The heroic monsignor and marriage debates

The heroic monsignor and marriage debates

Nationwide(RTÉ 1) is one of those popular but unobtrusive programmes that often covers positive religious stories. And so it was when they featured the story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, the ‘Vatican Pimpernel’, on Wednesday of last week.

I thought I remembered a documentary on the famous priest not that long ago, and sure enough one of the people interviewed was Monsignor Flaherty’s grand-niece Catherine O’Flaherty, who made that documentary, Pimpernel Sa Vaticanfor TG 4. What was most striking was how little was known in Ireland until relatively recently, of O’Flaherty’s work in saving people on the run in Rome during the Nazi occupation – around 6,500 people.

This was partly due to his self-effacing personality, and the fact that he rarely spoke about the war events – it was suggested that talking about saving British soldiers wouldn’t have been so popular in certain circles in Ireland!

Whatever the case his work got some exposure from the film The Scarlet and the Black, starring Gregory Peck as the Monsignor. Nationwidealso interviewed Brian Fleming who has written a book about him. Now he will certainly be remembered because of the striking statue (by Alan Ryan Hall) unveiled recently in Killarney on the 50th anniversary of his death – the striding pose is what you might notice first, but the eyes really have an impact.

Of the archive material the most affecting item was audio of him speaking on the Eamonn Andrews’ This is Your Lifeprogramme, to Sam Derry, a British officer who had helped him save the allied soldiers on the run in or near Rome. And there was a challenging story of forgiveness – the Nazi chief in Rome at the time, Kappler, who had wanted O’Flaherty shot if he stirred outside of the neutral Vatican state, was eventually visited in prison and baptised by the priest who had frustrated and evaded him so much.

Back to the future, the same-sex marriage debate got rekindled last week as reports surfaced that the Government is planning a referendum on the issue, perhaps in the lifetime of this government. The Late Debate(RTÉ Radio 1) covered it on Wednesday night, and the bias was blatant – three to one in favour. It never ceases to puzzle me how they get away with this. Gerry Fahey was an able and low-key defender of children’s rights to the biological link with mother and father, and didn’t get flapped or defensive despite being outnumbered.

Things were more balanced on Thursday’s Today With Sean O’Rourkewhen David Quinn of the Iona Institute and IC debated with Ciara Conway TD of the Labour Party. It was a robust debate, though, as IT journalist Michael Clifford pointed out on Friday’s Today show, Quinn became annoyed at Conway, perhaps because she wouldn’t accept the contradiction in her championing of gender quotas in politics and her downplaying of the importance of gender complementarity in the same-sex marriage debate.

On Thursday night’s Tonight With Vincent Brownethe imbalance was two to one, in favour of same-sex marriage, with blogger Paddy Manning the isolated one. However it was a good humoured debate and Browne asked the hard questions of both sides, even admitting graciously at one stage that he was wrong about one point (about adoption) and that Manning was right. Manning was particularly concerned about the redefinition of marriage, thought the Constitutional Convention was ‘a joke’, set up to provide a pre-determined outcome on the issue, and, being a former member of Fine Gael, said the reason FG voted in favour at an Ard-Fheis was because speakers against the motion were not allowed to be heard. He was coming at this issue from a civil point of view and found Browne’s opening question loaded – i.e. is same-sex marriage ‘a step too far for Catholic Ireland’?

And finally, what a treat to hear singer Imelda May talking about her life and faith with Gay Byrne on The Meaning of Life, last Sunday night on RTÉ 1. If only more Catholics could exude such joy, gratitude and enthusiasm! Apart from a strong faith she had an inspiringly positive and well-grounded view on life. She obviously owed so much to a sound upbringing in the Faith and in life. And what would she say when she meets God? “Howya … I’m home … Thanks very much for a great life!”


Pick of the Week



TG4 Tues 12 Nov 11.00pm

Nazi Nurseries: During World War II, the Nazis invented and implemented a secret Aryan breeding programme called Lebensborn to ensure the continuation of the Master Race.


Reasons to Believe

EWTN Mon 11 Nov 11.30 pm, and Fri 6.30am

Dr Scott Hahn and co-host Mike Aquilina debunk the misconception that faith and science are opposed to one another.

Channel 4 Mon 11 Nov 7.55pm asks: How has austerity change