Last week I ended my column on the Trump-Biden Presidential debate. I wasn’t happy.
I expected more from the Vice Presidential Debate, (RTÉ News Now, Sky News, CNN) on Wednesday night of last week and it was certainly an improvement, more civilised.
The candidates, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris were more courteous, even gracious at times, but the exchanges were robust as one would expect. However, the debate was noteworthy for question dodging. Candidates answered the questions they wanted to answer rather than the ones they were asked – an old ploy but rarely so blatant.
I was glad, however, to see Pence declaring his pro-life credentials so openly and without reservation. Is it a sign of the state of American public and political discourse that one of the main talking points after the debate was the fly that landed on Pence’s head?
Meanwhile, at home, the debate about assisted suicide rumbled on. It was demoralising to see RTÉ News Now reporting on Wednesday night of last week that the so called ‘Dying With Dignity’ bill had just passed a vote in the Dáil – and this when there’s so much talk about solidarity, protecting the elderly and vulnerable, leaving no-one behind. On The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, Thursday) Kieran Cuddihy interviewed Joan Freeman of Pieta House and introduced the item by expressing his own unease with the language being used in discussions of the bill. I prefer it when presenters do not express personal views but I share his unease.
It wasn’t surprising that Freeman, a long-time advocate for suicide prevention and care of the vulnerable, had huge reservations about the bill and she expressed them articulately. Interestingly she was in favour of a referendum or plebiscite on the issue as it was such a fundamental life and death matter.
I wondered though about one thing she said – that suicide was neither a sin nor a crime. Certainly it’s not a crime anymore, but if you define sin as an action that offends against God, then surely it is a sin? I can understand her desire to be sensitive and avoid being judgmental or stigmatising, but perhaps more awareness of the sinfulness would act as a deterrent for people with any degree of religious faith? It kept Hamlet from ending it all – “the dread of something after death”.
After the interview, texters to the show varied in their views but some complained of bias – in answer Cuddihy referenced a supporter of the bill who was interviewed the week before.
Personally I’d prefer to see people with opposing views being interviewed together, or at least in two interviews closer together than a week’s gap.
On The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) on Thursday, Senator Rónán Mullen also spoke against the bill. He was unhappy that it was being rushed through, with debate curtailed and those with concerns barely getting to speak.
He reminded us of the strong opposition from so many doctors in palliative care and from gerontologists. We should instead, he said, be promoting a life ethic, a message of hope.
On another matter Senator Mullen also expressed his concerns about public worship being shut down under Level 3 Covid restrictions. He regarded people attending Mass as “a low risk activity being conducted by highly responsible people”. He admired the meithal approach of teams of volunteers ensuring that the churches were safe. By Thursday night it was reported that the Catholic Bishops had asked for a meeting with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin with a view to people being able to go to Mass again.
The matter surfaced again on Friday night’s Nine News (RTÉ One) – well after an item on Christmas shopping. Fr Michael Toomey was interviewed from a church in Clonmel – he said “people do need to be able to go to Mass, it’s not just a social gathering”. If you thought the church looked familiar, it’s because Fr Toomey’s Mass from here has frequently been broadcast on weekdays on RTÉ News Now.
He was echoing the sentiments of Fr Roy Donovan from Limerick on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio One) when he spoke to Sarah McInerney the previous Tuesday. He spoke of the value of streaming Masses, but also of the need for “tangible connection”. McInerney got it – ‘‘a lot of people would find the social contact they might get at Mass also very important”.
However, I would like to hear more about the spiritual and sacramental side of Massgoing.
Pick of the week
RTÉ One, Sunday, October 18, 11 am
Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Papal Nuncio, celebrates World Mission Sunday with Misean Cara, World Missions Ireland and Viatores Christi. Music by the In Caelo Choir, Newbridge.
Spirit of John Paul II: Stories of his interior life
EWTN, Sunday, October 18, 9 pm
Stories shared from those who knew him best, his election to the papacy, his captivating relationship with young people and his love of family.
BBC Two NI, Monday, October 19, 10 pm
Excellent documentary series exploring the Lough Derg pilgrimage, especially through the eyes of young people.