Monday 27 May 2019

My church ought to choose reconciliation

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Sir - It's water under the bridge. I looked up the meaning of the word "misogyny" as referred to in your recent edition. I discovered that it means "the hatred of women". Now, whatever the faults of the Catholic Church, this is not one of them.

It is true that women are denied many functions within the church, but it is also true that they are the backbone of many institutions, including the church. When I was a young boy, it was pointed out to me by the Christian Brothers that it was God who made the rule, not them and the rules could not be changed. This is not true. During my lifetime, my church has changed dramatically.

Women no longer need to be "churched" after having a baby. You can now eat meat on a Friday, you can now handle the Host (it used to be a sacrilege), you do not have to fast from midnight the day before to receive Communion the morning after. You can now get married during Lent. You were allowed one main meal with two collations of 11 ounces. As if we had any means of measuring them; as if we had a main meal anyway. Dances were forbidden during Lent; it is no longer an offence not to go to Mass every Sunday. All of this points to the fact that it was men who made the rules. Not God. It is clear that men have changed the rules as they have done.

Christ made only one rule: love thine neighbour as thyself. My church should now change away from wealth, power, condemnation and oppression, fear of God and all the rules and regulations into one of love, reconciliation, care and, above all, peace. Christ also said: "My peace I leave you." My church should try it.

Michael Kiely,


Co Cork


Questions we need to hear

Sir - Apparently Eoghan Harris is persona non grata in the precincts of the RTE studio (Sunday Independent, August 19), for, as he writes, RTE "avoids people like me who ask awkward questions". This seems to me a flimsy excuse for a barring order from an organisation bankrolled in the main by the taxpayers of whom Eoghan is surely one.

He begins his article stressing the importance of society needing "an accurate grip on the past", preventing certain elements from conjuring their own slant on historical events. Incidentally, would his contribution to the exposure of the conditions of the West Cork Protestants be in the category of "awkward questions"?

Eoghan ends his piece by referring to Ronan McGreevy's film United Ireland: How Nationalists and Unionists fought together in Flanders.

Apropos, am I just speculating if I end my letter in verse?

"On Flanders fields unity was won,

"On Irish soil, that union was undone."

Patrick Fleming,


Dublin 9


Upset at Dear Mary's response to victim

Sir - As a fellow psychotherapist, as a sexual violence campaigner and as a rape victim, I am beyond upset with Mary O'Conor's 'Dear Mary' column (Living, Sunday Independent, August 19) .The writer outlines a rape, and tells Mary that she has a baby as a result and feels ''distraught'' about telling the father. She says that thinking about it brings on ''reliving'' the rape.

Mary ignores the explicitly described rape and the impact of it on the victim, and instructs her to meet the rapist, alone, to tell him he is a father, including the suggestion to write to him if he doesn't want to meet, and to offer to get a DNA test done. Nowhere is the woman and her well-being centred in the response.

It is 2018. A psychotherapist wilfully ignoring a disclosure of rape or potential rape in any context is not acceptable. What I believe could have been said to the writer is along the following lines: "She is the expert of herself, and she is the expert of what happened to her. We are sorry for what happened to her and we are sorry for what she is currently going through. We believe her and it wasn't her fault. She has managed to not only survive that violation but has gone on to survive a pregnancy resulting from it, the birth, and raising a baby on her own. She is now considering what is best for her baby. This speaks to a person of generosity, strength of character and resilience.

"It sounds like she is dealing with significant trauma. She says that she is distraught about telling the father and when she thinks of it she relives the night. She could tentatively consider putting the father to one side for now. She can always come back to it. There is no rush; she is dealing with more than enough. She could consider placing herself at the centre of this and sitting with these feelings of wanting to tell the father about the baby, and the part of her that doesn't. Perhaps the part of her that becomes distraught and relives the night needs to be gently looked after before she can make a decision.

"While not wanting to offer advice, but before considering making contact with the father, one wonders about some things. Who in her life can she trust with this information? Who can she speak to about this? Who can support her, emotionally and otherwise? Has she considered looking into finding a counsellor? The Dublin Rape Crisis centre's 24-hour helpline is always available to her on 1800 77 8888. It might be worth talking through what happened to her, and her current feelings about telling the father about her baby. It might help her manage the feelings and images that accompany thinking of him.

