come to mind!
Gertrude M. Searson,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
Dear Editor, One hundred days into our new ‘progressive’ abortion-on-demand regime, we now have 1,000 aborted dead. As predicted, as in Britain, 98% of these killed by abortions here, were healthy but unwanted. So much for abortions being “rare” and “safe”? The same anti-Eighth campaigners who gave us this vicious attack on our unborn, now want your vote. Electoral and political change is needed, if more Irish lives are to be saved from the “repeal” abortion death regime, which our taxes now fund. Who is making the abortion profits from mothers and their dead children? And how much?
Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6.