Thursday 23 October 2014

Different faces of the Catholic Church

Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30

Pope Francis delivers his blessing during the Angelus noon prayer he celebrated from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican,  Sunday, March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis

* Differing faces of the Catholic Church were revealed in your newspaper recently.

On the one hand, we read reports of the Pope's compassionate, non-judgmental response to questions about gay priests and gay marriage. On the other hand, we read that Fr Flannery had been silenced and banned from saying Mass, albeit by the machinations that the Pope himself seeks to reform.

The Fr Flannery case implies that outside the Vatican faith-police there is no salvation.

The idea that there is only one way to God, fenced in by various statements about what we ought to think and do is clearly at odds with the more inclusive example of Christ.

This demeans the whole Gospel tradition, reflected in the work of Pope Francis, who reaches out to the world rather than retreating into a cocoon of doctrine.

Of course, to claim to be a Christian, as I do, must distinguish me from those who claim not to be so inclined.

Yet, I often fail to see the difference.

Many of my atheist friends seem more forgiving and more compassionate, and hence more Christian, than I am.

I see my commitment as a direction I take, rather than as adherence to a set of clear-cut conclusions.

Indeed, I sometimes seem to weave my way in and out of a clear sense of purpose, feeling increasingly at home with the ambiguity that this engenders. My life slips in and out of sense.

It seems counterproductive to repress honest misgivings expressed by the ministers or laity of any church.

The repressive inculcation of orthodoxy and resignation reveals a fear of releasing our God-given intelligence, as if there was something sinister to hide.

A world of certainty and inner assurance has its advantages but tends to cultivate a superficial glow of self-satisfaction, often leading to a rush to judgment of those whose lives are more precarious and less assured.

The faith of our fathers is not the faith of our sons.

I took some comfort from my five-year-old granddaughter's recent declaration that she felt she was half-Christian and half-normal.

PHILIP O'NEILL

OXFORD, UNITED KINDGOM

THE FORCE BE WITH YOU

* Well done, Leo. Well done indeed!

Against all adversity, you took the lead.

While Enda and Alan merely looked on,

You stood up and lauded Maurice and John.

So now, Mr Callinan, all eyes are on you,

Apologise, and mean it, and the FORCE may just be with you!

MARTHA KERTON

CLONMEL, CO TIPPERARY

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE

* In the wider world today, you have the tragedy of Flight MH370, the re-emergence of the Cold War over Ukraine/Crimea and the 59 deaths from the Ebola virus in Guinea.

And when you also consider what disasters this country has endured and weathered over the past few years, it is shocking to think that – in this state – one word, "disgusting", has mature and so-called reasonable adults at each others' throats and the possible destabilisation of a coalition government in the offing.

Enough said.

AIDAN HAMPSON

ARTANE, DUBLIN 5

DO THE MATHS

* I have a question for the parents and employers of Ireland.

Has anybody, anywhere, seen any benefits arising from the Project Maths curriculum?

No, I am not a teacher. I am a former IT manager and the parent of a Junior Cert student. I find the changes to the curriculum incomprehensible in their intent. It's as if an arts faculty was unwillingly landed with responsibility for engineering and science.

The results that I see ( in my small world) are that the kids who enjoyed maths through national school are struggling with the verbosity of Project Maths, whilst those who were good at English alone are now doing better at Project Maths.

The student has to negotiate through a short story (worthy of an English comprehension paper) and figure out what has been asked. This introduces needless ambiguity.

For instance, a technically minded student would ponder whether the Leaning Tower of Pisa's height is the vertical drop or the distance from base to top. The imprecision of the question will bug them throughout as they try to work out the solution.

Having worked in technology, I would prefer technical staff to ask questions and eliminate ambiguity rather than make assumptions.

Google or Microsoft would be nuts to invest in developing a database or algorithm where the core specifics are not nailed down.

We don't want our mathematicians to be comfortable with ambiguity. To my mind, that is the opposite of maths. Does the Department of Education figure that we will import this skill in the future from the capable Indian or Chinese graduates or will the department require Irish students to complete a doctorate before they have acquired it?

My guess is that the changes to the curriculum are a heavy-handed attempt to encourage 'problem-solving' skills that the Irish have been valued for in the past.

Instead, it has introduced 'puzzle-solving'. We, as a society, have developed a helplessness in our kids by managing every moment of their day and essentially doing too much for them.

In IT we developed problem-solving skills by dropping somebody in the middle of a problem, giving them responsibility and observing but not assisting unless a good attempt was made or a major disaster was imminent. The cost to the employer is the time it takes to observe and supervise. Generally, it's a good investment.

Adapting maths to develop problem solving is misguided and lazy. Transition Year offers far more opportunities to develop these skills.

Realistically, as parents, we have to invest the time, too. So, I'm going to let them brush the floor (though it will give me a headache to watch – "two hands on the hurl, put down the phone, look at what you are doing" my mind will clamour silently). But I will only ask the questions: 'Did you solve the problem? Is the floor clean?'

NASA awaits. . .

However, my question remains: 'cui bono?' in the murder of maths?

NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR

OPERATING THEATRE

* I'm writing in reference to the article in your newspaper 'Rotunda defends paying top-ups due to private income from Gate Theatre' (Irish Independent, March 24).

Obstetricians uncertain whether to accept additional largesse from the private income the Rotunda Hospital derives from the Gate Theatre might be helped if George Bernard Shaw's perceptive play 'The Doctor's Dilemma' was revived at the historic theatre.

DR JOHN DOHERTY

GAOTH DOBHAIR, CO DONEGAL

Irish Independent

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