The legacy of Dr Ian Paisley

Dear Editor, The legacy of the late Dr Ian Paisley has been the subject of much comment. A summing-up of the legacy from the Catholic point of view is that for 40 years, Dr Paisley assisted in stopping Catholics getting civil rights. Of course, he did so as the popular voice of deep feelings on the part of those who followed him.

However, arguably more important than the political side of things, he apparently did desist from his openly anti-Catholic statements. For example, the last time that he was a key speaker at an Orange parade, he was quoted by the BBC as saying: “This present Pope is saying exactly the same things as the Pope in the time of Luther!” Predictably, the statement was received with approval by his audience. 

It struck me at the time that we Catholics would also accept the statement with approval, merely adding the qualification that that is precisely what the Popes are there for!

Some speakers attributed these changes to Dr Paisley having experienced a ‘near-death experience’. I am glad that anyone should have such a privilege and should benefit from it. 

My present interest in the matter is our Christian management of the legacy left to us. Our Catholic view is that there are still followers who were influenced by Dr Paisley, but regrettably so far have shown no signs of such benefit. It is not within our power to bring about such experiences in them. 

It is within our power that, by the results of our prayers, the same kind of spiritual benefits that would appear to have reached Dr Paisley would also reach them, even if not by the same means.

Yours etc.,

Fr Jose Shiels SSC,