Politics and religion: preaching to the converted
Former Fine Gael taoiseach John Bruton dismissed the common argument that religious belief should be kept out of politics when he addressed the Eucharistic Congress recently.
It was a well-received address, but then he was probably preaching to the converted.
He said Christians had not only a right but also an obligation to bring their faith to bear in their engagement in politics. “Christians, and Catholics in particular, should not be afraid to bring their beliefs into the public sphere,” he said.
He said everyone believed ethical beliefs could and should influence the actions of political institutions. But for many people it was impossible to separate their ethical beliefs from the religious source from which they sprung. My report on his speech is here: http://bit.ly/Mqw9WO
As he was speaking, my mind wondered back to a Dail debate in the dying days of the previous administration. Fianna Fail’s Eamon O Cuiv, then a minister, suddenly began accusing other members of the house of “ridiculing” religion.
Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney, now a Minister, complained to the chair about Mr O Cuiv’s raising of religious belief as part of the debate (ostensibly about the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014). “That is a private matter and has nothing to do with politics,” Mr Coveney said. Fergus O’Dowd, also of Fine Gael and now a Minister of State, weighed in with this statement: “Religion is a private personal matter”. Want to read the full debate? It’s here: http://bit.ly/N2YOm2
Incidentally, Mr Bruton’s ‘public persona’ is much warmer and more relaxed than when he held public office. He peppered his address with humorous little unscripted asides that went down very well with his audience, who seemed delighted that he joined in the laughter with his distinctive chuckle (presumably he no longer has handlers trying to supress the famous ‘Bruton Bray’!).
But I can’t share his point of view on this one.