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Interview with Archbishop Martin – Part Two December 23, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, Religion.

… from today’s Mail on Sunday, and again part of a series conducted by Jason O’Toole. Those assuming any nascent liberalism in his message would be sorely disappointed – which on one level is fair enough. You don’t get to be Archbishop in the current period through an inclination to the heterodox. But it is interesting how he has been portrayed as a softer voice than those heard in the past. That may well be true, but the song remains the same.

[and] what about those in the Church who either covered up cases of abuse or turned a blind eye. Do they have questions to answer here? ‘We had in the archdiocese of Dublin a small number of serial paedophiles who did immense damage and they should have been stopped at the early stages. I honestly believe that mistakes were made somehow or other, that these people deceived people and played on divisions.

The state of the RCC in Ireland?

Dr Martin acknowledges that, in the wake of the scandals, the Church faces an uphill struggle to encourage people to return to Mass. It’s one of his major concerns for the New Year. ‘If I were to get out a graph it would show the number of people attending Mass is going down and the number of young people attending Mass is going down. If I were in business, the shareholders would probably be saying, “You’ve got the wrong man in there.” You’re facing this situation and you have to try and give leadership. On the other hand, you know your own limitations.’

Same-sex marriage?

When I broach the subject, the Archbishop says: ‘There are times when popular opinion may not be right. Morality can’t be built simply on public opinion polls. Parliamentarians are not elected to be herded; you give them a mandate to do what is best for the country. Sometimes, they should be able to stand up to their political leadership and even populist opinion.


‘Marriage is something quite unique. There’s an enrichment of the relationship between a man and a woman that is unique. From a Christian point of view, from the very beginnings in the Scriptures, it says the image of God can be mirrored in male and female. That doesn’t necessarily mean that gay and lesbian people don’t have rights that have to be protected. It isn’t in denying marriage that they become second-class citizens.’



The issue of the Catholic Church handing schools back to the State will be at the forefront of debate next year, too. Will the Church be seeking financial compensation? ‘It’s a very complex question. Take, for example a school run by a religious congregation. There was support by the Government, by the local community and by the religious congregation, who’ve put a lot of money and effort back into a school – how is that to be compensated? They may have to maintain a large number of elderly religious and so on. Some recognition of that is part of it.


…for Dr Martin, the Church’s position is not negotiable. ‘There are two lives here and we must do everything we can to ensure that we deliver both safely,’ he says. ‘We were all unborn children at some stage. At that stage, all the potential that was in us was there. We should be able to look towards a situation that stresses the protection of both, as far as possible.’

Again, the language is more emollient. But…

Does he believe the Government will have blood on its hands if the legislation is enacted? ‘That’s not the language that I use,’ he says. ‘But I do say that all legislators should look from a moral point of view at the fact that we can work to ensure that both mother and child can survive, if possible. If a pregnancy is actually a threat, I think there are ways of dealing with that. The Constitution at the moment is about the equal protection for mother and child. If we lose that, I think we are losing something very significant.’

And it is interesting to note his response when given the example of slightly less abstract circumstances:

What about specific cases when an expectant mother could die if her pregnancy is not terminated? ‘You can’t legislate for every case. I believe the tight pro-life situation, that we’ve had in Ireland has actually driven the medical profession to reach a very high standard. By relaxing that, things could be different. All the indications are that cases like that are very rare. The fact is, the level of maternal mortality in Ireland is one of the lowest. I’m not too sure that changing the law will actually improve that. ‘There are always going to be cases where something happens, either the child is lost or, very rarely, the mother is lost. They are real tragedies. But we have the ability to continually to do better in those cases – to ensure healthy life for the mother and for the baby that’s being born. If we weaken that, then we are deciding that one life is more important than the other.

Politically there’s also a certain… well, read on…

How well does Dr Martin feel the current Government is serving society? ‘There’s a big political challenge. You don’t know who you are voting for any more because the likelihood of any parliament is that there will be a coalition.

You vote for one party and for its programme and then, when they don’t live up to that programme, you’re told: “Well, really what we are doing is the Government programme; it’s when we came together.” ‘This will bring a certain disillusionment with politics. You ask the other question – were the original aims realistic or were they simply promises or do they make plans that are possible but they know that they are never going to be realised because they’re going into a coalition?’

And this isn’t exactly the option for the poor…

‘I understand that it’s very difficult to write a budget and spend more when money isn’t there. But these across-the-board cuts are also pretty blunt instruments. You have to have some way of measuring. They should be constantly doing this, where the cuts are hurting more than they should be and where they are hurting the disadvantaged.’

A safe pair of hands? Yes, indeed.


1. Forbolg - December 24, 2012

On economic issues the RCC is far to the left of the mainstream Irish political parties. On same sex marriage,abortion etc. the RCC/Martin position is entirely predictable and as likely to be opposed by Tories as those on the left. I’m not clear that the Mail article or the analysis of it tells us anything useful.


WorldbyStorm - December 24, 2012

Fair enough, but consider the weighting in terms of what Martin says as regards same sex marriage etc and anything approach economic issues. Not just 3 to 1 but 4 or 5 to 1. And consider the fact he doesn’t address them with anything like the same certainty but is ambiguous etc, etc. Got to admit that from where I stand that tell us something useful.

As to whether the Catholic Church is far to the left of mainstream Irish parties. To an extent that is so – it’s certainly more left wing to judge from various communications issued by it – but again I’m reminded of something splintered sunrise said that the formal programme of an organisation is often much less important than its inner culture. In this case I think we see a perfect example of that. And it raises the question what social or other weight is it bringing to bear in order to expedite those issues?


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