Kenny's meeting with the Pope
Sir, – What are we to make of the tissue of contradictions enveloping Enda Kenny’s outing at Castel Gandolfo? For a week prior to the event, the Irish media had hyped it to the status of a significant moment in Fine Gael statecraft. It had been intimated to the public that Mr Kenny would be received in private audience by the Pope, with the implication of an opportunity for “talks” which, although brief, would signal “a relationship built on mutual respect”.
The wake of the Castel Gandolfo encounter proved less clear. An unnamed government pressperson appears to have stated that Mr Kenny made no comment leaving the Summer Palace at Castel Gandolfo because there was no news to report. That seemed very odd as comments made by several of the politicians present at the meeting made it clear that, following the Pope’s address, they thought there was a lot of news to report on the obligation on politicians who claim to be Christian to promote the family as the basis of civil society. They never stopped repeating that message in their respective national media. Mr Kenny, however, did not seem to hear (or perhaps understand) the Pope as he spelled out the implications of that basic social axiom as it was worked out in the exclusion of abortion, euthanasia and surrogate forms of marriage in civilised societies – although he was provided with a translation of the discourse.
It can be safely inferred however that all of the principal organs of the Irish media did not serendipitously happen upon themselves in Castel Gandolfo last Saturday. More likely, they were there because they probably had been briefed by someone representing Mr Kenny or at least operating to Mr Kenny’s benefit. Clearly, those operatives were trying to produce a media-story which would have a positive spin – presumably for Mr Kenny and his beleaguered administration.
It would not be without the bounds of possibility to suggest that Mr Kenny, faced with wide- spread unease among traditional Fine Gael rank and file, was in the need of something to boost his “Catholic” credentials in the wake of Fine Gael’s widely perceived anti-Catholic political stance and its support for abortion. It is easy to imagine how a nice photograph of a smiling Mr Kenny with the Pope would go a long way in that respect.
However, in the absence of a resident ambassador to the Holy See, there is no one on the ground even to ensure that if Mr Kenny requests a private audience with the Pope that it would be accommodated in the Pontiff’s busy schedule.
Claims by Mr Kenny that the embassy affair has gone away are simply unrealistic – as he now should be aware. Indeed, what should, and could, have been a positive news item for him quickly degenerated into a media nightmare.
Truth will set you free. This is the ultimate moral of Mr Kenny’s outing and one that prudence will impose on him – whether he likes it or not. But, it would be nice to think that the much vaunted “practising Catholic” side of Mr Kenny might be able to generate enough theological virtue to be able to realise that for himself, rather than to have it externally instilled in him by the results of the political ineptitude seen in the efforts to manipulate the truth of his trip to Rome. – Yours, etc,