Monday, May 25, 2015

These Are Worth Reading

Some sobering thoughts from canon lawyer Ed Peters on the gay marriage referendum. He points out something many priests and bishops here will be terrified to even think:
At the lower end of the responsibility scale are, I suppose, rank-and-file Catholics who cast a personal ballot securing, not just passage of the amendment, but its passage by a higher margin than would have occurred without their vote. At the higher end of the responsibility scale are, of course, Catholics who, from positions of political, social, or ecclesiastical prestige, lent their influence to the cause of “same-sex marriage”. But any Catholic who directly helped to bring about Ireland’s decision to treat as marriage unions of two persons of the same sex has, at a minimum, arrayed himself against the infallible doctrine of the Church and, quite possibly, has committed an act of heresy. (See my Primer of 27.III.2013). In either event, the technical term for such an action is “sin”; the consequences of sin are always spiritual and sometimes canonical; and the solution for sin is repentance and Confession.
Fr Ray Blake also has a few thoughts on the state of the Church here in Ireland in the context of the referendum. I cannot disagree with anything he says. One paragraph in particular resonates with me: 
A Church that is rootless is not 'owned' by the people. A Church that is afraid to teach because it has cut itself from it previous Magisterium, and which instead sows uncertainty, has nothing to say in the daily living of its members, nor in the intellectual forum in general. In fact it is irrelevant. It has all the outward appearance that it once used for the furtherance of its mission but has lost its interior meaning. It is not so much an Emperor with no clothes, but the clothes without an Emperor, all that is left is the institution, which itself is meaningless. In Germany, as in Ireland, the real-estate portfolio seems to be what the Church is about rather than any actual teaching or revelation of Christ.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Martyr For The Dispossessed

As the votes were being counted in the same sex marriage referendum here, its outcome already certain at an early stage, Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified in El Salvador. There are many delighted by this event and many appalled. This division is a political one and one, I believe, quite out of sync with who the Archbishop really was. I wrote some posts on him before trying to show that Blessed Oscar was not a communist, nor a Marxist, but a Catholic (see here and here). 

His concern for poor was not motivated by those atheistic materialist movements, but rather by Christ's own love for the poor and dispossessed. Blessed Oscar did seek a revolution, but not one in which arms are taken up, rather a revolution of love. He called on right wing leaders who maintained they were Catholic to do what was expected of Catholic leaders - to be just towards their people and assist those most in need. That's not communism or Marxism, that's Catholicism. As some have been saying in the last few days, some of those who were suspicious of Blessed Oscar were perhaps too rooted in the establishment, they did not want to rock the boat, they may have preferred to use old diplomatic, quiet ways of effecting change. There are times when that is useful and times when it useless, a barrier. Given the situation in El Salvador the Church was too close to the ruling class, Blessed Oscar gradually realised that and pulled himself away to be free to preach the Gospel. In a sense his position was like St John Paul II's with regard to realpolitik.

Some have problems with Blessed Oscar's relationship with Liberation Theology. I think at this stage it is obvious he was not a supporter of Liberation Theology in its Marxist dimensions. I believe a Liberation Theologian came out a few days ago to say the Archbishop was not a member of the movement, but rather the movement was influenced by him. Again, that is not to say he was a Marxist. Liberation Theology is a multifaceted movement, to dismiss all of it would not be wise. There are dangerous elements in it, and these were addressed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in his Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation" - I draw your attention to two important words in that title: "Certain Aspects". Now I am not an apologist for those aspects which are contrary to the faith (how often I have been accused by certain people of being a leftie, as I have often been accused of being right wing!), but we need to look beyond politics and be open to the fact that the Gospel of Christ is more radical that we envision it: it is not a right wing manifesto, no more than it is a left wing charter.

Blessed Oscar's stance and martyrdom comes into clearer focus as we believers in Ireland come to terms with what has happened here today. The Church will have a lot to reflect on, and I hope our Bishops and faithful will finally wake up and see the social revolution which has been occurring around us for years, a revolution that has been underestimated. The Church has played a part in that revolution in her failure to communicate the Gospel as it is in favour of  a lightweight pastoral strategy which has all but excised sound teaching in the name of being open, kind and compassionate. My issue with the Church, for the whole of my lifetime, is that it has been part of the Establishment here in Ireland, and it still thinks it is. This has come at a price, a high price, and that has been a dilution of the Gospel and the failure to form disciples. A dismal catechetical programme stands as a potent symbol of this. 

