Martin 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 also 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 violent and work to end it.

He 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.

The overcoming of the crisis of public morality which is one dimension of the current economic crisis required "not just condemnation" but a willingness "to change our hearts", he said.

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

He made the comments when delivering the homily at a mass at St Michan's Church at 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, Dr Martin said he hoped public debate on the children's referendum "will reflect the same seriousness which has marked its realisation".

However, he warned, a constitutional change will not be "a magic formula which will resolve all the challenges for parents and children which sadly often emerge in our complex society.

"A change of culture will take a long time to be embedded within the various levels of society and public service," he said. "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 that voices are raised in a united and unambiguous way to express horror and rejection of the violence we have witnessed in this week. No economic or no political aim can be achieved through such violence. It is simply amoral. Anyone who has the possibility to end such violence and to keep the perpetrators of violence away from their mission of death must assume their responsibility."

Dr Martin also said the work of fostering justice and of the administration of justice is a vital one within society. The real challenge was to see how we work together to build not just society, but "a just society", he said.

A just society would not simply emerge but must be constructed, not by an elite, but involving "a participative society in the broadest sense".

"Our society needs to find ways of educating and fostering responsibility, not just for our own endeavours, but for the type of just society we wish to create for all. This involves 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, focussing on certain fundamental values which are accepted in society", he stressed.

Dialogue involves creating a mature climate of public opinion, he outlined. 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".

With the development of information technology, public opinion could be a truly strong force in building public morality, "provided that it is not only negative and condemnatory, but also constructive and aimed at building inclusivity".

Maeve Lewis, executive director of the One in Four support group, called on other bishops to back the referendum.

“Archbishop Martin has been a consistent advocate for the need to protect vulnerable children, and the child safeguarding structures in the Dublin Archdiocese set an example to both Church and State,” she said. “His support for the referendum shows that he has absorbed the lessons of the Catholic sex abuse scandals and his commitment to a future where children will be safe.

“He is to be commended for his leadership in this matter. I would urge his fellow bishops to voice their support for the referendum immediately.”

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