Former president launches book on canon law and laity


FORMER PRESIDENT of Ireland Mary McAleese has advised Catholic Church authorities and others: “I’m here for the long term. Get used to it.”

For the rest of her life “this is where I place myself, at the heart of my church’s struggle to be part of a world where love will prevail”, she said.

She was speaking on Saturday at the launch of her book Quo Vadis?, which addresses the Catholic Church’s canon law, at the Redemptorist’s Marianella centre in Dublin.

She said the book opened with a question. “I don’t purport to answer the question. I’d like to think that many of you will help in the journey towards the answer.”

Mrs McAleese noted that there were “1.6 billion Catholics across the world; 99.9 per cent of us are lay people but we don’t know anything about canon law. In the main, canon law has been mediated through the expertise of priests or, more latterly, religious . . .”

“For the first time in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church we have the phenomenon of an educated laity. The church isn’t sure how to handle us yet, because for most of those 2,000 years they hadn’t to deal with an educated laity,” she said.

The great change in the future was that lay people would stop being passive. “They will do what canon 212.3 says: ‘Tell your sacred pastors what you think’. Let them know your opinion,” she said.

The book was launched by former chief justice Ronan Keane who remarked that the last head of State he could recall who had written a book on theology was Henry VIII, who defended the Catholic Church against the claims of Luther.

Among the large attendance were Chief Justice Susan Denham, Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, and retired Circuit Court judge Yvonne Murphy. There too were retired Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Alan Harper, retired Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Walton Empey, administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin Msgr Brendan Byrne, and executive chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership Fr Michael Drumm.