People of faith do not deserve ridicule
Sir - Well done to Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, August 26) for such a fair and balanced article in the midst of all the hysteria surrounding the Pope's visit to Ireland and to the Sunday Independent in general for providing balanced coverage of such a controversial event.
I understand the pain and anger felt by so many whose lives have been affected by abuse and subsequent cover-ups. I think it was only right that there was a simultaneous gathering in Dublin to support victims of abuse while the Pope said Mass in the Phoenix Park.
However, I do not understand the constant ridicule of people of faith. I do not agree with groups buying large numbers of tickets to events with no intention of attending and so depriving people of faith of the opportunity. I do not agree with certain celebrities, one well-known author, for example, cracking jokes on Twitter about the '12' people who attended the Phoenix Park and engaging in banter ridiculing the 'sheep' who went to the ceremonies.
The church has great flaws, no doubt about that. People have every right to demand truth and justice and question its policies and practices. I have great admiration for people like Marie Collins, Katherine Zappone and Catherine Corless who call out the Church on its failings, but do so in a manner that is fair and respectful to those who have faith. I have never once heard any of them joke about or belittle people who are religious. They only want justice from an organisation that has committed great wrongs.
However, the church has also done great good across the world. It has provided comfort to many in times of great need and distress. There are Catholic missionaries all over the world who sacrifice their lives to help the poor, the sick, refugees, victims of famine or natural disasters. Many kind, good, honest people work within the church and they do not deserve to be ridiculed or laughed at because of their faith. Such behaviour does not leave them unscathed - I have seen first-hand how decent religious people have been left hurt by the comments and attitudes they encounter. They do not deserve to shoulder the blame for the actions of others.
What most right-thinking people want, religious or not, is an inclusive society, where all cultures, nationalities, creeds and faiths can feel comfortable and welcome. Leo Varadkar's speech last Saturday envisaged such a society and was delivered articulately and with courage and conviction. He has said in the past that while he supports the separation of church and State, "[he does] not believe in the socialist ideology, which is to push religion out of the public space and force people who are religious to be ashamed they have religious convictions… and turn them into pariahs". Given the fact that the Catholic Church fundamentally (and wrongly) disagrees with his lifestyle, this was a brave and admirable statement. It is heartening to know we have a leader with such intelligence, understanding and acceptance during divisive times.
A doubter no more
Sir - There I was with a coffee in one hand and the Sunday Independent in the other watching, with great indifference, Pope Francis in Knock, my long-suffering wife of 50 years biting her lip sitting beside me as I was firing bullets of cynical, caustic and sarcastic remarks about every aspect of his visit and the church, for example, paedophilia, homelessness, women priests, blah-blah.
Then, like a bolt of lightning, my road to Damascus moment arrived. The television camera focused on a garda taking off his hat and placing it on the head of a special needs child. The camera zoomed in to capture the delight of the child and his beaming, ecstatic family. I wiped away my tears as I replayed this magical scene which, in truth, was the essence of his visit.
Thank you for a kind and thoughtful gesture. It enlightened this doubting Thomas.
Who'd be Pope?
Sir - Great shots, who'd want to be Pope? Over 80 and you know no matter what he says will be twisted and taken up differently. He will be loved and hated, like most. He talked to abused people and he comes across as genuine and a good person doing his best. He did not look impressed by the dancers (showing their thighs) and it went on long and his face was long. I was disappointed Mary McAleese didn't talk with him. God bless all.
Oh, get out more
Sir - Eoghan Harris ('Pope Francis has come to a country with many cillini', Sunday Independent, August 26) does indeed start his article relating to the Pope's visit but then goes off at a tangent, as usual, to give us yet another 'ad-nauseam' story about the 'fate' of the Protestants of Cork during the 'War of Independence' and in the aftermath of the Treaty of 1921/2.
