Might the sky fall in on the Irish Government?

The question being asked in Ireland this morning is not whether the Government will win its ill-considered referendum asking its people to redefine marriage as a bond between people regardless of their sex, but whether it can long outlive the defeat of this proposal.

The Irish people are a warm-hearted lot but they are not irrational. Among the countries of Europe most tried by the debacle of the financial melt-down in the last decade, they were the ones who resisted the emotional response and knuckled down to sort it out. All observers now give them credit for this. The only rage which they gave vent to was in the face of another piece of gross mismanagement by their Government when it muddled its way through the realignment of the country’s water utility.

Despite what very suspect opinion polls – conducted through cell-phone users in many cases – are telling us, the writing on the wall for the Enda Kenny and his ministers is ominous. It has been a bad week for them – and it is still only Wednesday.

On Monday their star spokesman and campaign leader, Minister Simon Coveney, was pummelled on television by the reasoned legal and social policy arguments of his podium opponent, Senator Ronan Mullen, and pro-marriage supporters in the studio audience. He could not answer any questions convincingly and was left plucking emotional strings. His efforts, combined with similar responses from the pro-redefinition segment of the audience, did nothing but show that there simply are no rational arguments which can be advanced for this proposal, riddled as it is with inconsistencies.

Yesterday the Irish Times – now beginning to redeem itself in some eyes as an even-handed communicator of news and opinion – carried op-eds on the issue from two expert witnesses – to employ a legal metaphor – exposing the deep flaws in Government policy. Emeritus Regius Professor of Law in Trinity College, Dublin, William Binchy, exposed the fallacies in the Government’s arguments that the passing of this referendum would have no impact of the State’s child welfare laws. In the other piece, another former Trinity academic, sociologist and constitutional expert, Dr. Anthony Coughlan, argued that the impact of a ‘Yes’ vote would have repercussions beyond Ireland’s shores. By effectively nullifying a protocol won by Ireland under the Lisbon EU Treaty, the passing of the referendum could lead to same-sex marriage becoming an undeniable human right throughout all 28 EU states. For many this suggests that the entire project, funded as it is by international gender ideologists, is a Trojan Horse designed to destroy marriage across the European continent.

That was yesterday. Today we have news of another own-goal by the Government itself. The lead story in the online Irish Times this morning covers the retrospective withdrawal by a Government quango of funding for the Catholic Church’s marriage advisory council, ACCORD. Despite the attempt to dress this up as routine cost-cutting, the ineptly handled decision makes the Government look every inch the draconian agents that they are. People have been reminded that the Minister for Children – whose brief this comes under – is the same man who as Minister for Health two years ago shepherded the Government’s abortion legislation through parliament. After a thoroughly undemocratic exercise, he reminded Catholic hospitals that their funding would be cut if they did not implement that legislation as law required. He is now trying to tell people that the cutting of ACCORD’s funding has nothing to do with plans to redefine marriage. Good luck to him.

Add to this the truly scathing letter in this morning’s Irish Times from one of the country’s leading liberals, Emeritus Professor of History in University College Cork, John A. Murphy. It is not just the razor-sharp content of this letter which will dismay the Government. It is the fact that it comes from one of the country’s most respected historians, that he is one who has often been highly critical of the Catholic Church, and that his liberal credentials are impeccable.

Finally – although probably not, because it is still only 11.30 as this is written, – after a flood of ‘Yes’ endorsements from a range of celebrity sports stars, media people and pop stars, most of it mindless gushing of emotion, comes a very reasoned argument from one of the stars of Ireland’s most popular and most participative sport, Gaelic Football, the first cousin of Australian Rules Football. This comes from Dublin star, Ger Brennan, and again makes front page news in the largest circulation morning paper in the country, the Irish Independent.

Brennan writes, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that everybody is equal in dignity and it holds that marriage is a male-female union. I don’t think the Declaration of Human Rights is homophobic. I’m voting ‘No’”. Brennan’s well argued declaration, exuding respect for his gay friends and playing companions, will speak to his generation in a way that will worry a Government that thought it had that constituency in its grasp. This will put a serious dent in the Dublin metropolitan vote, as will Murphy’s in the second largest metropolitan area, Cork.

But the most significant element in all these interventions in the debate is not just that they question this proposal. It is that they place a massive question mark in people’s minds about the general competence of this Irish Government.

A letter in today’s Irish Independent

A letter in today’s Irish Independent tells us that “there is insufficient moral consensus in Ireland to ground consideration of the country’s future.”