One of the good things which will come out of this referendum and its results is the undeniable fact now that the Church is not part of the Establishment, she is very much a minority - even if a majority of Irish men and women still identity as "Catholic", that identification does not translate into discipleship (and that is not a value judgement, it is a simple and undeniable observation). The wisdom of Blessed Oscar should now become clear to us all, we must begin to think in a new way, and part of that new thinking must be evangelical. We must now look to the failures of the Church in Ireland - not just the horrendous abuse, but her failure to inculcate in her members an understanding of the faith. People in Ireland use Christian words and concepts like charity, compassion, being Christian etc, but they do not understand what they really mean, the meaning has changed and they are now being used to construct a new society which as far from the actual teaching of Christ as you can get.

Blessed Oscar, a martyr for the dispossessed may well have many lessons to teach us now; we may need to heed him, and take courage from his heroic stance in the face of opposition. I would also suggest we begin to listen to those voices within Ireland who have been saying for years that there is something wrong in the Church. I am not talking about the liberals, many of whom, priests and sisters among them, who came out in favour of the referendum: they are false prophets, members of the new Establishment in Ireland. I would recommend a reading of Fr Vincent Twomey's work, a priest who is very much outside the Establishment here in Ireland (Church Establishment as much as state). His book The End of Irish Catholicism? contains an objective diagnosis of what was wrong with the Church in Ireland - one major issue being the failure to think the faith. As I know personally, there is a certain anti-intellectualism in the Church in Ireland, it is indicative of a uncomfortable attitude towards thinking and discussion. If the faith is to be passed on people must think, think their way through what Christ teaches, they need to talk about it and explore it in order to understand it and live it.

Other books I would recommend at this time to help us understand where we are and where we need to go: Fr Benedict Groeschel, The Reform of Renewal, a manifesto, I suppose, for a revitalization of faith and discipleship. Fr Goeschel was much admired in the US, though he was also divisive figure for many. I remember when in seminary speaking about him with a member of the theology staff, the lecturer dimissed Fr Groeschel "He's a most dangerous man!". Indeed he was, as was Christ whose teachings Fr Groeschel sought to live. Finally, a book to help us understand where we are now: Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, a work of moral theology which suggests we are on the edge of another collapse of western civilisation. He sees the Church as having a role in the preservation of culture, learning etc, as she did at the last collapse. MacIntyre also reiterates the fact that being Christian is not about following rules, but rather living virtue in the context of the Gospel. Our social revolutionaries have been so successful here because for most people in Ireland Christianity is about rules, not virtue and certainly not holiness - that is potently revealed in the poor state of Postulation in this country.

A few thoughts, my readers will have read them before on this blog. But now I need to restate them not to condemn anyone, but in the hope that we may see where we really are and begin in earnest what St John Paul instituted in his ministry: a New Evangelisation. That is the future and it is a radical one. We Christians in Ireland, who continue to believe and will not accept the new definition of marriage now to be Constitutionally enforced here, will now have to be witnesses, to go against the tide and that will be difficult. Only true disciples will be able to do that, and it is for that reason we have to move beyond forming social Catholics and keeping numbers up (nurturing the delusion) to nurturing and forming authentic followers of Christ: men and women who will not be afraid to lose everything rather than renounce Christ or his Gospel (as he taught it!). 

The relics of Blessed Oscar are carried to the altar: the bloodstained shirt worn on the day of the martyrdom

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Some Reflections On The Ashers Case

The judgement in the Ashers bakery case is disappointing if not surprising. Many of us expected that they would lose the case given the political and legal climate which is developing in the UK (and Ireland) towards men and women of conscience. The McArthur family, who own Ashers, are facing what many other Christian business men and women have been facing for a few years now, including a business in Dublin - a paper shop that was forced to close, and a printing firm in Drogheda which is expecting to hauled before the courts in the not too distant future, all because they seek to reserve the right to conscience in their businesses.

