A right-wing Catholic newspaper which said a Lisbon Treaty 'No' vote was a vote for God, should have been banned from churches, politicians claimed today.
TDs and Senators on an Oireachtas Committee told Cardinal Sean Brady the Alive paper confused and offended worshippers trying to make up their minds on the issue.
Members of the Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union also said Catholic Bishops should have called for a definitive ’Yes’ vote instead of releasing a statement that was broadly supportive of the referendum.
Labour TD Joe Costello said the Alive newspaper was freely available in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral for several weeks during the national debate.
Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne added: “I was bombarded with it week after week when I went with my family to pray. The average Church person would be offended by this. It was saying it was sinful to vote for Lisbon.”
He added: “This is a really serious issue. A publication like this damages the Church and damages the overall debate.”
But Dr Brady told the committee that churches were open and welcoming places and it was difficult to stop people placing literature in porches or on seats.
Catholic Communications Office director Martin Long told TDs and Senators that the only official publication of the Catholic Bishops was Intercom, which was published 10 times a year.
Fianna Fáil TD Beverly Flynn said the Church shouldn’t have been allowed “to sit back” on an issue as important as the Lisbon Treaty.
“There is an obligation on the Church to give a very strong message on something like this,” she told members.
Fine Gael’s Billy Timmins added: “The Church isn’t afraid to come out and enunciate in a black and white way on certain issues when it wants.”
Committee chairman Paschal Donohoe also urged Dr Brady and the Catholic Bishops to publicly endorse one side in the Lisbon debate.
However Dr Brady said that putting out a 100% resounding ’Yes’ for Lisbon ’would get people’s backs up’ and may be seen as showing contempt for voters.
“Ireland must stay at the heart of Europe. Our population may be small but we do stand for something important in Europe.”
Dr Brady, who worked for 20 years in Rome added: “Irish bishops believe passionately in Europe.”
The prelate claimed that the aspirations and visions of the founders of the EU may have been suffocated by layers of bureaucracy in recent years.
Dr Brady added that it was once said that the EU seemed to care about turf bogs and earthworms but was indifferent to the religious and cultural history of Europe.
He said that Ireland could end up like Tory Island, which he claimed was isolated from the mainland and marginalised by EU fishing regulations.
“I was pained to see what has happened to Tory Island,” he said, referring to a recent visit.
The Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union, which was established in September, is holding public hearings with stakeholders every week and is due to compile a report for the Government before the end of this month.