Pope Francis – a radical message


Sir, – Much of the discussion in advance of Pope Francis’s visit centres on calls for him to follow his undoubtedly sincere and strong words with equally sincere and strong actions on the cover-up and lack of accountability in the Catholic Church regarding sexual abuse. This will hopefully happen. There is however always a risk when one issue dominates (albeit a very serious and painful one) that everything else is overlooked and ignored.

Pope Francis’s encyclical on environmental and economic issues (Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home) is one of the most important and urgent teachings to come from a pope in over a hundred years. It is a radical message, addressed not just to Catholics but to every person on the planet. It illustrates climate change as a universal and moral issue, not only an environmental issue. It deals with poverty and social justice, with the destruction of biodiversity, the pollution and waste created by the global economy, with sustainable food and in fact the whole range of interconnected problems facing all of us today. He makes an urgent appeal “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” and asks us, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” Francis is pope at an extraordinary time. He is dealing with the legacy of a dysfunctional church and a dysfunctional world. May he have the wisdom, courage and health tokeep leading. – Yours, etc,


Navan, Co Meath.

Sir, – I hope, while he is here in Ireland, that Pope Francis will listen to those who have suffered. Those who were raped and abused and humiliated by clergy, and those who were damaged or made to feel baseless guilt and self-hatred, those who were wounded, undermined, creeped-out.

And I hope he will raise his powerful voice for those who are suffering now: the people in our wealthy country who have nowhere to sleep tonight, the people in direct provision, whose dignity has been taken, the LGBT people who were condemned and excluded by his organisation for decades, the generations of Irish women whose most basic rights were denied them.

Scholars of elections and referenda are no doubt already analysing recent results in Ireland. Their conclusions will tally with what everyone here already knows. There are many people of the Catholic faith who voted in favour of marriage equality, women’s health and reproductive rights, despite what some Irish bishops and their well-placed media apologists told them to do.

It’s also true that many of our people have found great comfort and sustenance in their faith. Many Irish religious did magnificent work among the poorest of the world’s poor. These good men and women have been betrayed by the organisation the pope leads, but not as betrayed as the victims.

The pope must speak out. All of us must: Catholic, non-Catholic, those of every faith and none. This is not an internal Catholic Church matter.

It’s too late for evasion. It was too late too long ago. Answers are needed.

Some time ago, I heard a discussion on radio, in which a caller said lapsed Catholics are like a man who has deserted his wife. He felt it “caddish” of such a man to criticise his former spouse in public. The metaphor was a curious one, for not many marriages could survive the rape of the couple’s children by one of the partners. Nor would silence in the face of such a crime be demanded by any decent society.

It is the Catholic Church hierarchy that has deserted people who deserved better than the moral cowardice and disgusting prevarication they have too often received from those in power. But if dysfunctional marriage is to be employed as a simile in this discussion, it’s quite clear to all decent Catholics (and to everyone else) who is the abused spouse in this chilling story of betrayal and who is the self-exculpating, self-protecting bully that will always count the angels on the head of a pin, avid for its power and extraordinary wealth, subtle in its excuses, unctuous in its carefully written and lawyerly evasions, instead of owing the wrongs it committed.

I seem to remember a figure who preached the unspinnable message that to do hurt to a child is the greatest evil imaginable. He was not a monarch who lived in a palace, nor a promoter of the secular agenda.

The “shame and sorrow” recently expressed by the Vatican is not enough. There must now be atonement and restitution. – Yours, etc,


McCourt Chair

of Creative Writing,

University of Limerick.

A chara, – Looking over the many articles and letters in your newspaper about the pope’s visit to Ireland, it strikes me that the secular-liberal lobby is usually as dogmatic and righteous in its charges and demands as those it seeks to expose for hypocrisy and evasion. Do none of these people ever experience doubt or uncertainty? – Is mise,



Sir, – Actions speak louder than words – releasing documents, removing bishops and cardinals who were part of the cover-up, and requiring mandatory reporting of knowledge of abuse wherever the information comes from. Will any of these be implemented? Until they are perhaps this flawed organisation should be required by the Irish State to have no contact with vulnerable children instead of effectively owning our primary-school system. – Yours, etc,


Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – The letter from Pope Francis to the People of God is notable for strangled syntax and a request for all Catholics to undertake a “penitential exercise”.

The sins of the Fathers do not pass to their flocks. It is for the Catholic hierarchy to wear sackcloth and ashes – not the long-suffering laity. – Yours, etc,