Thursday 25 August 2016

Learning when to exercise our voice

Published 11/03/2014 | 02:30

Pope Francis. Reuters
Pope Francis. Reuters

* A key principle in any organisation, including the churches, is to find out what is wrong with what you are doing before others do. Organisations thrive on honest, transparent evaluation on the assumption that the truth will set us free.

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We all tend to conspire to allow our whispered discontent and suspicion that all is not right with church or state to fizzle out in a general haze of unease. Instead of harvesting these secret murmurings of disillusion, we collude in silencing them.

I have just returned from six weeks in Myanmar after first paying a visit to the protest encampment in Bangkok where we have the courageous expression of opposition to the culture of corruption that has taken root in Thailand, offering an inspiring model of when and how to exercise our voice.

What I find sad is that opportunities to reinvigorate our commitment to the world around us are often wasted by turning our faces heavenwards while ignoring the realities of everyday life – realities towards which Pope Francis urges us to direct our attention. The Pope has recently reiterated his desire to see an increasing focus on life at the parish level, urging priests to immerse themselves in the lives of those they serve.

The abuse scandal was not so much the cause of discontent in the Irish church but the trigger for the escape of years of repressed anger at the failure to engage the intelligence of our people.

The role of the bishops had become completely dysfunctional and will be difficult to redeem. They have been managers but not leaders.

Thankfully, we have gone beyond the day when we allow religion to morph into various forms of benign dictatorship from which many turn away with angry declarations of disbelief in God or in the church's capacity to inspire us. The fire of militant atheism is easier to ignite than to extinguish.

The separation of religion from reason eliminates rational debate and promotes idolatrous worship of scientific reasoning, restricting the infinite range of human intelligence and imagination.




* For all the talk about whether Bono's speech to the European People Party's (EPP) delegate conference in Dublin last week was patronising or inspiring, or why a group of people who are meant to be serious political activists couldn't stop themselves wilting in the presence of a singer, the Irish media missed the real purpose of the conference and its outcome.

The purpose of the conference was to choose the EPP candidate for President of the new European Commission that will take office later this year and set the agenda for the EU for the next five years or more – an agenda that should involve tackling chronic EU youth unemployment, falling health standards and the gaping lack of democratic legitimacy, transparency and accountability at every level of the EU decision-making process.

So did the EPP pick a dynamic, youngish person, perhaps a woman, with real-life experience outside the political bubble who offers new policies and a new mentality to that of those who have been at the heart of EU decision-making over the last decade?

No, of course not. The EPP picked Jean Claude Juncker (60), a man who was prime minister of Luxembourg for 20 years until he had to resign in December 2013 after losing a general election. He was also the president of the Eurogroup, the gathering of eurozone finance ministers.

In other words, he is the man who headed the group of politicians who oversaw the application of the policy of 'light touch' regulation all across the eurozone's financial sector, and which was involved in agreeing the policy that saw the ECB force an Irish government to choose between accepting all private sector banking debt in return for access to funding when we were excluded from the markets, or no access to lending and having to balance our budget at the stroke of pen.

It is only a matter of weeks before all EU citizens have the opportunity to cast their vote for who they want to have a part in running the EU. The new EU Parliament has the power to elect the President of the Commission based on the candidate proposed by the European Council, taking into account the result of the EU Parliament elections. So the type of MEPs elected does make a difference to the formation of the new Commission.





* I would like to admit my admiration for the sincerity of Sean Smith in his letter (Saturday, March 8) re: "I can't believe in God". He obviously would wish to have the comfort of believing in a God who is Love. I suggest reading a book by Dr Eben Alexander, 'Proof of Heaven'.





* Your cautionary editorial commentary on the many risks of rushing headlong towards rekindling another "phoney building boom" is well constructed and warrants full attention by all relevant players to the fray (Irish Independent, February 24). It's absolutely vital to establish ethically sound, prudent planning, to say nothing of basic quality construction regulation enforcement.

The erstwhile indulgence of profit-mongering developers remains a travesty of trust and we are still suffering the ramifications thereof.

The fact that many building workers are now filling the dole queues is indeed debilitating, but perhaps it's an ideal opportunity to fully and truly upskill that labour force.

What about the formal trade apprenticeships, which were de-rigeur many years ago? Let's build up again from the sureties of ethically sound, morally decent foundations of trust and honesty, leaving the 'bad old' habits of yesteryear in oblivion.




* I'd like to add to the comments of Martina Devlin and your anonymous correspondent (Letters, March 7).

Just because we're old, does that make us senile, febrile, dumb? Far from it! Life is a sponge and as we progress, we learn; learn what to retain, learn what to discard, to our advantage. But in today's world, our accumulated and collective knowledge is not wanted.

I spent most of my working life in the movie industry, 50-plus years. At the age of 17, I started at Pinewood Studios as a clapper-loader, rose through the ranks and ended up in Los Angeles as a producer/director. When my wife and I moved to Ireland in 2006, I contacted an institution thinking that my movie-making experience might be able to contribute something .

Some three months later, I received a terse reply, revealing that subsequently I would be contacted by a member of staff to advise of any position that might be open to me. Needless to say, seven years later, that letter of 'contact' is yet to arrive.





* I listened, enthralled, to some French and German politicians on Marian Finucane's show on March 9, as they debated with her in flawless English.

Can you imagine any of our vaunted representatives being invited on to a French or German chat show, and trying to converse in anything other than a laughable version of 'Pidgin English'?

No? I couldn't either.



Irish Independent

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