Dear Editor, I cannot be alone in noticing a worrisome phenomenon amongst some people who describe themselves as Catholics to reject and denigrate all legitimate authority within the life of the Church.
This used to be a phenomenon exclusive to those who would view themselves on the ‘left’ of the Church rejecting such teachings as the inadmissibility of women for Holy Orders and the ban on artificial birth control asserted by St Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968.
More obvious now, however, is the spectacle of self-appointed conservatives haranguing and harassing the pastors of the Church to foster what can only be described as a spirit of discord within the Church. The scenes of protesters shouting the Holy Rosary through loudspeakers outside Croke Park during Eid while attacking the car of the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin were truly shocking.
The archbishop was participating as a sign of interreligious friendship much in the pattern set by St John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis. At a time when people would seek to use differences between the Abrahamic religions as a pretext for conflict this is a powerful witness.
Conservative elements need to be honest in their agenda and in their approach to authority within the Church. Are they sedevacantists who reject papal authority? Do they reject the reforms of the Second Vatican Council? Have they set themselves up in opposition to the legitimate authority of the Church entrusted to Peter and his successors down to Pope Francis?
These are important questions, because if they are such rejectionists, they are certainly not Catholic but Protestant and have no business commenting on the affairs of the Catholic Church much less acting as judge and jury over those whom Christ has raised up to teach, govern and sanctify.
Athy, Co. Kildare.
The hijacking of Catholicism
Dear Editor, I cannot be alone in finding the recent resurgence of extreme nationalism in Ireland a worrying phenomenon. Even more worrying is the strange symbiosis that seems to appear in the minds of some who associate Catholicism and nationalism.
This is despite the fact that Catholicism and nationalism do not make bedfellows. In fact, Catholicism and nationalism are arguably incompatible because nationalism tends to deify the State rather than applying worship to God alone.
As Catholics we need to be extremely vigilant in ensuring that we do not allow our faith to be hijacked by those who see it as little more than a vehicle to promote their often-xenophobic agenda.
Unchecked nationalism leads very quickly to totalitarianism since it replaces the worship of God with the worship of the nation-state. As former Pope Benedict XVI Put it: “Nationalism absolutises what is relative (the state) and relatavises what is absolute (God).”
We need to be unafraid of calling this out and be willing to face down the bullies who are trying to divide rather than unite people.
A spirit of division is not a spirit that comes from God – but from the prince of lies.
Athlone, Co. Westmeath.
The missing piece of the jigsaw
Dear Editor, I very much enjoyed your coverage of the death of the late, great John Hume. I appreciated the focus very much in your paper on Mr Hume’s pivotal role in the civil rights movement and challenging a culture at Stormont which brazenly treated Catholics in the North as second-class citizens.
I was puzzled by much of the coverage in the mainstream media which mentioned Mr Hume’s role in setting up the credit union movement and then fast forwarded to his role in setting up the SDLP and bringing Sinn Féin to the negotiating table.
Memories – at least for some – appear short of the crippling injustices that were faced by Catholics in the North as dictated by policy from the regime in Belfast once famously described by the then Prime Minister of the North James Craig as “a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people”.
The conflict that erupted in 1968 in the North had very little to do with the idea of a united Ireland and everything to do with the systematic and systemic oppression of a minority community to a supremacist ideology.
Newry, Co. Down.
Back in church is a mixed blessing
Dear Editor, It is wonderful to be able to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist once again after the long Lent of having to follow the Mass online.
I was anxious about going back to Mass as I am one of what the politicians like to call the ‘vulnerable’, but I have been truly impressed by the huge efforts that have taken place in my parish and others to ensure that we all feel safe.
I miss the chat after Mass and the opportunity to catch up on the news about what has been going on, but the one thing that I do not miss from the pre-Covid liturgy is the exchange of the sign of peace.
They say that God can write straight with crooked lines; well, if the pandemic leads to an end to the unhealthy practice of strangers shaking hands with one another having just wiped their nose, I for one will thank God for the mixed blessing of the coronavirus.
Belfast, Co. Antrim.