The right sort of Catholic?


Sir, – Maria Steen makes a mistake common to the self-righteous in that she argues that only Catholics who act and believe as she does are “real” Catholics (“Irish media likes their Catholics served lukewarm”, Opinion & Analysis, July 7th). The rest of us clearly aren’t sufficiently Catholic for her tastes and this means we don’t get to have opinions or have any input into a debate about our faith and how it relates to legislation in a republican society.

The truth is that we are all sinners and we all, to greater or lesser degrees, fail to live our faith as we might wish to. Many Catholics in the US, as in other republican societies, engage in a degree of à la carte behaviour when it comes to how they vote. How many US Catholics support President Trump’s policy on the separation of children from their parents that demonstrates a lack of basic compassion? How many mistreat their fellow citizens on the basis of the colour of their skins in contradiction of the call to “love thy neighbour as thyself”?

Catholics are not particularly prone to this problem, nor are they immune to it.

The problem with Maria Steen’s viewpoint is that one group’s à la carte practice is reasonable, while another is not. The practice she sees as not being acceptable implies that this invalidates their membership of the Catholic Church.

I, and many others, will answer to one judge as to the validity of my faith. It will be after I’m gone from this Earth and it won’t be Maria Steen or her ilk. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Edward Delany (Letters 10 7 18July 10th), not Maria Steen, is the one being judgemental about individuals. Maria Steen was writing about the media, and the sort of Catholics who get favourable coverage in the media. The recent media coverage of Josepha Madigan perfectly illustrated the point. Mr Delany finds this “repugnant” and talks about the “day of judgement”.

In fact, most of us ordinary Catholics think of ourselves as sinners. We are reminded that we are sinners on about six separate occasions during every Mass, and in our daily prayers when we say the Our Father and Hail Mary. We are not making personal judgments, therefore, on Josepha Madigan, and Mary McAleese, or others who are praised in the media for watering down the teachings of the Catholic Church. We just wish that these people would recognise the logic of their own position, and go elsewhere. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – Maria Steen writes that Irish media outlets “like their Catholics served lukewarm”. When one considers that 78.3 per cent of the population declared themselves to be Catholic in the last census, yet 66.9 per cent of the electorate voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, over 62 per cent voted in favour of marriage equality and Mass attendance is paltry (in some parts of Dublin, it has been reported to be as low as 3 per cent), would it not be more accurate to say that most Irish Catholics like their Catholicism served lukewarm? Apart from going against Church teaching on the aforementioned matters, I would be curious to know what people’s thoughts are regarding transubstantiation, the virgin birth, the resurrection, the assumption, the Holy Trinity and the existence of hell. I’m thinking they’d be down the lukewarm end of the spectrum on these matters as well.

What does it really mean to call oneself “Catholic” these days? If baptism is the sole determinant it is a very low threshold indeed, as people then qualify as Catholics on the basis of a ceremony performed without their consent, before they could even talk and irrespective of what they really believe as adults on a whole range of issues. On the one hand this is a recipe for the kind of à la carte Catholicism that Maria Steen appears to bemoan, but on the other hand it allows the church to claim power in numbers. That’s what happens when you try to have it both ways. In any event, it would appear that many Irish Catholics view their kind of Catholicism as being in the religious Goldilocks zone, being not so much “lukewarm” as being “just right”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.