Mary Kenny: Family values? Yes and no
The family, extolled as an ideal, can be far from perfect
Many good people in Ireland are volunteering to serve as stewards for the Pope's visit in August for the World Meeting of Families. And I feel sure that Francis will be met with the customary Céad Míle Fáilte traditionally accorded to visitors to this country, and all will go well.
However, I'm not entirely comfortable with any general theme which over-emphasises, or sentimentalises, the family. Yes, we nearly all need - and want - happy families, but face the facts: the family can be a cauldron of feuds, malice, spite, jealousy, resentments, lifelong sibling rivalries, scapegoating, unresolved childhood conflicts, and at the extreme, even murder. (Scriptural source: Cain and Abel.)
John Mahoney, the endearing Frasier actor who died earlier this year, was one of eight children - born in Manchester of Irish parents - and what he recalled most vividly about his own family was their exceptional ability to hold grudges. "I've got sisters who wouldn't talk to each other for 30 years because of some imagined insult," he said in an interview. I know plenty of such cases, too.