Monday 20 January 2020

Letters: Brady a fallible leader in a fallible church

Errors of judgement: Sean Brady
Errors of judgement: Sean Brady

The resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady will do little to heal the pain of those abused by Brendan Smyth.

At the heart of the incompetent and inappropriate handling of the abuse scandal was a fatal flaw in the way the Catholic Church was organised and saw itself, not the acts of particular bishops, which were symptomatic of a deeper malaise.

The mode of selection of bishops was, and remains, unfit for purpose. The search for a safe pair of hands to fulfil the bishop's role kills the enthusiasm and drive of many charismatic and dedicated priests who are crying out for inspiring leadership.

Outmoded ways of exercising leadership, through the appeal to authority as the determiner of all that is right and good, is the worst possible foundation on which to build our lives.

There can be no authority, even the authority of God, that can ever replace our personal responsibility for what we do and become.

Yet obedience to Rome remains the defining virtue required in our bishops. With a few notable exceptions, once they take office, they retreat into a world far removed from the lives and sentiments of those they purport to serve.

Though many have toned down the level of regalia worn in public, there remains a residual over-emphasis on pomp, power, control and hierarchy and on over-dressing in purple and red.

Cardinal Brady was a man of his times, deeply trusting of the institutional church to get things right. What he did was inexcusable but driven by the belief that the hand of God 
guided that institution in all it did. In reality, he was a fallible leader in a fallible church, 
making very serious errors of judgment.

He was misguided, naive and ill advised. He shared with all of us the capacity for getting things badly wrong if we do not seek good counsel.

Thankfully, the present Pope is more focused on what the church can learn rather than on what it can teach.

He seems more concerned with rekindling a commitment to seeking truth than with proclaiming that we possess it.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, UK

Commemorate the RIC

I was privileged to be among the congregation at a Mass in the Pro Cathedral on August 3, marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. It was heartening to hear Archbishop Diarmuid Martin refer to those Irish men who took part in the war (one of whom was his uncle) as "having fought with great courage in the defence of an ideal". Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan, who also attended, correctly said afterwards that it was "most regrettable" that the Irish war dead were "airbrushed from history".

Sadly, there is another cohort of Irish men who "fought with great courage" for the same ideal - the promise of Home Rule and devolved government - and who are still "airbrushed from history".

They served their communities faithfully in the decades leading up to independence, as the record will testify, until they found themselves suddenly on the wrong side of history.

The record shows that over 500 members of the RIC and 14 members of the DMP died violently between 1916 and 1922. The writer Sean O Faolain, whose father Denis Whelan served with the RIC in Cork city, said of this bloody period: "Men like my father were dragged out in those years and shot - so be it. Shot to inspire terror - so be it. But they were not traitors - they had their loyalties and they stuck to them."

The RIC was stuck between a rock and hard place. Quite a number were sustained in their choice by a strong police culture in their families, but like the Volunteers who opposed them, they were for the most part staunchly Catholic and nationalist.

However despite our lobbying efforts over several years, there seems to be no apparent appetite among our politicians to have a memorial erected to these men or even to have an official commemoration for them, a matter of major disappointment to their legions of descendants.

Gerard Lovett

Knocklyon, Dublin 16

Rights of the child

Dearbhail McDonald remarks of the current abortion controversy that, "once again, it is vulnerable young women who do not have the safety valve of travel or other means, who are paying the price for our political cowardice" (Irish Independent, August 18).

Perhaps she should spare a thought for the vulnerable baby lying in one of our hospitals right now. Is that baby not paying a price? Is that baby's very life and existence "wrong" in the eyes of some, or at least unworthy of mention?

Tom Finegan

Celbridge, Co Kildare

Listening to the debate about the rights of a woman to have an abortion, it is easy to forget that there is a tiny human being who is currently fighting for life at the centre of this situation.

Very few commentators in the media have spoken about the impact for this child of being delivered so early. One study found that up to half the children born between 24 and 28 weeks' gestation have a disability. Other risks include hypothermia, hypoglycaemia and respiratory distress, to mention just a few.

So, if this child survives, it is a distinct possibility that he or she will experience the consequences of somebody else's 'choice' long into the future. Where are the child's rights in this debate?

Dr Ruth Cullen

South Circular Road, Dublin 8

Stand up to the ECB's bullying

The European Central Bank has confirmed that the loss of our permanent vote at ECB council level is imminent as a result of a change in voting structures, caused by the entry of Lithuania into the eurozone from January 1 next year (Irish Independent, August 11).

In no circumstances should Ireland, at local or European level, submit to the latest bullying tactic of the ECB. A more valid alternative would be to leave the monetary union and join Britain and Sterling.

Following the loss of our permanent vote at the ECB council, Ireland will be relegated to the second tier of smaller European countries, having less voting rights than the five bigger ones sitting on the council.

The ending of one state, one vote, for smaller member states next January is an affront to democracy.

The troika saw fit to compliment us on our efforts and success in economic recovery before it finally bid us "adieu" - but not, unfortunately, before leaving us shouldering the biggest part of a €64bn debt to the ECB.

Now, we see the true hypocrisy in how the European Central Bank says "thank you".

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary

Make mine a 99

There I was, glancing at my Irish Independent and waiting for my plain ice cream cone, when, with joy unbridled, I read that Brendan Howlin may offer some little relief to Public Service pensioners like me.

"Cancel that order...make it a 99," I hollered. Back to life in the 'fast lane' soon?!

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Swapping imperial masters

A question that has never been answered is what price would Ireland have paid for German support, 
had the Easter Rising in 1916 succeeded?

Would the country have simply swapped one imperial master for a somewhat less benign one?

Colum Joyce

Clifden, Co Galway

Irish Independent

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