“The clash of antagonistic wills,” Philip O’Neill writes, “evident in the abortion debate and in current discussion of what to do in Syria or with our economy, often parades as rational debate, leaving us with little more than intensified divisions.” So far so good. Certainly, a lot of parading, a good deal of intensity and deep, deep division. Parading is clearly a sham but intensity and division are no bad things in themselves. Fear and loathing of both, which O’Neill seems to harbor, may well be harmful if they lead you to some of his conclusions.

“The continuing drift away from the church”, he writes, “is perhaps the most telling change. However, this is not indicative of a new paganism but a justifiable expression of dissatisfaction with a form of religion that had become radically focused on itself. Even the priests express unease at the church’s sometimes neurotic fear of the slightest shift from fidelity to its programme.”

I think we are dealing with more than the “slightest” shifts in contemporary Irish Catholicism here. If the utterances emerging from some of the followers and sympathesiers of the Ascociation of Catholic Priests are anything to go by, a good few Protestants are more in tune with orthodox Catholicism than with this kind of “fidelity”.

Who ever said morality was about consensus? Well, sadly, a lot of people did – and that is where the radical divide lies. The Catholic Church’s teaching will never be developed or defined by consensus. It is a given – by God – or it is nothing. Otherwise we will just be indulging in another bit of democratic groping for the truth. Mankind in human society deepens in its understanding of the revealed truth down through the ages. That is very different from a process of consensus.

There is no doubt but that a search is involved if we are to know the Truth. But is is not to be found in consensus. It will be found in the way and in the spirit which Pope Francis’ encyclical, Lumen Fidei, suggests when he quotes Saint Irenaeus of Lyons who tells how Abraham, before hearing God’s voice, had already sought him “in the ardent desire of his heart” and “went throughout the whole world, asking himself where God was to be found”, until “God had pity on him who, all alone, had sought him in silence”.

An utterly dishonest programme of denigration

Past reality. Vision of the future?

The juxtaposition of two stories on the Irish Independent online in a pathetic way reflects something of the moral confusion our world finds itself in today. In one, Liam Fay fulminates against the Catholic Church and indeed against the very reality of religion itself over the mild remarks made recently by Fr. Kevin Doran in the exercise of his responsibility as a board member of the Mater Hospital. In the other, we learn of a woman suing her family for the pressure they put her under to abort her twin daughters. One is the harbinger of a new religious persecution in Ireland; the other further evidence of the diabolical and rampant selective genocide – now called gendercide – in progress on the subcontinent of India.

Fay’s intemperate rant was frightening in its intolerance of any tolerance other than his own narrowly based “scientific” view of the world and mankind. It was also frightening in its offering of further evidence of the relentless progress of what we are increasingly justified in calling the Cromwellian faction in Irish politics and media, the subject of a post here a few weeks ago.

The same strategy is evident in every line of Fay’s diatribe against Fr. Doran, the Mater Hospital, and the religious beliefs of the majority of the population of this planet. Fay is utterly blind to the reality that his own world view is determined by an utterly unproven tenet – that there is no God and that anyone who thinks there is a God has no right to live his live, organise his society and his world in the light of that reality. Fay’s totalitarianism tells the world that it must, on the contrary, organise itself according to his beliefs. Ultimately what he proposes as scientific is in fact a belief, and no belief is more dangerous and frightening than the one which proclaims itself to be scientific.

Tolstoy said it all about this type of thinking when he described the grotesque self-assurance of General Pfuel in War and Peace. It was the worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth – science – which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.

The utterly dishonest programme of denigration of the religious and priests of this country, and of all and any who uphold and promote – for the sake of the common good – the social teaching of the Catholic Church, is plain for all to see and is typified by Fay. They are following in the steps of Thomas Cromwell, who knew that for King Henry VIII to succeed with his reformation and greed-motivated destruction of the monasteries, he would have to sustain it with strong yet simple reasons calculated to appeal to the popular mind. Some decent pretext had to be found for presenting the proposed measure of suppression and confiscation to the nation. For this reason the failures of a handful of religious houses was the device used to blacken the characters of the monks and nuns throughout the land. That sounds familiar in a modern Irish context.

This Cromwell did and followed on with one of the greatest acts of cultural vandalism and religious persecution in the early modern age. Fay, no doubt, would say “good riddance”.

Both these stories point to one thing: that the culture of death, a culture rooted in a philosophy of hedonism, is a reality in our world and the forces promoting it are formidable. While ultimately it has within itself the seeds of its own destruction – like communism before it, its very unnaturalness will eventually destroy it, – the longer it takes to stagger to its demise, the more innocent human lives will lie in its wake.


