The church, media and groupthink


Sir, – Catholics should be grateful to Michael McDowell for two insights contained in his article “Archbishop in no position to talk about groupthink” (Opinion & Analysis, July 28th). If his perceptions of Catholicism represent that of the ambient Irish perspective, and he thinks they do, then interaction between the church and the said culture will amount to mere negotiations on the surrender of Catholicism to the values and practices of that culture.

In such a scenario, the first important insight provided by default by Mr McDowell is that the church should focus primarily on developing the faith of those members of the baptised who practise regularly while always providing a welcome to others to take a closer look.

The church has to remember that even in the context of the sinfulness of its members, God promotes participation of people in his inner life through the mediation of the church; that the church’s mission is based on the belief that this participation of people in the inner life of God is the overriding principle upon which the universe is constructed and governed; and that this is neither “unstateable and untenable”, as Mr McDowell claims.

The second insight pertains to Mr McDowell’s observation that the Catholic Church is visibly withering and struggling for institutional survival in Ireland, coupled with the prediction of the said observation over 50 years ago in 1969 by a young Fr Joseph Ratzinger.

But for Ratzinger the predictable further dilution of Catholicism at some stage ultimately becomes only the beginning. The principle of participation referred to earlier is going to get the church, or some remnant of it, through every vicissitude. Again, rather than negotiating the terms of its own surrender, the church has to enable the minds of its faithful men and women to probe deeper than the slogans of the day, to see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality.

Mr McDowell’s language is at times that of marginalisation. His rubbishing and condemnation of the belief systems of a specific minority community is part of a process of marginalisation. But does the ambient culture allow this practice to be challenged in the media in which Mr McDowell articulates it? – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.