A less strident form of Catholicism

PEOPLE of a certain age will remember, though many have deliberately forgotten, how strident some Catholic churchmen were in the pronouncements they made about issues that had little or nothing to do with religious life or faith.

One, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid — who else? — tried to assert clerical authority over our national broadcaster RTÉ because its headquarters were in his diocese. Those days, and that confidence, are in the past.

There are occasional reminders though, of that unfortunate hubris, but it is a relatively new phenomenon that the hierarchy quickly distances Catholicism from the less socially acceptable declarations by its clergy.

The Australian Catholic Church has just apologised because a Melbourne priest said Jill Meagher would not have been raped and murdered had she been “home in bed” the night she was killed — where she would have been had her religious faith been stronger, the priest assured us.

Earlier this month Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin distanced himself from remarks made by Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran about single-sex marriage.

This acceptance shows that a once authoritarian Church recognises it is just one of many influences in this society and that it is able to express respect for those with a different world view. These are positive and enriching developments.

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