A bad week for human dignity and honest journalism

I’m not sure that that I needed it, but affirmation of one’s judgement from independent sources is always useful. Eilis O’Hanlon’s piece in today’s Irish Independent reaffirmed me in my judgement that I did the right thing in refusing to fund the Irish Times with my weekly subscription. We have been through a bad week for objective journalism – sorry, not objective, honest journalism. The Times is not the only medium in which my colleagues have shamed themselves but it led the charge.

The shamelessness with which the paper fostered the hysteria around the sad death of Savita Halappanavar,  and used the woman and her family in promoting a cause which is accountable for the deaths of millions of children across the globe, is astounding. The complexity of the case, the sensitivity with which human decency should have suggested it be treated, were thrown to the winds.

O’Hanlon cites the submission by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to the Oireachtas All-Party Commission on the Constitution as an example of the standards which should have applied. It said on that occasion: “There is a fundamental difference between abortion carried out with the intention of taking the life of the baby … and the unavoidable death of the baby resulting from essential treatment to protect the life of the mother.”  The institute’s Clinical Practice Guide on the management of early pregnancy miscarriage, she notes, warns: “Women are sensitive about references to pregnancy loss. As their loss is not out of choice, use of words like ‘abortion’ can be sometimes offensive at a vulnerable time. Hence, discussion or documentation of management of early pregnancy loss should be worded appropriately.” O’Hanlon continues:

There was no such sensitivity shown at the Irish Times last week in its reporting on the death of 31- year-old Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital after contracting septicemia following a miscarriage. Instead the paper opted to present what had happened as a simple morality tale of what can happen when a woman is denied an “abortion”. Beyond the headlines there was more nuance about the range of treatments which, in practice, are offered to women in Ireland in similar circumstances, but there was no doubt that the pitch being presented by the Irish Times was one of the dangers of failing over a 20-year period to legislate for abortion in light of the X Case.

The debate for the rest of the week was coloured entirely by the Irish Times’s decision to reduce a complex personal tragedy, about which few facts were still known, to a rallying call for a new abortion law. And it wasn’t only in Ireland. The world’s media, having picked up on the tragedy, echoed the same line, deaf to the testimony of doctors that what was being called for in this case was not an abortion but a routine clinical procedure carried out on thousands of women in Ireland, and ignoring entirely the position of pro-life campaigners who made it clear that they had no moral or legal objection to Savita’s life taking precedence in these circumstances.

The Irish Times rushed to fill the vacuum left by an absence of facts with a single word, “abortion”, which was then tossed into the debate like a hand grenade into a small crowded room. In doing so, they not only sent out a message to the world that Ireland is some benighted, backward, bigoted land where religious dogma takes precedence over young women’s lives. At home they also opened the door to a vitriolic assault on pro-lifers who were suddenly being blamed for a chain of events which none of them had supported or would ever support.

There was an air of palpable nastiness in the air; the sense that a coiled spring of anger and bitterness which had been building since Clare Daly’s private member’s bill to deal with abortion was defeated in the Dail had suddenly found an outlet and could be unleashed. Pro-choice groups were now able to portray anyone who did not want to immediately legislate for more liberal abortion laws as a monster who was responsible for the death of an innocent young woman.

There was no doubt that they were upset and outraged by what had happened, but no side has a monopoly on compassion. This wasn’t a case of good vs evil, the compassionate vs the heartless, but pro-choice campaigners seemed to feel that they had a monopoly on human sympathy. They took total ownership of the story, refusing to allow anyone to even express their own sense of horror and sadness at a woman’s death unless they signed up wholesale to the pro-choice manifesto.

Everyone who dared put their head above the parapet was raked with rhetorical machine gun fire. Caroline Simons, solicitor for the pro-life movement, was measured and humane on Tonight With Vincent Browne, but her reasonableness seemed to annoy the critics more.

Senator Ronan Mullen received even more abuse when he appeared on Pat Kenny’s radio show. Fine Gael’s Michelle Mulherin, on the same programme the next day, didn’t stand a chance, having previously made an ill-advised comment about “fornication” in an unrelated context.

Anyone who tried to present any sort of argument for limiting abortion was tarred as a hardhearted dinosaur, a defender of the abstract rights of foetuses over the life of living, breathing, suffering women.

I heard recently that at a promotion event in the head office of the Irish Times, its editor – in defending the paper’s coverage of the abortion issue – said that he himself was a Catholic and that he was not pro-abortion.  If that is so then the only explanation for what the record of publication shows is that  the paper’s standard of honesty, fairness and integrity is being set by a clique within his organisation. This clique is clearly far more interested in achieving legislation which will facilitate the deaths of thousands of babies in their mother’s wombs than it is in providing an honest, comprehensive and balanced news and comment service to its readers. Whatever the truth of the matter is, and while this standard persists, I feel vindicated in my personal decision to cancel my subscription.