Church must be of service to be credible

Good to hear the bishops speaking out for the marginalised

It was good to hear Bishop John McAreavey on last Sunday’s This Week programme (RTÉ Radio 1) raising pertinent questions about this country’s asylum and direct provision regime. Bishop McAreavey gave some telling examples, such as the mother who wasn’t allowed to have food in her living quarters so that the natural inclination of a mother to feed her hungry baby in the night was thwarted. Credit was also given to Msgr John Byrne, parish priest in Portlaoise who was involved in a protest relating to a local asylum centre.

The issue of sexual morality is a thornier issue, and much to the fore because of the synod on the family currently under way in Rome. In that context, Fr Vincent Twomey appeared with Wendy Grace on Spirit Radio’s Morning Show (Tuesday) and on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show (Friday). On the former he stressed that though the media was focusing on the Eucharist for those in second relationships, an understanding of the nature of marriage was important, as were supports for families and consideration of the factors militating against strong marriages. 

With Pat Kenny (who showed a good knowledge of the breadth of the synod issues), he suggested that the richness of the Church’s teaching on marriage needed to be rediscovered. His use of words like “living in a state of sin” won’t have gone down too well with some, but they do capture a certain reality. However, I wondered if there could be different ways to capture the same realty, to convey the same teaching, in language that will gain more traction with a modern audience. Also on Tuesday, Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests was interviewed on the Pat Kenny Show. He was admirably passionate about the priesthood and issued a timely warning about the vocations crisis. 

His talk of a ‘civil war’ in the Church might have been overstated, but his suggestion that ‘some’ in the Church saw a theological objection to the ordination of women was more than a tad understated! His suggested strategies were ordaining good men in the community, having former priests back on board and female deacons. As these are longer term issues for the universal Church I’d also have liked to hear him promoting prayer and vocations programmes that could go ahead straight away.

Last week, I suggested that some in Newstalk were in campaigning mode to widen our abortion laws. Every time I wonder if I’m being paranoid I get new evidence that I’m not. Last week, for example, the stationn was moving on two fronts. The Lunchtime Show, from Monday on, pushed the idea that we had to do something on the ‘fatal fetal abnormality’ or ‘incompatible with life’ cases. The individual stories were sad of course, and no one should be getting the remains of their baby in a box from England via a courier.

But there are choices, and it is ironic that those who are most pro-choice in the matter often claim that women have no choice but to go abroad for terminations in such cases. 

Rarely, if ever, do we get stories of the women who choose to carry these babies to term and let them live as long as possible. After all, we all have unknown limits to our life spans and who is to say that very short lives are not worth living? And where are the stories of such diagnoses that turn out to be less than accurate? Such stories don’t suit certain agendas. Lunchtime presenter Jonathan Healy did point out on Tuesday’s show that for those who opted to continue with the pregnancy there wasn’t enough support, for example in terms of hospice care. 

At least twice on Newstalk’s Breakfast Show, pro-abortion groups from abroad were given airtime to promote their destructive activities. On Tuesday, getting a soft interview, there a woman whose group funds Irish women to have abortions for any reason, and on Wednesday we got a group promoting abortion-inducing medication.  Fair enough, in the latter case the message was that that what they were promoting was dangerous for mothers, though there was no obvious concern for the fatal effects on the baby, once more consigned to the realms of ‘the disappeared’.