Friday 17 January 2020

Breaking point

Regarding Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin's lament that the church is at breaking point (Breda Heffernan, Irish Independent, March 6), I feel there is a need for greater clarification on the precise nature of the ills that disturb him and the remedies he has in mind.

I have never ceased to admire Dr Martin's capacity for facing up to the depths of the Catholics Church's difficulties, making enemies for himself in the process. He has not imploded into sectarian comfort or hidden behind the trappings of power like many of his predecessors.

What I find missing in the archbishop's thinking, however, is a compelling vision of where the church in Ireland is heading.

Understandably, by the nature of his office, he is hidebound by a tension between obedience to Rome and fidelity to the people of Ireland and to his priests.

Dr Martin has invited us to listen to the voice of the young. This, I assume, is a call to attend to their curiosity, their intelligence and their experience of life.

The church, as it stands, is not to their liking or of their making. For them, it has failed to confront the evils of unfettered free enterprise capitalism, it appears obsessed with sexual morality and less concerned with common decency in public life.

The young people of Ireland have not lost their faith but have lost their confidence in the leaders of the church to point to a better tomorrow.

The practice of religion is for all of us an unending quest, more like a journey than an arrival. It provides an invitation to explore the most profound questions about why we are here and the meaning of life.

There is no infallible source of answers to these questions. However, we can share with our children the God-given capacity for thoughtful, intelligent reflection. Our faith, whatever shape it takes, is grounded in that reflection. It is the longings of human hearts and minds at work.

Religious understanding does not exist in a non-rational domain separate from all other forms of inquiry as some modern atheists would want us to believe. Whatever we hold to be true has to respond honestly to the questions, 'what do you mean?' and 'how do you know?'

Philip O'Neill
Oxford

Irish Independent

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