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Independent.ie

Sunday 24 September 2017

The Church has to take a lead and abolish its outdated values

The Pope, his cardinals and priests should live among the community as normal people, just like the apostles, owning nothing but the bare essentials of life, working for their living and abiding in rented accommodation. Poverty is, after all, part of their remit
The Pope, his cardinals and priests should live among the community as normal people, just like the apostles, owning nothing but the bare essentials of life, working for their living and abiding in rented accommodation. Poverty is, after all, part of their remit
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

There is an old and wise saying that tells us "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

The awful results of allowing groups and/or individuals to hold total power of any sort have been well proven in the past two decades. One prime example would be the Roman Catholic Church, which wielded absolute power in Ireland for at least a century -- and we all know what happened as a result of that.

Along with church scandals, the horrors that emerged from the Mahon Tribunal alone should be enough to show us what happens when individuals or groups are allowed too much control. Given the strength of the public outcry regarding the financial pain we are undergoing, why don't we, the voting public, now instill some change in the way in which all our representatives manage our affairs.

There is real rage now being articulated regarding the waste and abuse of power by the Government, trade unions and semi-State bodies. This represents a genuine opportunity to make the necessary alterations to the way our country is run.

The members of the Catholic Church should also seize the moment and usher in the changes that could, and should, have occurred centuries ago.

Along with us hopefully getting rid of at least half of our Government ministers with their open-ended expense accounts, plus most of the many senior civil servants who appear accountable to no one, we must now try to encourage our Church leaders to show, by example, the way forward.

Let us assume that you believe in the existence of a God and, on that basis, we might examine the teachings of Jesus and all the other noted religious leaders and prophets of the past. There is one unifying message in their teachings and that is that wealth and power corrupt, and we can only find true peace and salvation by caring for our fellow men and shunning the accumulation of riches.

"Cast away your earthly goods and follow me," Jesus reputedly said. Inspiring words indeed, but why then are his ministers not doing so? Why do the churches accumulate great wealth and why do some of their hierarchy live in relative luxury when many of their flock, who pay for their lifestyles, face poverty and hardship?

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Can they not show us by example how to live "in the footsteps of Jesus".

I have often pondered on how a Roman Catholic bishop or cardinal could, in conscience, allow himself to be driven in a large and expensive car and live in a fine house with servants and, at the same time, preach the virtues of poverty and abstinence.

While the developed world reels from recession, this moment in time represents a wonderful opportunity for the religious to show genuine leadership, sell off all their extensive assets, distribute them to help the poor and regain some moral authority.

Firstly, all the treasures of the Vatican, and especially its bank, should be sold off.

The Pope, his cardinals and priests should live among the community as normal people, just like the apostles, owning nothing but the bare essentials of life, working for their living and abiding, perhaps, in rented accommodation. Poverty is, after all, part of their remit.

The rules demanding celibacy are nonsense and should be abolished immediately. In the 15th century, around 50pc of priests were married and even St Peter the apostle was married, as were six other popes down the ages. Celibacy is about money and was introduced to prevent the children of the clergy from inheriting the wealth of the Church.

These clergy should be the same as the rest of us and minister to their flock while living as nature intended -- as fellow members of the community.

The loneliness and exclusion that many priests suffer from -- especially in rural areas -- is real and I am sure most of them would welcome change. The vast majority of our clergy are good people working in an outdated and unsustainable environment while unable to influence their superiors who, because of their corrupting power, wish to hold on to it.

We do not need lavishly decorated churches and the pomp and ceremony that go with religious festivals.

We do need to restore honesty, care, truth and accountability to our State and religious affairs.

Wouldn't Ireland be a wonderful place if our Church and Government leaders adhered to the spirit of the words, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'?

That seems to me like a good recipe for living; and a sound basis for reform.

Irish Independent