Archbishop backs referendum wording


THE CATHOLIC Archbishop of Dublin has said he personally believes the proposed wording for the children’s referendum is a “balanced” attempt to address rights and obligations of interested groups while giving “a new focus on the centrality of the child’s interests”.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin called for dialogue aimed at creating “a mature climate of public opinion” and warned against “spin”. Complex questions regarding values must be presented in their complexity and depth “and not through a culture of spin or giving answers which are only valid until the next media challenge”, he stressed.

He expressed deep concern about the recent escalation in violent attacks, including the gunning down of people in front of their children and urged all in society to reject such “amoral” violence and work to end it.

Public opinion could be a truly strong force in building public morality, but must be constructive and aimed at building inclusivity, not just negative and condemnatory, he said.

He made the comments when delivering the homily during a Mass at St Michan’s Church, Halston Street, Dublin, to mark the opening of the new law term. The congregation included Attorney General Maire Whelan and senior members of the judiciary.

Stressing he was expressing a personal view, Archbishop Martin said he hoped public debate on the forthcoming children’s referendum “will reflect the same seriousness which has marked its realisation”. A constitutional change would not be “a magic formula which will resolve all the challenges for parents and children which sadly often emerge in our complex society”, he said. “A change of culture will take a long time to be embedded within the various levels of society and public service.”

“Indeed, what are we to say in a week when a text about the best interests of the child was promulgated and we find people being gunned down on our streets in the presence of their own children? A sense of public morality demands voices are raised in a united and unambiguous way to express horror and rejection of such violence,” he said. Anyone who could help end such violence and keep the perpetrators away from their “mission of death” must assume their responsibility, he added.

The archbishop also stressed morality and ethics “are not a separate compartment from public life”. Morality “belongs to and shapes the common good” and requires the responsible participation of all in society, he said.

The overcoming of the crisis of public morality which is one dimension of the current economic crisis required more than condemnation and a willingness “to change our hearts”.

It was necessary to understand more fully how we fostered rights and dignity not just in relation to the rights of the individual but also for mobilising “a determined common struggle for the good”.

The work of fostering justice and the administration of justice is a vital one within society and the real challenge was to see how we work together to build “a just society”, he said.

A just society must be constructed, not by an elite, but “a participative society in the broadest sense”.

This required finding new ways of educating and fostering responsibility and involved “education to morality and to the ability to seek and discern what is truthful and good in the fullest sense”.

One of the first challenges was to find and sustain platforms for “serious dialogue between differing views, focusing on certain fundamental values which are accepted in society”, he said.

Elsewhere, in her homily at the annual service at St Michan’s Church of Ireland, Church Street, the Rev Heather Morris, president elect of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said: “Jesus is not part of a collapsible morality that we can put into our pocket and pull out when we want it and ignore it when we don’t”.

Addressing a congregation of senior judges and lawyers, she said theology must be practical and Christians must respond to and act upon the issues of our time, including health, education, poverty, hospitality to strangers and violence in our homes and on our streets.

Among deep questions to be addressed were what had led to a culture dominated by consumerism and a national character “defined by aggressively defensive self-interest”, Ms Morris said.

Text for children’s rights balanced, says Martin