Sectarianism in Dublin a ‘shattering sadness’, says Church of Ireland Archbishop
Exclusionary attitudes alive in Church of Ireland community
Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson has said his encounter with sectarianism in Cos counties Dublin and Wicklow where he works has been a “bitter experience”
In his presidential address to the Dublin and Glendalough diocesan synods last night he said: “I say this out of genuine personal experience. I did not have the luxury of a childhood where I was able to dismiss sectarianism as ‘the sort of thing those dreadful Northerners get up to’, a phrase I have heard more than once trip off the tongue in these United Dioceses.
“I am one of those aforementioned ‘dreadful Northerners’. I grew up in the midst of sectarianism and division in Co Fermanagh.”
He said: “When I came here in 2011, my impression would have been of two dioceses which saw themselves as all-tolerant, all-liberal, all-inclusive. I have learned through much bitter experience that exclusionary attitudes, and indeed sectarianism itself, is alive not least in the Church of Ireland community. To me this has been a deep and shattering sadness.”
Archbishop Jackson, who first raised the issue at a colloquium in Trinity College last April, told delegates: “I have learned also that many people still crave a moral monopoly rather than taking the daily opportunities to make decisions for themselves and for others in accordance with the most elementary of Anglican principles. I have learned also that, in many contexts, there is a deeply dug-in antagonism to difference on the part of those who trumpet pluralism. In some ways this has been the most alarming of all and the most devastating personally.”
Referring to the sectarianism he encountered as a child in Fermanagh, he said: “Such a mindset I realised even then was as much a cynical manipulation as anything else of fearful people who had no active desire to dehumanise their neighbours. It was exercised by those with clinical brilliance who sought to eat such people up in a power game of politics and dominance – and to divide the spoils among them and start again.”
He had “witnessed from an early age how deeply-felt religious convictions have become the playthings of such powerbrokers and how the language of ‘the other side’ becomes a settled norm in identifying children and adults as less than human”. He had also seen people “changed and consolidated for good by these very tragic and destructive experiences”.
That had “given me a commitment to peace, ecumenism and dialogue with those whose views and beliefs are different from my own”.