Church and State – guidelines and laws

 

Sir, – In order for public health guidelines to command public respect, they must be scientifically rational, consistent and proportionate. The current attitude of our Government toward first communions and confirmations fails miserably to meet these criteria.

As I write, Mass is permitted and weddings are allowed. Post-wedding parties with up to 100 guests present can take place in hotels, regardless of the vaccination status of those involved. In this context urging the cancellation of other religious celebrations is profoundly illogical.

Moreover, it is a regrettable (and largely ignored) fact that Ireland has consistently adopted a uniquely hostile approach to religious gatherings throughout this pandemic, one that has been stricter and more prolonged than any other nation in Europe.

I recognise there are those self-styled “progressives” in our society who enjoy sneering at children in communion dresses on social media. I also note there are many on the Irish left who harbour a deep-seated hostility towards the Catholic church. While I recognise these people feel they should dominate all discourse in this country, their views cannot be allowed to influence public health policy in a nation where freedom of religion is a constitutional right.

The current blatantly inconsistent advice on communions and confirmations has no basis in medical science. This is a political decision that smacks of an unspoken antipathy towards followers of one religion – Roman Catholicism. – Yours, etc,

Dr RUAIRI HANLEY,

Navan,

Co Meath.

Sir, – Since the onset of this terrible pandemic, all sectors of Irish society have had to make significant social and financial sacrifices. Why then should a small cohort of Irish bishops decide to wave their croziers defiantly in the face of Nphet and its expert advisers? After all, no ceremony has been banned and no child has been denied either first communion or confirmation.

They, and their parents, have simply been asked to delay the process for a few weeks. In an organisation which has elevated obedience to the lofty status of a vow, surely such non-compliance with public health restrictions is reprehensible.

Such arrogance gives an appalling example to the small children at the centre of these rituals and puts priests in an awkward and difficult situation. Could these bishops simply practise a little patience, which is after all a virtue, and accept the short postponement? – Yours, etc,

TOM BLENNERHASSETT,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.

A chara, – Catholics attending to their sacraments in Ireland are treated as troublesome second-class citizens. Here in France, the supreme court has declared that even in a pandemic there is freedom of religion, a fundamental human right. In secular France, Catholics are protected, but not so in brave new Ireland, where freedom of religion is deemed non-essential. The same Government is presenting itself on the world stage as a defender of human rights.

Hypocrisy and double standards are not new to this Government, but their treatment of Catholics is catching the attention of the international community and the reputational damage to Ireland will be lasting. – Is mise,

CIARÁN Mac GUILL,

Clichy,

France.

Sir. – That some within the Catholic hierarchy choose to defy the public health guidelines in a time of national need speaks volumes of the disconnect between church and State. Would that it were made official through the full ownership of our publicly funded hospitals and schools. – Yours, etc,

LEE HEALY,

Ballincollig,

Cork.

A chara, – Congratulations to Archbishop Dermot Farrell for giving courageous leadership to his flock in the matter of first communions and confirmations.

The churches have shown themselves to be highly responsible in observing all the public health guidelines to date and now that other sectors have been given the green light to open up, it is hard to see what makes first communions and confirmations in churches so problematic.

Some politicians may see the church as an easy target but they should remember that the church is still the primary focus for the spiritual lives of very many people. – Is mise,

JOHN GLENNON,

Hollywood,

Co Wicklow.