Forget doctrine, just ‘go as you please’

Forget doctrine, just ‘go as you please’ Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

While the à la carte variety of Catholicism is thoroughly accepted and even lauded in mainstream media there are inherent inconsistencies.

If, say, a vile racist people trafficker was claiming to be a Catholic in good standing, would the usual suspects be as tolerant as they are when the Church’s teachings on sexuality are dismissed? Is it à la carte when some traditional Catholics abandon charity in their attacks on those they perceive as having strayed from orthodoxy? Is there something inherently arrogant in the à la carte approach, as if to say “hey God, you got it wrong there, we know better!” #gardenofeden.

I wrote in last week’s column about that à la carte approach and the breaking story relating to Minister Josepha Madigan and Mount Merrion parish – I wasn’t expecting it to drag out for the rest of the week. On Wednesday, Today With Seán O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1) revisited the matter when the host spoke to Dr John Murray, theologian from DCU.

By this stage Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had issued what O’Rourke called his “vigorous attack” on the Minister, but Murray thought the statement was too short, and was concerned it didn’t deal with the issue of her being in a leadership role in the parish and yet so publicly association with the campaign to legalise abortion. He thought her position was “incoherent”, that she was trying to have her cake and eat it.

The issue surfaced again that night’s Late Debate (also RTÉ Radio 1) when there was a lot of joking about the ‘bang of a crozier’ after that sharp statement from the Archbishop. On this issue there wasn’t much diversity on the assembled panel (there mostly to discuss other matters) and though I generally admire her work I thought Katie Hannon could have done a lot more to be Devil’s Advocate with her panel that was largely singing from the standard à la carte hymn sheet. Labour Councillor Lettie McCarthy was in favour of women priests, but didn’t want the controversy to undermine the wonderful work of nuns, and was surprised the story had got out – “should that not remain in the church?”


Unsurprisingly, the issue featured on the Saturday Sit-In (Newstalk) last weekend. Presenter George Hook was very critical of Minister Madigan, accusing her of “political opportunism” and “attention seeking” which was a bit harsh. Like the Archbishop’s statement, he seemed more critical of her using media interviews to promote married and women priests, describing her original action in church as a “simple and sincere act”.

His guest Fr Brendan Purcell, speaking from Australia, had no problem per se with the Minister leading prayers – lay or religious women sometimes do lead such ceremonies in his experience – but he rightly brought the controversy back to the issue of her high-profile involvement in the referendum campaign to make abortion more easily accessible, the issue which, curiously, did not figure in the statement from the Diocese.

He also had a challenge for her: if being Catholic is so important to her, will she speak up against her own government’s attempt to force Catholic hospitals to do abortions? Former President Mary McAleese is fast becoming informal leader of the modern ‘à la carties’, and Fr Purcell was not too enamoured of her recent attack on the Baptism of babies (even as she enthusiastically supported the repeal of the Eighth Amendment – considering the disastrous effects that will have on babies it suggests skewed priorities to say the least).

Beyond à la carte, out and out anti-Catholicism was displayed by those deliberately hogging tickets for the papal Mass in Phoenix Park with a view to not using them. On the same show Hook and his guests were at one – both Teresa Lowe and Lara Dungan, who normally differ on such matters, had no time for this crass campaign, and Hook himself was equally dismissive of “these loonies”.

That mean-spirited campaign is typical of the poisonous side of social media, but it got some mainstream media traction on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1) on Tuesday of last week. The first caller, Richard, admitted brazenly that he had booked nearly 700 free tickets with the ultimate endgame of having an empty field in front of Pope Francis. Giving this ignorant behaviour, airtime was questionable but stand-in presenter Philip Boucher Hayes did seem disapproving, and most callers were severely critical of Richard’s antics, thankfully.


Pick of the Week
EWTN, Saturday, July 7, 9 pm

A documentary hosted by Jem Sullivan that explores the rich tradition and history of Catholic art.

RTÉ 1, Monday, July 9, 11.40 pm

This series from CNN goes inside the Vatican to reveal the true power held by Popes throughout the ages.

EWTN Monday (night), July 9, 2 am

Survivors share stories of the persecution they faced as a religious minority in the Middle East.

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