Ms Justice Brownlie, the presiding judge in the Ashers case, revealed in her judgment that while people are allowed to believe what they wish and manifest that belief as they see fit, their faith and its manifestation must be accordance with the law. Now on one hand we see resonances of the tyranny of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I outlawing Catholicism and forcing their subjects to conform to their new religion;  in extremis this may well be the case. However, on one level what the judge says makes some sense. For example if there is a cult out there that believes human sacrifice is a necessary tenet of their religion and worship, as did the Aztecs, it stands to reason that a civilised society cannot permit such practices to be carried out. The law will prevent that and if this cult is to remain in the country it must respect the law and refrain from sacrificing human beings within the jurisdiction. 

On the other hand, for example, Muslims require animals to be slaughtered in a manner consistent with Quranic teaching - Halal. While these methods offend laws concerning cruelty to animals, the State permits them provided the animals are not subject to extreme suffering.  There is, then, a tension between some laws in the State and religious practices, but also a leniency, an understanding. Usually this is no problem. Given that religion has a role in society be to a leaven, though there are many out there who reject this, tension can be healthy and, with mutual respect, can be fruitful. The principle of the common good is usually invoked. But where does the Ashers judgment come in to all this?  

The judgement is the Ashers case is one which offends the common good rather than protects it. The case is specific and concerns freedom of conscience, not the slaughter of animals nor human sacrifice. Freedom of conscience is one of those values a civilised and rational society cherishes and seeks to protect for many reasons including the common good. Freedom of conscience allows for the development of a mature and respectful society and is a guarantee against the growth of tyranny which is always a possibility even within the most democratic of states, as we saw in Germany in the 1930s.  

Embracing this value will mean that there may be certain things a society may have to tolerate, even a blurring of the lines around laws in order to preserve a greater good. The toleration of pacifism within a society is a good case. There are those who refuse to join the army or fight, not because they are cowards or disloyal to the State, but because they seek to remain true to their pacifist principles. A wise government will not force them into the army or into battle, but rather will respect their position and give them other duties to assist the war effort - care of the sick and wounded etc. This may offend some laws regarding a citizen's duty to protect the nation, but respecting freedom of conscience the state is creative and will understand that duty in a broader context.

In the Ashers case we have people of conscience who cannot, in good faith, support gay marriage. They were asked to decorate a cake with a slogan promoting gay marriage - which is not legal in Northern Ireland by the way, using images, Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, which are in fact copyright. (Ironically, Ashers are prosecuted for refusing to ice a cake with these images and if they had done so they would have been in breach of copyright and open to legal action! No word about that.) For refusing they are sued and lose. They are sued for not adhering to something that is not in force in Northern Ireland. Yes, they are said to have broken the law on discrimination, but strictly speaking one has to ask if a position is illegal in a State (gay marriage in Northern Ireland) and citizens refuse to support that position, can that properly be called discrimination?  In other words, if I can use the Aztec example blunt and all as it is: human sacrifice is not permitted in Ireland, an Aztec arrives to order a cake with the slogan "Support Human Sacrifice" on it and I refuse, can I be prosecuted for refusing to do so? I presume the answer to that question is: no, because human sacrifice is not permitted within the State. So if gay marriage is not permitted within Northern Ireland, why were Ashers convicted of discrimination?

Ashers's right to freedom of conscience should have been respected for the sake of the common good, for one thing their position is in agreement with the Judeo-Christian moral code upon which European and British/Irish society and legal codes are based. Ashers's honest declining to ice the cake (not bake it, by the way - they were willing to provide the cake just not ice what they saw as an offensive slogan on it), did not mean the customer was bereft of a service - there were many others happy to bake and ice the cake. Given the service would have been provided elsewhere and not too far away from Ashers means that the company should have been permitted to remain true to their principles. A wise judgement would have decreed that while Ashers position was unfortunate for the customer, they were entitled to freedom of conscience and the service should have been sought elsewhere. That is the position of most right-thinking individuals: common sense as much as respect for the differing views of others. Of course there is now the question of whether the law allowed space for this respect, or were the judge's hands tied: thatshe had no choice but to implement unyielding legislation?

