What with the crazy scenes at the McGregor fight last weekend and the strident shrieky protests at the US Senate vote on Judge Kavanaugh (the two events had a lot in common!) I needed some confirmation that civilisation and decency remained durable.
And where better to receive this than Nationwide (RTÉ1). Last week there were two heart-warming episodes with a faith connection.
On Monday, presenter Mary Kennedy headed for the newly developed Nano Nagle Place in Cork city. It was a hub, a hive of activity in line with the spirit of Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Sisters. And so there were a number of educational initiatives, a migrant centre, community services and a heritage centre exploring the life of the visionary founder.
She was a strong independent woman of means who turned her back on privilege to set up schools to cater for the educational needs of the poor young girls of Cork city and eventually beyond to achieve global impact. As one contributor put it she made “an enormous contribution to the human spirit”.
We heard from Sr Grace Redmond as she watched old footage and photos of when she joined the convent – it was a touching moment, the first time she saw her father cry – it was an emotional family parting, but was at a time when convents were opening up after Vatican II, so the parting wasn’t as final as expected.
There were touching moments on Wednesday’s episode as well, when guest presenter Marty Morrissey told the story of Fr Martin Shanahan who was recently ordained in West Clare after the loss of his wife to cancer. It was a romantic story, tinged with poignancy as we saw Fr Martin saying his first Mass in the same church in Quilty where he was married. It was enhanced by his son playing the organ at the ordination ceremony, which was attended by many of the friends that had attended the wedding so many years ago.
While in Clare, Morrissey also gave us a tour of Scattery Island in the Shannon, a site of pilgrimage, now uninhabited, but still graced by several churches and a round tower. In recent times tourist interest has been revived by a new ferry service and there’s hope and potential for further development.
Reflecting again on Nano Nagle, the Catholic contribution to education in Ireland was enormous, though not without its flaws, and that contribution is often airbrushed out of public discourse in mainstream media.
In some quarters you’re likely to find outright hostility as in the presenter’s introduction to the Ray D’Arcy Show (RTÉ Radio 1) on Wednesday of last week. I wouldn’t have minded if a guest had made these points in a balanced discussion, but I find it thoroughly objectionable for a presenter, paid ultimately by the tax payer, to abuse his privileged position on the airwaves to push a personal agenda.
He seemed welcoming of the removal of the so-called ‘Baptism barrier’, which he wrongly categorised as a measure to ensure that schools can’t choose pupils on the basis of religion – in fact it only applies to Catholic schools, but that kind of discrimination doesn’t register on the D’Arcy radar.
Then, throwing all neutrality or objectivity to the wind he declared, as if launching the next campaign, “the next big step is of course taking religion out of schools. State-run or state-funded schools – they shouldn’t be teaching religion and if they are teaching religion it should be as a subject, as in all world religions.”
A similar kind of hostility was shown when Philip Boucher Hayes interviewed Bishop Kevin Doran on last Friday’s Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1). The bishop was supporting the right to conscientious objection in the context of impending abortion legislation.
Boucher-Hayes interrupted frequently, coming across to me as a testy schoolmaster scolding an errant pupil. He worked on the assumption that abortion could be an appropriate medical treatment, and didn’t seem to get Bishop Doran’s distinction between direct targeting of the life of an unborn child and necessary interventions in an emergency.
Boucher Hayes kept returning to the idea that the bishop was encouraging people to break the law – and Bishop Doran agreed, yes if the law was against conscience and reason – a law obliging anyone to kill (or, presumably to co-operate in killing) had no morally binding character. Now, that’s radical.
Pick of the Week
BBC2, Sunday, October 14, 11.15 pm
(2014) Biopic chronicling the three-month period in 1965 which saw Dr Martin Luther King Jr lead a march from Selma to Montgomery.
EWTN NEWS PRESENTS: THE SYNOD ON YOUTH
EWTN, Wednesday, October 17, 9 pm
Coverage of the Synod on Youth in Rome.
The Leap of Faith
RTÉ Radio 1, Friday, October 19, 10 pm
Topical religious and ethical issues, with Michael Comyn.