"Go forward gently, with care and compassion."

Mia Christina Doring,

Monkstown Therapy Centre,


Co Dublin

Mary O'Conor writes: I am so sorry that my response has upset you so much. I gave a lot of thought to this particular letter before I wrote my reply. Having a letter is quite different to seeing somebody in the counselling room as you will understand. Therapy can sometimes last for months which allows for a good therapeutic relationship to build and for trust to develop and gradually the client's detailed story unfolds.

A letter to Dear Mary is far more limited in scope and I feel obliged to deal with the specific questions I am asked. I am reluctant to define an event for a writer when they do not do so themselves.

If the writer had been with me in person then we could have explored her experience in greater detail. As it was, I had to concentrate on the subject about which she wrote looking for advice. In that regard I still feel that it would be best for her to tell the father of her child the situation, particularly as it is important that she knows the father's medical history.

I have indeed attended a training course at the Rape Crisis Centre and am fully aware of the wonderful work that it does. I have given its helpline number in the past and will do so again in the future.

My concern for the emotional well-being of my writers is paramount and I have the utmost sympathy for you and for this young woman who finds herself in such a difficult situation. I am truly sorry if this did not come across.


Vital advice left out

Sir - The Dear Mary advice column (Living, Sunday Independent, August 19) printed the testimony of a woman who described an unwanted sexual encounter in the following words: "I realised he was having sex with me but there was nothing I could do."

The letter writer became pregnant from a sexual encounter she clearly did not consent to, which a doctor advised her to go to the gardai about.

Mary O'Conor in her reply wrote: "I am not going to go into the rights and wrongs of what happened because the details are far too sketchy for me to make a judgment." Nowhere in her reply does she reference rape crisis services. Nowhere in her reply does she call a spade a spade. Rape isn't a grey area and to push it aside with such language is damaging to victims and citizens. The rights and wrongs of rape is a simply drawn line. Rape is a crime against a person.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre runs a free National 24-Hour Helpline. The number is 1800 778 888. The centre's most recent annual report addressing 2016 data noted the number of calls to the helpline relating to adult rape had increased 24pc over the past year.

Jeanne Sutton,

Dublin 7


This witch-hunt

Sir - If the witch-hunt against the Catholic Church was directed against any other church, there would be holy war.

Jacinta Kennedy,


Co Tipperary


Among my people

Sir - The feeling of being among my own people at the World Meeting of Families last week was refreshing - walking among families from all over the world, normal people who just happen to share a faith.

In the hall among the stalls and listening to interesting and relevant panel discussions on family life; conflicts, worries for the future, adolescence, divorce, technology and its uses, but also its impact on communication in the home. Simple pleasures such as eating a meal together are increasingly rare. The whole event did not feel out of touch or archaic in any way, though these are many of the associations of being a practising Catholic in Ireland today. Some of the more powerful talks were on the work of missionaries who quietly do such good work.

It was heartbreaking to hear some of the stories they witness and the suffering of children in the massacre of innocents still happening in Syria today. The basic human right to play and be educated has been taken away from millions of children around the world as told by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, in his powerful speech. Though the church has hurt many children, let us not forget the good work our missionaries, priests and nuns do in the world and try to spare the vitriol.

Sinead Lynch,


Co Cork


Pope's visit means so much to me

Sir - Calls for "the truth about abuse cover-ups", and "a road map for the future", which go beyond the inadequacy of apologies, condemnations and compensation, characterised the run-up to Pope Francis's visit.

Coming to such awareness of our impotence in the face of evil is essential if we are to allow the good news, that has been the hallmark of Pope Francis's papacy, to touch our hearts and penetrate our national psyche.

Jesus did not come into the world to exhume wrongs, apportion blame and wallow in tears over what might have been. Rather, He proclaimed an amnesty for even the most reviled sinners. This so scandalised those who saw no need for God's mercy that they had Him executed, only to be confronted with reports of His resurrection.

