Sunday 23 October 2016

The yawning gap between our young people and the church

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Pope Francis. The church has lost touch with those who exist on the margins of life. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto
Pope Francis. The church has lost touch with those who exist on the margins of life. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto

The poet and essayist TS Eliot wisely suggested that a religion requires not only a body of priests who know what they are doing, but a body of worshippers who know what is being done.

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We are now reaping the consequences of having had a poorly educated priesthood ministering to an unquestioning laity.

The notion of the simple faithful offered dubious grounds for providing half-baked moralising sermons. For too long, the laity were presented with God as a demanding judge, and not as fulfilling the more likely role of counsel for the defence.

A notion of Hell that did not sit easily with that of a loving God, was a regular feature in our wandering thoughts on death and after-life.

Our young people no longer live in fear of a demanding God. They have an increasing appetite for the use of mobile phones, the internet and social media. They get their news online so are their own editors, determining what is significant.

This undermines a culture of obedience to family, church and government, institutions that are steadily losing their stabilising role.

Many of the students that I have known and taught over the years saw themselves as not existing to fulfil the purposes of others but sensitive to their calling to be human by engaging in the task of making the world a place that works equally to the benefit of all.

They saw the meaning of life not as determined by some vacuous search for significance but as the exercise of the practical demands of daily loving and living, seeing themselves as makers of the world and not its victims.

There continues to be a yawning gap between the longings and hopes of our youth and the machinations of a church that has lost its way, losing touch with those who survive precariously on the margins of life and with those whose light has been extinguished through the harshness of their experience of living.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, UK

State hypocrisy on Apple ruling

I find it nothing short of extraordinary that the Irish Government is to appeal the European Commission ruling that Apple must pay the Irish State €13bn in respect of past tax avoidance.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny cites as the reason for the appeal to the European Court of Justice that "this is about the right of a small nation".

The minority Fine Gael/Independent coalition Government, supported by Fianna Fáil in opposition, is of the opinion that the obligation to collect tax from Apple is a bridgehead too far.

Contrast the Government's action or inaction when the European Central Bank (ECB) bullied the then government into a €65bn bailout of bondholders that passed the cost onto the Irish taxpayer.

It was accepted that the ECB had no legal or constitutional right to impose a burden on the Irish State, yet we accepted its demand, paid the bondholders money we did not owe them, and lumped the cost onto the Irish taxpayer in direct taxes and severe austerity measures.

Did we take the ECB to the European Court? Not on your life. It appears that the sovereignty of a small state applies to defending corporate tax avoidance and not defending the interest of the Irish citizens. We are presented with the scenario that to legitimately tax the multinational sector of the economy risks a mass exit out of Ireland.

So where would they go? Ireland has the lowest corporation tax at 12.5pc, when it's paid in full. There is no other member State of the European Union with a lower tax take. So where would they flee too? The Cayman Islands.

Norman A Croke

Straffan, Co Kildare

Public service vs self interest

I used to think politics was about public service.

Yesterday, Phil Hogan all but admitted he did not want to resign or lose his job as a European Commissioner, so he toed the line he was told to toe.

Still, at least I now know better.

Adrian Scanlon

Ballylongford, Co Kerry

What about the ethical perspective?

Richard Curran's article (Irish Independent, September 5) is full of observations but does not attempt to link them in any form of argument, dithering between platitudes to people who have suffered over the last number of years whilst supporting, in his own words, an unethical coalition between the administration and the multinationals.

Mr Curran openly states that even though governments have been complicit in the tax avoidance of multinationals, and although this makes it unfair, it does not make it illegal.

This argument might be made by highly remunerated lawyers on behalf of their clients, but can it be made by our Government, which we expect to have an ethical perspective?

Actually, Mr Curran is incorrect. It does indeed make it illegal in many far-sighted jurisdictions, where complicity of this nature is deemed to be a criminal money laundering conspiracy punishable by a term of imprisonment.

Finally, Mr Curran's statement that: "We could have been incredibly fair and incredibly broke" is reminiscent of one of Mae West's responses to a young lady, who, on seeing Mae's jewels said, "goodness, those jewels look terrific". Ms West's reply was "goodness had nothing to do with it".

Liam Harrington

Castletownbere, Co Cork

Children need love, not just time

Your editorial (Irish Independent, September 5) quotes the findings of a study which found that children feel that too often nobody is listening to their opinions and that parents are not spending enough time with their children, "not being there" for them, and not knowing them as well as they should.

But just spending time with one's children on its own will not and cannot fulfil these needs. Some parents are full-time at home. Others are part-time. Others have little or no time. Time on its own could mean cruelty, ignorance or abuse.

What every parent can give is love. Love fulfils the need and the right of the child to be listened to with respect and openness about a situation. The truth may be very hard, so gentleness is crucial. It is being with the child that is important.

Furthermore, the child is absorbing, unconsciously, a powerful lesson for life ahead: be truthful, open and gentle with yourself and with others, and "doing the best you can, respecting your limitations and resources" is the key to a non-stressful existence.

If we hide the difficulties, pretend it's all OK with our kids, breaking our backs for them, children may end up feeling guilty, blaming themselves, and getting the message that doing their best in their lives ahead will never be good enough.

To remedy the current situation, the Government should set aside funding for a defined social care programme, as well as 'driving lessons for parents'.

John Keane

Hanover Square, Dublin 8

Irish Independent

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