There will be those who hammer home equality laws and the necessity to enforce them rigidly in order to prevent discrimination. Well, look at the bigger picture then and see where this case will bring us. It is no exaggeration to say that Jewish baking companies can be forced to produce cakes which call for the downfall of Israel or mock Moses; Muslim printers can be forced to print cartoons mocking Mohammed; gay magazines can be forced to run ads for gay reversion therapy; Presbyterians can be forced to advertise novenas to Our Lady in their papers; Sinn Fein can be forced to carry ads in their publications calling for oaths of allegiance to the crown. No one will escape, what is judged to be enforced for one group - Christians, will have to be enforced on all: everyone will have to renounce their beliefs and principles to satisfy this rigid law, there is no room for respect, or diversity! Such laws will not end discrimination, but rather create even greater discrimination, and perhaps attitudes and situations that are even worse.

This enforcement will produce (and I honestly believed it is designed to produce) a monolithic society where diversity and difference are hammered out in the name of a particular ideology.  Today it is the Christians in Ashers bakery, it will be someone else tomorrow, and some will say that's fine because it's only the Christian bigots that will be targeted. But some day soon it will be those who put these rigid laws in place who will fall too. Remember what Martin Niemoller wisely wrote. These harsh equality laws which dispense with conscience, indeed seek to quash it, will one day devour us all, and it seems few have the sense to see it. Today Ashers are the victims, tomorrow the common good, the day after that the very society generations have struggled to build.

UPDATE:  Word is coming through that Tesco is now being targeted by gay activists in an attempt to force the supermarket to cancel its order with Ashers bakery. Though they won in the courts, equality militants want to destroy Ashers completely. This comes as no surprise, it is the pattern we have seen emerge in other cases.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Baby Paul

Baby Paul was born earlier today, delivered by Cesarean section. He has been taken to a children's hospital for assessment. That said, doctors are surprised at how easy the birth was and how robust Paul is. It has yet to be established how his condition is, but he is in a much better state than doctors thought. We shall see how things turn out.

Thank you all for your prayers. Paul's parents are deeply grateful to you all for your continued remembrance. They believe that Paul's improved state is due to the intercession of Blessed Paul VI. Let us continue to pray to him for this little child. I will keep you updated.

God bless you.

Heavenly Father,
We thank you for the witness of your Servant, Blessed Paul VI, who served you and the Church as Universal Pastor in difficult times.
As a pilgrim among pilgrims he sought to reveal the beauty and joy of the Gospel to the men and women of his time, choosing the way of gentleness and forbearance.
As Shepherd of the flock he sought to proclaim the truth in a time of great confusion in imitation of his patron the Apostle to the Gentiles.
As Servant he proclaimed the Gospel of Life and in doing so bore the cross of suffering and isolation in union with your Crucified Son becoming a Prophet in the midst of the growing culture of death.
As we beseech you to raise your Servant to be numbered among the Saints, may his example of faith, courage and patient endurance inspire us in our daily living of the Gospel and in our witness to Jesus Christ.
May we too be Prophets of life, respecting, protecting and cherishing the gift of life, most especially in its most vulnerable moments.
May we too be your missionaries at this time, seeking to transform the hearts of all men and women through the joy we find in Christ.
Hear our prayers, most Merciful Father, and grant us through the intercession of Blessed Paul the graces we now ask that you may grant a healing of baby Paul.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory Be.
Blessed Paul VI, pray for him

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Primate Preaches In Lourdes

Our Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin is leading his first pilgrimage as Archbishop to the Sanctuary at Lourdes. At Mass at the grotto this morning he preached a marvellous homily, including remarks on the referendum. I am posting the entire homily below. I note he mentions our Novena for Ireland.

