By Sarah Mac Donald - 26 October, 2013
The process of privatising religion has speeded up under the present Government, as has the process of imposing a state-sponsored ideology on the Church and religious believers, a conference in Dublin was told on Thursday evening.
Iona Institute director, David Quinn, told over two hundred delegates, including former Fine Gael representatives, Terence Flanagan, Peter Mathews and Paul Bradford that Irish people of faith “should be worried.”
In his address on ‘Church and State under Enda Kenny’, the journalist and broadcaster examined the Taoiseach’s relationship with and attitude towards the Catholic Church, as well as his post-Cloyne Report speech and the closing of the Irish embassy to the Holy See.
Elsewhere in his address, David Quinn looked at the attitude of the Government towards Church-run schools, the family and the current state of relations between Church and State generally.
He described Mr Kenny’s Cloyne speech as “the strongest attack by the leader of a country on the Vatican that anyone can remember.” Although, he also acknowledged that it was “an understandable expression of anger at almost 20 years of revelations.”
The Director of the Iona Institute’s concern related to the inaccurate information which the speech contained, such as the quotation of Cardinal Ratzinger out of context, the fact that the last FG/Labour Government was against mandatory reporting and the claim that the Vatican in 2008 ‘frustrated an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic’.
“The speech concentrates much more on attacking the Vatican rather than the Church in Ireland,” David Quinn noted. “It talks about the ‘Roman Church’, as though it is something alien and foreign. In fact, none of the cases detailed in the Cloyne report were reported to Rome at all”, he said.
On the closure of Irish embassy to the Holy See, David Quinn noted that this happened as the UK was increasing its presence in Rome. “Since 2011, the number of countries with ambassadors to the Holy See has continued to increase and our stance is highly unusual internationally,” he said.
On a law on reporting child abuse allegations which offers no protection to the Seal of Confession, he explained that laws requiring the breaking of the Seal are exceptionally rare and are normally associated with totalitarian states or radically anti-Catholic states such as some of those which followed the Reformation.
The Vatican had entered into concordats with many European countries, he said, and in those agreements the Seal of Confession is often explicitly protected.
In relation to denominational schools, David Quinn expressed concern over the compulsory world religions course in primary schools. He said faith formation was discouraged as was sacramental preparation in school time.
The result of this was that many “Christian schools are Christian in name only” and their Catholic ethos was lost as the price of ‘inclusion’.
On marriage and the family, the Iona Institute spokesman said, “This is where the Government’s and Enda Kenny’s view of Church and State comes into clearest focus.” He highlighted that there were proposals to radically redefine marriage, the family and parenthood and that family law reforms were also under consideration by Alan Shatter.
“They look set to attach no weight at all to having a mother and a father or to the natural ties,” he warned and added, “Same-sex marriage will put the tin hat on this.”
He also highlighted that the problem was not the separation of Church and State so much as the separation of religion and society. Increasingly, the view is being promoted that religion is a private thing only according to David Quinn.
He clarified that Church/State separation means there should be no state religion, rather than what we are witnessing in the state imposing its will upon the Church.
There is evidence, he said, in what had happened the Mater Hospital in relation to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy, as well as in denominational schools, and that all this was being done in the name of ‘human rights’.
The State is not being ‘neutral’, David Quinn warned and said, “It has a point of view and it is using its might to impose it on dissenters.” He concluded by asking how this made the Government a Government for everyone?