As If she didn’t have enough to concern her in her own job, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan launched a broadside against the Catholic Church this week. Speaking at an event in Dublin, Ms Madigan referred to what she described as “catastrophic moral failures”.
Ms Madigan went on to express the view that Catholics need to speak up for the values that they expect the Church to uphold.
Ironically, that’s what those of us on the pro-life side of the argument were doing as Ms Madigan – who has spoken about the importance of her Catholic Faith – was cheerfully touring the country promoting a fairly unrestricted abortion regime.
Ms Madigan’s argument won the day and she has spoken on more than one occasion at her pride in legislation that sees the healthy babies of healthy mothers killed in Irish hospitals. As “catastrophic moral failures” go, it would be hard to top the wilful destruction of little boys and girls at their most vulnerable that is now the order of the day in Irish maternity hospitals.
Ms Madigan is also a member of a Fine Gael Government that is presiding over a reportedly booming economy where there are 10,000 people homeless including an estimated 4,000 children. Many of them live in cramped hotel rooms forced to walk the streets until bedtime – a situation Ms Madigan’s Government promised to end over two years ago.
Is it churlish to also point out that Ms Madigan occupies a seat at Cabinet at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are languishing on hospital waiting lists with little or no chance of seeing a specialist? Does the minister, one wonders, have much to say to her Government colleagues about these “catastrophic moral failures”?
It seems unlikely; every time Ms Madigan is wheeled out to answer questions she robustly defends her party from any and all criticism.
The Church in Ireland has failed dismally on many levels. The failure to prevent abuse and punish the perpetrators is the most egregious example of this. This crisis has been well-documented (including in this newspaper) and Ms Madigan is hardly the first person to direct legitimate criticism at the Church hierarchy over the issue.
One would’ve thought, however, that with so many “catastrophic moral failures” created by Ms Madigan and her Government, whether humility might’ve dictated that she leave the stinging criticism of the Church to people with more moral authority.
Of course, the minister’s biggest beef with the Church is the fact that women cannot be priests. Why, she wondered at the Dublin meeting, could the Catholic Church not be more like the Protestant denominations?
She raises an interesting point to ponder. Despite huge pressure from the Establishment and other vested interests, the Church will remain robustly that – the Church. What does this say to the many Irish Catholics who have in fact theologically and psychologically left the Catholic Church, but remain on? I cannot judge individual consciences, but it’s hard to see how someone who so fundamentally disagrees with the Catholic Church on an issue as fundamental as the right to life can, in good conscience, remain a member. Pope Francis is calling all Catholics to a grown-up faith, to accept the implications of what one does or does not believe.
For some, that will mean cutting the apron strings from mother Church and finding another mooring.
I hate to see anyone leave the Church – it’s Christ’s visible vehicle for salvation, after all, but I would respect people who have the courage to follow one’s convictions to their logical conclusion rather than falling back on habit and nostalgia.
Ms Madigan has been hailed this week for her bravery in ‘standing up’ to the Church as if that requires any act of bravery or element of risk in contemporary Ireland. In reality, the real bravery is displayed by those Catholics who stand by their faith and speak up for inalienable values like the right to life regardless of the risks.
Michael Kelly is co-author of a new book with Austen Ivereigh How to Defend the Faith – Without Raising Your Voice – it is available from Columba Books.