We need our Holy Father to reach out to us and confirm us in this faith - the faith of our church - that no matter what horror has marked our past, it need not go on doing so. Jesus Christ can break its control over us. He can deliver us from its power. This is the message of forgiveness, reconciliation and hope: the "unique selling point" of the church Jesus founded. It is to bring good out of every evil, it is to participate in God's kingdom taking shape, coming alive in our own person.

This is not to minimise any betrayal of trust. But there is a bigger picture, and our lives are not complete until we embrace it, and nothing anyone has done, can rob us of it, the greatest joy on earth, experiencing our heavenly father's tender care for us.

This is why Pope Francis's visit means so much to me.

Gearoid Duffy,



Putting it to VS...

Sir - What a wonderful article 'To Sir, with love' written by Ciara Dwyer in 2001 after she interviewed the late writer, VS Naipaul (Sunday Independent, August 19). No wonder it was re-published around the world at the time. I quote Ciara, "I feel an utter failure". No failure here, Ciara. It was indeed a difficult meeting with this 'cold creature'. But his wife, Nadira, was so right about one thing when she said, "Sweetie, in another 10 years you might make a good journalist. I think you have it in you". No might about it. Ciara was well on her way.

Brian McDevitt,


Co Donegal


Sir - I enjoyed reading Ciara Dwyer's interview with VS Naipaul again. I am surely not alone in wishing more interviewees would follow his uncompromising example when talking to journalists, especially Irish ones.

Sean Coleman,


Co Kerry


History's mongrel

Sir - Gerald Morgan's eulogising of Wellington ('Yes, we should all thank Wellington', Letters, Sunday Independent, August 19), claiming (1) that he (Wellington) was Irish (the words 'stable', 'born' and 'horse' spring to mind); (2) that he campaigned for Catholic Emancipation (he did not seem to have been very successful); and (3) that he was the liberator of Portugal, Spain and Europe almost left me speechless.

The latter claim had nothing to do with Portugal, Spain or Europe, but all to do with stopping France from becoming top-dog in Europe and, in the process, retain its own position of top-dog.

Wellington, like all of his landed ascendancy ilk, was mongrel in nationality - English in Ireland but Irish in England.

Mr Morgan is yet another in the long line of ''historians'' who believe in that well-trodden myth that the divisions in this country were all about religion: whereas it was all about territory and power. Religion was a convenient excuse and the glue that held it all together.

Peter Pallas,


Co Cork


Why it's time to consider Irexit

Sir - For the second time A Leavy (Letters, Sunday Independent, March 25, August 19) has used your page to assert that Brexit was "a declaration of economic war". This is a deeply flawed argument.

An economic war is defined as a situation where one nation (or group of nations) does things that are both deliberately and, primarily intended, to weaken the economy of another.

The UK's primary purpose in leaving the EU is to regain national self-determination.

The EU's primary purpose, in Article 50 negotiations, seems to be to weaken the economy of the UK as a punishment for leaving and to deter other states from following suit.

By this definition, it is the EU who has declared economic war on the UK, not the other way around. It is one of the great ironies of history that it is now Ireland that seeks to deny the right of self-determination to its former colonial oppressor.

Leavy is also incorrect in his/her characterisation of the political position of Ulster unionists. It is not the UK that is insisting on a border, it is the EU. Ireland is threatening its own economic well-being by supporting the EU's stubborn rejection of all proposed alternatives, even where they exist elsewhere on EU borders.

Finally, the only organisation that has declared economic war on Ireland in my lifetime (I am 67) is the EU with its unfair and immoral insistence on socialising banking debt - mainly to protect at-risk German banks. Is it not time to consider Irexit?

Tim McMahon,


Co Clare


Limerick's man

Sir - As a Kildare native, a county which would not be regarded as a hurling hotbed, it gave me great pleasure to see Limerick coming out on top after a nail-biting final in a year that has provided some of the most thrilling games of all time.

While congratulating the county, its never-say-die team, panel and fantastic manager, I am also conscious of what this victory must mean to a man who has done more than any individual for the people of his native county, JP McManus. I am sure this victory will give him more satisfaction than any horse racing victory or business deal. This great Limerick victory may repay his loyalty in some small way.

Tony Fagan,



Sunday Independent

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