Primate criticises poor quality of debate


THE BAR of Catholic/lay intellectual debate in modern Ireland must be raised if Irish Catholics are to effectively confront the crisis in the Irish church, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said yesterday.

He made the comment while delivering a paper, John Henry Newman – Faith and Reason, The Ireland of Newman and the Ireland of Today, to the annual Rimini meeting of the Italian Catholic lay group Comunione e Liberazione(Communion and Liberation).

He spoke in Italian and his script was available in that language only.

As the church tried to come to terms with its current crisis, he said, it was often not much helped either by concerned, charismatic Christians or by self-righteous politically correct lay opinion.

Making reference to the debate on the role of the Catholic Church in Irish education, Dr Martin suggested that the fundamental role of Catholic schools in guaranteeing social integration in today’s Ireland was not always recognised, adding: “Sometimes, you get the impression that a pluralist Ireland must de facto be a laicised Ireland.”

As for various concerned groups within the church, Dr Martin observed: “I get the impression that when many people say ‘we are the church’, what they are really saying is ‘I am the church’, in other words, ‘I am going to create a church based on my needs and lifestyle’.”

Dr Martin also criticised the poor quality of Catholic and lay intellectual debate in modern Ireland, saying: “There are no forums for reflection on the relationship between faith and life similar, for example, to the Catholic academies in many German dioceses.

“There is no serious Catholic press in Ireland . . . Very few people present themselves as Catholic writers whilst we have lots of people ever ready to comment on church affairs, often in a sensationalist manner and with little real knowledge of the nature of the church.

“Yet, there is a tendency on the part of Catholic commentators to sensationalism and to underestimating the depth of the crisis of faith and to imagine that everything could be sorted out with a few . . . management strategies.”

Reflecting on the historical figure of Cardinal John Henry Newman, Dr Martin suggested that today’s Ireland badly needed inspirational figures such as the founder of UCD, due to be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham next month.

He said: “In the Catholic Gazetteof February 9th, 1855, Newman wrote, ‘One of great calamities of the modern era is the separation between religion and science, whereas the union of both these things represents the perfection of knowledge, something which makes men not only well informed but also good Christians’.”