Homily of His Grace, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, 
Primate of All Ireland,
at the Grotto in Lourdes
13th May 2015
My dear brothers and sisters, here we are, many miles from home, gathered in the foothills of the Pyrenees at the beautiful grotto in Lourdes. There is something very special about this place. No wonder millions of people have come here in procession, and hundreds of thousands have returned again and again. And yet, if it wasn’t for Mary’s appearances here 157 years ago, most of us wouldn’t even have heard of Lourdes, never mind travelled here. And it is the same with the other places our Blessed Mother chose to visit - they were not the grand squares of the world’s great cities, the splendour of royal palaces or the bustling centres of learning or civilisation; they were often the remote and isolated places, like lonely Lourdes, forgotten Fatima or the windswept Irish hillside hamlet of Knock. 
Neither did Mary choose to appear to great thinkers or theologians, powerful politicians or rich and influential business people. Her chosen ones were the little people of the world who knew the struggles of living with nothing except their trust in God and his providence - people like young and innocent Bernadette who couldn't read or write, or the down-to-earth parishioners at Knock, or the little shepherd children of Fatima: Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima we are linked through prayer with the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who are gathering at Fatima to celebrate the feast.
Down the centuries Mary’s chosen hosts must have wondered, like Elizabeth: How is it that we should have been honoured by a visit from the mother of our Lord? But I like to think that, in appearing, Mary was fulfilling the dying wishes of Jesus, when he entrusted her to be the mother of all the living: 'Woman, behold your Son'. And at the same time, Mary’s apparitions encourage us to remember that Jesus also said from the cross: 'Son, behold your mother', and that our heavenly mother is there for us when we need her help. 
Why have you come to Lourdes this year? Do you come in joy and hope, in sickness or worry? Is it out of deep devotion, or perhaps curious questioning? Have you come here to ask Mary's help and intercession, or to thank her for favours already granted? I know that we all carry with us, in our heartfelt thoughts and prayers, the petitions and needs of so many others, family, friends, loved ones, neighbours. Perhaps this morning you are thinking about someone who has asked you to pray for them at Lourdes: perhaps a child, brother, sister who is sick or worried, maybe a friend who is depressed or weighed down by anxiety, a neighbour who has been bereaved recently, a parent who has tragically lost their son or daughter, or a couple struggling with their marriage or family. Perhaps you are thinking about a young person who is taking exams, or a friend or relation who is looking for work. Maybe you or someone you know is struggling with some problem or addiction, a sinful habit, an important decision or a tense relationship. 
Whatever our reason for coming to Lourdes, we should not be afraid to be drawn to Mary’s gaze and comforting arms, because as the Memorare prayer puts it: 'never has it been known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided by her'. 
Neither should we be surprised if Mary asks something of us here at Lourdes. Remember she was the one who gave herself totally to God’s will at the Annunciation, and at Cana she said: 'Do whatever he tells you'. 
A common theme from her apparitions around the world has been the call to conversion, to do penance, and to make reparation. Her messages are often direct and challenging. 'Penance, penance, penance', she told Bernadette, and her final words to the children of Fatima were: 'People must amend their lives, ask pardon for their sins, and not offend Our Lord any more for he has been already too greatly offended'.
My dear brothers and sisters, our pilgrimage to Lourdes will call us to change, and to deep inner healing of mind, body and Spirit, for ourselves, our families and loved ones, for our countries and for the world. In praying for this conversion and healing, we need not be afraid, for Mary our Mother is there to protect us.
It was on this day, 13 May, back in 1981 that her 'unseen hand' shielded Pope Saint John Paul II from almost certain death in Saint Peter’s square. Today, 13 May 2015, Mary is ready to shield us too, from dangers in our lives, from fears and anxieties, and from the snares and attacks of sin and evil on our spirit. 
I would like to ask you to remember a special intention with me this year at Lourdes. In the coming days the people of Ireland will be asked to vote in a referendum which will change the meaning of marriage and family in the Constitution of Ireland. The Bishops of Ireland are clear that they cannot support this amendment and they have asked the people of Ireland to reflect and pray very carefully before voting. 
I know that many people in Ireland and around the world are beginning a novena today, or praying the Rosary, or fasting and doing penance for the special intention of marriage and the family.
In his message for World Communications Day this coming Sunday, Pope Francis describes the family as a 'privileged place of encounter with the gift of love'. The Holy Father says, 'families, at their best, actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children'. 
So when we pray for, and speak up for the institution of marriage as it has been understood across cultures and down the ages, we are not trying to hurt or offend anyone - thank God, in His great mercy He loves all of us equally, and so should we. We simply want to respect the dignity of difference between male and female. We want to protect and promote the uniqueness of that special relationship between a wife, a husband and their children which is sanctified by Our Creator, endorsed by Jesus, and which is such a powerful and prophetic beacon of hope for society.
I would like to conclude with a prayer of entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, written by Pope Saint John Paul II, who was affectionately known as the 'Pope of the Family':
"O Mary, Mother of all men and women, and of all peoples, you who know all our sufferings and our hopes, you who have a mother's awareness of all the struggles between good and evil, between light and darkness, which afflict the modern world, accept the cry which we, moved by the Holy Spirit, address directly to your Heart. Embrace us with the love of the Mother and Handmaid of the Lord, and this human world of ours, which we entrust and consecrate to you, for we are full of concern for the earthly and eternal destiny of individuals and peoples. 
“We have recourse to your protection, holy Mother of God! Despise not our petitions in our necessities”. 
Our Lady of Lourdes; Fatima; Knock; pray for us.

