A leading Church of Ireland cleric has urged legislators to "use caution" when preparing changes to the Constitution dealing with blasphemy as an offence.
David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin — in a sermon at a service to mark the opening of the new law term — said caution should be used when changing the Constitution, especially on issues of morality.
Referring to the proposed constitutional amendment on the blasphemy provision, he said it had been reported there appeared to have been overwhelming support for its removal from people who made submissions to the Constitutional Convention.
The convention had recommended its removal and a date for a referendum has yet to be decided.
The submissions were part of a much wider debate including the role of God and religion in the Constitution and the separation of Church and State, the Archdeacon said. He believed Church and State, and Church and the law, are “inextricably linked”.
“That is not to say the Church should interfere in matters of the State or the law but its role should be one of engagement with them in critique and moral guidance acting as a type of moral compass, the Archdeacon said.
“Right living and righteousness or morality are part of the one thing,” he added.
Archdeacon Pierpoint was speaking at the service in the Church of Ireland St Michan’s in Dublin attended by a number of members of the judiciary including Chief Justice Susan Denham. Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke was also in attendance. He also told listeners that the law, although essential for the conduct of human affairs, has a “limited place in them”. It is there to protect the weak and at times we all need that protection, he said.
When law enters the arena of morality, it nearly always runs into difficulties, he said.
“How far can sexual behaviour or same sex marriage or blasphemy or the right of women for personal autonomy be dealt with by the law, except in the limited sense of protecting the vulnerable?” he asked.
In his homily at a Mass at St Michan’s Roman Catholic Church, Halston St, Dublin, the Papal Nuncio, Most Reverend Charles Brown, said law is “a vocation aimed at the achievement and maintenance of justice, that most elusive of qualities”.
Addressing a congregation including senior members of the Irish judiciary as well as visiting judges from England, Scotland, and France, Monsignor Browne said justice means “making things right, giving each person what is due him or her”.
It requires “honesty and integrity and, not infrequently, courage”.
Noting this period marks 50 years since the Second Vatican Council, he said what was perhaps most innovative about Vatican II was its emphasis on the autonomy of the temporal or secular order, the fact that human society has its own standing, importance, values and principles. Common life on earth, if it is to be harmonious, “needs to be built upon recognition of this intrinsically ethical component”, he said.
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