Mr Harris should get out more and broaden his horizons by relating to the history of the country as a whole and comment on the atrocities, etc, committed by 'outside-forces' which led to the reprisals by the IRA against the Protestant community. He could start by referring to he various 'pogroms' carried out against the Catholics in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast, around the same time as the events he continuously refers to, in his triadic articles.
Two wrongs do not make a right, but some connectivity between the wrongs would go a long way to getting rid of the bile that permeates our history even to this day.
Time to act now
Sir- The Catholic Church must do two things to show its leadership has real remorse and sincerely wishes to make reparation for the terror and pain inflicted on children.
Firstly, Pope John Paul II must be removed from sainthood. As Pope, effectively CEO of the church for almost 27 years, and given that he appeared to be an able and astute administrator, one can hardly be expected to believe he wasn't aware of the cover-ups. Many probably believe he condoned some of the cover-ups to protect the church.
Secondly, each diocese, and religious institution, must now make available to the police all reports and records regarding clerical sexual abuse.
Sir - I was one of thousands who attended Papal events last weekend. I saw the Pope close up in O'Connell Street, Croke Park and the Phoenix Park. It was a far cry, in more ways than one, from seeing Pope John Paul II as a speck in the distance at Knock Basilica in 1979 when I was 15.
I do not regret attending last weekend's events. However, I could just as easily have attended the vigils in Tuam and Dublin in solidarity with people harmed by the Catholic Church.
It is not a question of them and us or people trying to demonise the church, although a tiny minority of people do in fact do this. I believe the vast majority of people who attended the Papal events had their own struggles about going. You would not be human without being horrified over the crimes of sexual abuse carried out by members of the clergy over the years.
As I queued up for a burger just before my bus was due to leave the Kylemore coach park to take me back west, I got talking to a 16/17-year-old lad from Kilkenny. He told me three coaches had come up from his parish with young people on each. What I found interesting was that one of the first things he said was he thought it was good the Pope had talked about the sex abuse scandals a few times. It was obviously foremost in his mind.
Priests who have carried out sexual abuses over the years have done enormous damage to the church. In one way it's remarkable any young people still attend services.
Is there a future for the church in this country? Time will tell. A lot of older people have retained their faith, despite all that has come to light. But I believe many young people who would like to grow in their faith will slip away unless the Catholic Church deals finally and unambiguously with the sexual abuse issue.
There is a future for the Catholic Church in this country, albeit not like it has been historically, but this must not be taken for granted. The Pope's welcome words on this issue must now be followed up with actions,
Just too powerful
Sir - The Pope's visit to Ireland has been overshadowed by abuse scandals. There is no doubt victims would have been spared the horrors of clerical sex abuse if our country had never been partitioned.
The overwhelming power and control exercised by Catholic hierarchy in the 26 counties ensured many perpetrators were protected and never brought before the courts until it was too late. If any Catholic bishop had tried to silence the likes of Ian Paisley in an all-Ireland parliament, he would have grabbed the crozier and snapped it in two.
IRA volunteer Cathal Goulding spent years in English prisons in the 1950s and noted that many clergymen of a Protestant denomination were jailed for sex crimes, unlike the situation in the 26 counties where the Catholic Church was far too powerful to allow any of its ministry to come before the courts even for a motoring offence.
Sir - So, Pope Francis has come and he has gone. What have we learned? Perhaps not a lot.
We found that fewer believe in what the church has to offer. This we knew. We found that there are still those who will forgive them and continue as before. This we also knew.
We found that there are those who will not forgive or forget. We knew this also.
So what is the Pope to do?
Fire all of the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests who looked the other way?
Would there be any left?
Some would say it might be a good thing. Start again and this time do things right.
There might be a large sale on millstones.
Michael O Meara,
Sir - It is misleading to suggest, as Leo Varadkar has done in the presence of Pope Francis (Sunday Independent, August 26), that all the changes of recent time in Ireland are good for Irish society.
