The steady separation of Church and State is good for both, the Agriculture Minister has said ahead of the Pope’s visit to Ireland.
Speaking at the annual Béal na Bláth commemoration, Michael Creed said the “dark chapter” of abuse within the Church has seen a “deep rift” emerge.
Mr Creed praised former president Mary McAleese for taking on the Vatican over its attitude towards women and the LGBT community.
Ms McAleese is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage and marched with her son in this year’s Dublin Pride festival. She revealed that she made a canonical complaint to Pope Francis about Cardinal Kevin Farrell’s decision to ban her from speaking at an International Women’s Day conference in the Vatican last March.
“Having received neither an acknowledgement nor a reply to date, I can only presume the Pope is his immediate superior, that this was done with his approval.
“They claim there is a process for dealing with such complaints. I’m six months down the road of that complaint and I haven’t had the letter back that says ‘we’ve received your complaint’,” Ms McAleese told RTÉ radio.
Mr Creed said many churchgoers, including himself, are “closer to the back door than the front door” and are “encouraged to find ourselves in such exalted company on matters of faith”.
Delivering the keynote speech at the Michael Collins commemoration yesterday, Mr Creed also referred to the controversy which erupted when Minister Josepha Madigan questioned the role of women in the Church after she led prayers in her own parish when the priest failed to show up.
“As a practising Catholic who is deeply uncomfortable with the ‘official Church’ and its response to various scandals, its attitude towards women and the LGBT community, I take great hope from reportings of a woman leading prayers in a Dublin church.”
Mr Creed added that the way religion is practised in Ireland today would be unrecognisable to Michael Collins, but the full churches and unquestioned authority of the clergy of that era had left a devastating legacy.
“The appalling experience of vulnerable children in industrial schools and the women of the Magdalene laundries, serves to illustrate how the Church assumed control of social policy with the aid of an acquiescent government and a cowed people.”
“This dark chapter of abuse and cover-up has seen a deep rift emerge between many of the faithful and the official Church. Though Ireland is not unique in this regard, the fall-out for society as a whole has few international comparisons.
“The steady separation of Church and State in recent times is good for both.
“Constitutional reform, including divorce, the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and marriage equality are evidence of an endeavour to have a Constitution that is fit for purpose in a modern democracy,” he said.
But the Cork North-West TD said we should still welcome the Pope this weekend.
“It is in the context of this discomfort that I believe that we should extend a ‘céad míle fáilte’ to Pope Francis; a Pope named after Saint Francis — who himself often took the road less travelled and gave Church authorities a difficult time.”
Mr Creed also used his speech to highlight the threat of Brexit to agriculture and the wider economy.
On the domestic front he said Fine Gael do not want a general election as it is not what the country needs.