Related to this, here is the Primate's piece recently aired on EWTN:

Novena For Ireland Begins!

The Novena for Ireland has begun. From today until the 21st May, the eve of the referendum, we will pray to the Holy Family for the cause of marriage, children and family. Further details can be found in the Novena for Ireland section above, or on the novena website:

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, an appropriate day to begin. In her apparitions to the shepherd children she asked them to pray and offer penance for the conversion of the world. Her calls is as necessary today as it was in 1917, indeed even more so. Sadly her message was largely ignored, her warning seemingly dismissed, to our cost. In our novena we respond to her call, so let us ask her to help us faithfully carry out these spiritual exercises in these days.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gathering Intercessors

We are having a great response to our Novena For Ireland. Thanks to the efforts of many in Ireland and around the world the news is getting out. Thanks to all of you promoting this initiative. In case it needs to be said I will say that the novena is not a political movement, it is a spiritual exercise, a gathering of intercessors who will pray for nine days, and fast for one, for the cause of marriage and family life. 

Please continue to pray for this and if you can promote the novena among your friends and colleagues. If you can convince your pastors to promote it also that would be wonderful. There is no copyright on the prayer, so if people want to print their own cards they are free to do so. At this time we encourage you to pray for the referendum in Ireland, but the prayer can also be used for other threats to marriage and the family. Our friends in the US are facing such a threat with the case currently before the USSC. For the prayer and details of the novena see the novena website:

The novena is not confined to us Catholics, all Christians and all men and women of faith can get involved. Many of our non-Catholic brethren may feel uncomfortable with the prayer, so I have written an alternative for them, and that too can be promoted and printed freely. Here is the link.

Thank you again. Have courage.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Novena For Ireland

Could I please ask you to pray for Ireland in these coming weeks? 

As many of you know on the 22nd May the Irish will vote on the issue of same sex marriage, making it equal in every respect to true marriage including placing an obligation on the State and government to protect gay marriage. The consequences of a yes vote on this will be enormous and will effect freedom of religion and freedom of speech, it may also result in the liquidation of Catholic marriage agencies and even our schools - the government has already said that our schools will be forced to defile their Catholic ethos to present same sex marriage as being equal to true marriage. It may be no exaggeration to say that the amendment to the Constitution, if passed, may well be used by some within Irish society to try and instigate a new Penal era here. 

I am asking you to please join us in a novena of prayer from feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the 13th May, to the eve of polling day, the 21st May.  The novena is addressed to the Holy Family, here is the link to the novena prayer in my pages section of the blog, but I will include the prayer at the end of this post.

Could I ask you to offer the Novena prayer each day, perhaps even a number a times each day if possible?

Could I ask you, if at all possible to offer a day's fasting during the novena - for prayer and fasting are needed?

Could I ask priests willing to join in the novena to offer a Mass for the intention of the novena?

