Respecting Catholic views


Sir, – Bernie Linnane (Letters, October 18th), responding to my piece “Irish Catholics are not simpletons, intolerant bigots, or religious fanatics” (Opinion & Analysis, October 17th), is sceptical of my claim that Catholics are mistreated in our public sphere, pointing out that “no belief is inherently worthy of respect, regardless of the sincerity with which it is held. No belief is above criticism . . . The days of unquestioning deference to a particular religious grouping are gone. The withdrawal of same does not constitute persecution.”

I agree wholeheartedly. It would be a sad day for democracy if we could not question each other’s beliefs and put them to the test in the public square. Catholics should enjoy no immunity from criticism and questioning, nor should anyone else.

But questioning someone’s beliefs is one thing; ridiculing them, or assuming that the believer is either dim-witted, brimming with malice and bad faith, or brainwashed and unworthy of rational engagement, is quite another. It is the contempt, scorn, and all too predictable ad hominem attacks directed at believing Catholics in Ireland that I am raising concerns about, not rational criticism of their beliefs. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer and Researcher

in Political Philosophy,

Institute for Culture

and Society,

University of Navarra,



Sir, – Anyone reading your opinion pages recently might think that Catholics in Ireland comprised a small, put-upon minority suffering religious persecution.

A minority of 78 per cent, according to the census. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – “Mostly it’s been a lot of old men and women, wizened old feckers reciting the rosary outside surgeries”. The quotation refers to abortion protesters; it appeared in The Irish Times on April 13th, and was attributed to Prof Tom O’Dowd. It came to mind as I read the letters from liberals (October 18th), saying how much they respected our views and rights to our Catholic beliefs. I do not, however, recall similar letters being published in the week following April 13th.

Incidentally, while I agree with Joe Foyle that most anti-Catholicism comes from lapsed Catholics, I disagree with him about its cause. I think that a lot of lapsed Catholics are uneasy in their consciences, in particular about supporting abortion, and that is where the animosity originates. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.