independent

Friday 25 July 2014

Relentless attack on faith and religion

FR BRIAN WHELAN

Published 17/08/2011|10:01

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WORLD YOUTH Day takes place in Madrid this week. It is estimated that over a million people will attend, all young people, somehow captured by the mystery of divine, and drawn towards Christ through their faith. Here, they publicly celebrate their Catholicism, their belonging to the Catholic Church. Here they share and live out their faith, in the midst of like-minded individuals.

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It's a wonderful opportunity for them to have a positive experience of Church, where the truth and the goodness of the Gospel message is proclaimed and honoured. World Youth Day is akin to an oasis where people can be themselves, practising religious freedom, something they can't easily do at home.

Why? Because there is a relentless attack on faith, on religion, on the church, on people who believe. Day after day, the negative publicity and the attacks and the awful modern-day persecution of Christians is harder and harder to withstand. And so it's absolutely fantastic that these young people are given the opportunities that World youth Day provides.

When Enda Kenny made his now famous 'attack' on the pope, the Vatican and the Church, I'm sure he didn't mean to disenfranchise every catholic in Ireland. After all, as the leader of a people, the majority of which profess to be catholic, it would have been a pretty calamitous move. Especially for a politician, who must echo the wishes of the people he represents and leads.

And yet, somehow, many ordinary Catholics did feel shame and embarrassment that the Taoiseach would make such a strong attack on something they believe in, and in attacking it, they felt he was also attacking them, even though they share no blame for the awful atrocities perpetrated by some of their members.

Of course, ordinary Catholics, including as Enda Kenny rightly pointed out, 'good priests, some of them old, others struggling to keep their humanity, even their sanity, as they work so hard, to be the keepers of the Church's light and goodness within their parishes, communities and the human heart' are well aware of the failings of the Church in the past.

They are ashamed of that too, and indeed angry that it happened at all. But they still believe in their faith, and wish to practice it. More and more nowadays Catholics are feeling it harder to justify their faith, and to engage in it, because they are afraid of being tarred with the same brush, so to speak.

And maybe that brings about a whole other consideration.Can we in Ireland survive the absence of church; a concept, as John Waters puts it, "driven by the secular-agnosticism or secular-atheism of some of our most vocal exponents of the defeat of Catholicism, the greatest enemy?"

Amazing though it might seem to those who contribute most to the debate about the perceived oppression that the Church brings upon people, when calamity strikes, it tends to be the place we turn to for comfort and solace. And before I'm told that that's because of how we were conditioned, being brought up and brain-washed with a dependence on faith as a utopia, think for a moment of places more secular than here, think of Norway where that awful tragedy happened a few short weeks ago.

The news coverage on Sky showed a lot of clips of people in churches, lighting candles and saying prayers. World Youth Day, where thousands will travel from Ireland and indeed hundreds of thousands from across the world, must also baffle those who have 'seen the light', and who apparently know that faith is pure sentiment and foolishness.

And of course it must also be very unsettling to those who are atheists or whose agenda seems to be the eradication of faith and church. But what about those who like Enda Kenny say they are practicing Catholics? Have they the ability to see not only the point of having a faith, but also the necessity of it too?

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