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Bishop William Crean on Church, society and politics at book launch

By Katie Ascough - 07 February, 2020

Bishop William Crean of Cloyne

On the feast of Saint John Bosco last week, Bishop William Crean of Cloyne launched The Church in a Pluralist Society, edited by Father Cornelius J. Casey CSsR and Dr Fáinche Ryan. The launch took place in Regent House, Front Arch at Trinity College Dublin.

“I was pleased to learn that the issues of Church and State and the diversity of belief and none were being addressed in a considered manner from quite a diversity of perspectives. As a predominantly Catholic country in Europe we share many issues with other similar European countries. Yet, ours is a unique experience for reasons we know. Our experience of social, cultural, economic and spiritual change has been intense in its rapidity thereby exposing us to vulnerability in processing its depth and the implications for fashioning a shared future,” the bishop began.

Touching on immigration, the relationship between Church and State, and consumerism, the bishop delivered a lengthy speech drawing from many other writers’ works. He spoke of the challenges faced in the ongoing dialogue around the role of the Church in the “market place”. While some think it should be “consigned to the dustbin of history”, the bishop recalled how the Taoiseach, Mr Leo Varadkar TD, “spoke graciously of the contribution of the Church to Irish society” in his address to Pope Francis in Dublin Castle in August 2018. “He spoke frankly also of the legacy of the pain caused by the harsh regimes of places of shelter, a legacy for which both Church and State bear responsibility. He also called for a new relationship – a ‘new covenant’ – of shared endeavour for the common good.”

The bishop mentioned how education and health are “significant entities” by which the Church continues to contribute greatly and with generosity to society through countless volunteers who “give in a spirit of Christian service”.

Admitting a “decline in liturgical practice”, the bishop believes a large proportion of people will still “draw from the deep well of our Christian heritage and inspiration”.

The bishop also tackled fundamental issues which are surfacing, such as the growing lack of “freedom to practise, express and nurture any faith in our ‘State’ funded institutions”. He believes we are embracing, in the name of tolerance and diversity, “an illiberal liberalism whereby for ideological reasons we stifle expressions of identity and culture”.

He stated that the removal of religious symbols from schools and hospitals is “hardly progressive”, even if some deem it to be “politically correct”. Referring to Taoiseach Varadkar’s desire for a “new covenant”, the bishop suggests that “pursuing a hard-line ideological strategy is not a good basis on which to build a shared future”.

In conclusion, the bishop said he was pleased to launch this volume of The Church in a Pluralist Society. He congratulated Dr Fáinche Ryan, Director of the Loyola Institute, from Trinity and her colleagues. “First, for your organisation of an excellent conference on what for the Church and Ireland are critical issues of identity, values and contemporary culture. Secondly, this volume ensures that the work of the conference can be extended. The material within its covers is to be recommended, first to my colleagues in the ministry, men, women, lay, religious. I recommend it to every newly elected member of the Oireachtas. I recommend it especially to journalists, particularly those covering social and political issues.” In essence, he recommends it to everyone.

On a final note, he referenced the recent political debates which were “distinguished by the lack of intellectual rigour and research”. However, he said, “This volume will fill that void. So, I recommend it to you. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.”

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