What is happening is that some Irish people are comparing their country to other western countries who they believe are better than us, and concluding that Ireland needs to "modernise".
A cursory analysis of their decision-making would suggest that the countries they're looking at are usually wealthier than theirs.
It tends, therefore, to be the case that the goal is overtly wealth and money, rather than happiness.
That's not good for this society. It's not good for any society, in fact.
To make the accumulation of material wealth the goal of our society, even in a roundabout way, will ultimately lead to unhappiness for the many, and even for the few who gain much from it.
The problem, of course, is that there are few, if any, happy countries to look up to and that means that it is up to Ireland to be the role model for countries seeking insight into just being more happy.
In this respect, Ireland has a relevant history. We shouldn't throw it away in a desire to embrace materialism in order to be part of a deeply unhappy material world.
Nation doesn't need a costly president
Sir - As the country faces a costly presidential election, one wonders does Ireland need a president and can it afford to sustain a position which is largely a ceremonial office? In my humble opinion, as a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, the answer to both questions is an emphatic no. The office of president was established in 1937, as a replacement for the office of the British governor-general of Ireland, also known as viceroy, which existed during the 1922-37 Irish Free State. The 92-roomed Aras an Uachtarain, formerly the Viceregal Lodge, is the official residence of the president of Ireland.
Unlike most parliamentary republics, the president is not even the nominal chief executive. Executive authority in Ireland is expressly vested in the democratically elected government. The president holds office for an inordinately long seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. Unlike a general, or local election, it's almost impossible for an ordinary citizen of Ireland to contest this election as a nomination requires the support of at least 20 members of the Oireachtas, or at least four local authorities.
The office of presidency is weighed down by protocols and formalities, which are irrelevant in a modern republic grappling with serious social, health, welfare and housing issues.
In addition to expense-free living in the Aras, the president enjoys an annual salary of €249,000. Presidential staff and functions, at home and abroad, cost the taxpayer at least €5m per annum. Some very fine people, including the present incumbent, have held the office of president. But, in my opinion, the position is now redundant and the money spent in electing and maintaining a president of Ireland, a nominal and virtually powerless figurehead, is badly needed elsewhere.
Transparency of Gallagher 'advert'
Sir - I was very disappointed to see a page space given to Sean Gallagher (Soapbox, Sunday Independent, August 26).
As far as I am aware, I have never heard of him being such an advocate of the homeless, or does this coincide with a run for the presidency? It's akin to Gay Mitchell talking out about his concerns for mental health at the last presidential election, and we've seen no follow up on what he made out to be his outright passion. This was free advertising and campaigning, and from a newspaper that titles itself independent. It should have had the word 'advertorial' written at the top. Maybe he has friends in high places? The article was also very light on criticism of past and current ministers, who have repeatedly failed to tackle this dire situation, but merely pass the portfolio on to the next minister.
Mr Gallagher also managed to take a pop at the current president which confirmed to me his intention, and the purpose of his article. I cannot believe this obvious hijacking of an extremely marginalised group in our society. Shame on the Sunday Independent and more so, as it was on the same page as a true stalwart, who fights for the voice of the homeless and other injustices on a weekly basis. Gene Kerrigan does more on a Sunday to fight and educate the public on the plight of the marginalised in society, and the obvious inaction of successive governments and their right-wing policies, than Mr Gallagher will ever do. I hope his run will be short and people will see it for the ego trip it would appear to be.
Sir - Eamonn Sweeney in his feature on Limerick Hurling (Sport, Sunday Independent, August 19) recalls a meeting with Parkgate publican Ned Rea, who won an All-Ireland Hurling medal with Limerick in 1973, involving Raymond Smith's invaluable and rare book Player's No 6 Book of Hurling.
Interestingly, in that year's championship semi-final when Limerick beat London to reach the final, Ned Rea, who was playing at full forward for Limerick, was marked by his brother Gerry, who was starring for London.