Within the Catholic Church, there is a ban on clergy becoming involved in party-political activities. This is because such activity would be likely to be divisive within the community. A major role of clergy is to proclaim the ‘Word of God’ and explain its implications for ‘the common good’, by, for example, expounding Church teaching on social and ethical matters.
Ministers of the Word, like Eucharist Ministers, are in a somewhat similar situation, and should not be a source of disunity, as they administer the sacrament.
By making public the fact that he has been asked to stand down as a reader, Mr Curtin adds insult to injury to those of us who follow Catholic teaching. In my opinion, he should have been able to work out, for himself, that a politician actively campaigning against Church teaching should not be a Church minister.
When, in 1987, I was selected as Social Democrat parliamentary candidate for Islington North, I resigned as Eucharistic Minister and did not return to this ministry until I had moved out of the public body.
Being either a Reader or a Eucharistic Minister is a privilege, and no-one should feel it is their entitlement. That is why, in most parishes, ministers are commissioned a year at a time, and usually after a short period of retreat. If anyone feels their behaviour might cause conflict at the altar, then the right thing to do is to stand down and take a less-visible role within their parish.
In my own situation, I left my political party when it became pro-abortion.
Mr Curtin believes that his case sets a precedent. In fact, his situation mirrors that of former Fine Gael TD, Derek Keating, three years ago. Curiously, both also suffered the same fate at the recent polls.