Could I ask you to spread news of this novena far and wide, all around the world? There is no copyright on the prayer and you can print it off, have it printed on cards, published on websites, blogs etc, copied and promoted just as long as it is used to bring more and more people to offer the novena for Ireland.

Of course we must also include the movement in the US and other countries in our prayers. Let us support each other in this task.

Thank you for your prayer, support and help. Please spread the word far and wide.

Novena to the Holy Family
For the cause of marriage and the family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Holy Family of Nazareth,
we bless and venerate you.
We commend to your care and protection
the cause of marriage and family life.
May the peace which reigned in your home
take possession of all hearts and abide in all families.
Confirm all men and women in the truth
so we may recognise what is good and right
and reject all that hinders life
and the true flourishing of humanity.
Guide the hearts of all citizens
that we may witness to the truth
in forming the laws governing our society.
Bless those who work for the protection
of marriage, family and life.
O Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Holy Family of Nazareth,
We entrust our hearts and our lives to you.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pastoral Statement of Bishop Michael Smith of Meath Concerning The Forthcoming Referendum

Here is the text of the Pastoral Statement of our Bishop, Michael Smith, read at all Masses in the diocese this Sunday.

Pastoral Statement by Bishop Michael Smith

Later this month, the people of Ireland are invited to vote on a proposed amendment to the section in the Constitution entitled ‘The Family’. The Constitution belongs to the people of the Nation. The choice we are asked to make in the Marriage Referendum on 22 May is a decision that only the people can make. It rests neither with politicians nor bishops. All of us, therefore, need to reflect carefully; we need to inform ourselves on the central issues before deciding how we will vote.

The bishops have already issued a statement saying ‘Marriage is important - reflect before you change it’. We respect the views of people who think differently to us, trusting that our sincerely held views will also be heard and respected. I wish here to outline my own concerns about the proposal now before the people.

Homosexual people living in Ireland have undoubtedly suffered discrimination over the years. I very much welcome, therefore, the measures adopted in recent years to address this injustice. In this regard also, the values of the Gospel make compellingly clear to us the dignity of every human person, and that all must be treated equally and with respect.

The specific proposal to amend the Constitution is about the people’s understanding of marriage and family life. I accept that addressing inequality is undeniably an obligation on society. My particular and deep-rooted concern, however, is that the current proposal introduces a profound change into our understanding of marriage, of the family and of parenthood. The proposal, taken together with the provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Bill, removes the mention of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ from a whole range of existing legislation. Denying children the right to a mother and a father is not, I believe, an appropriate way to address the question of inequality in our society.

Recent comments by Government Ministers, and others supporting the proposal, suggest that they no longer believe that there is a special value in a child having the love of a mother and a father, or that men and women bring something distinct or unique to the lives of their children. They seem to believe that gender does not matter. These comments affirm the view that when you redefine marriage, you redefine the family and you redefine the very meaning of parenthood. 

The current debate is often presented as a clash between Church and State. Respecting our Constitution, we must avoid seeing this issue in this very blinkered manner. The Church’s beliefs around the Sacrament of Marriage are not at issue and will not change regardless of the outcome of the Referendum.

The Constitution, first and foremost, serves the whole of society and the common good. The people are being asked to put aside the understanding of marriage and family life that pre-dates both Church and State. Marriage and family life have served society well for thousands of years, providing a committed relationship between a man and a woman for the upbringing and care of their children. To change the meaning of marriage would seem an extraordinary rejection of what is good for society.

It is regrettable that both the proposal to amend the Constitution and the Children and Family Relationships Bill were adopted by the Dáil without any substantial debate. Changing a major article of our Constitution merits detailed consideration since unforeseen consequences so often arise. The family is described by our Constitution ‘as the natural, primary and fundamental unit group of society’. Once again, I repeat the message from the bishops: ‘Marriage is important - reflect before you change it’. I do not think that there is anything offensive in believing, as we have always done, that marriage is a permanent union between a man and a woman. The search for equality in our society will not be advanced by undermining the very cornerstone on which a just and stable society is built.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Patrick Speaks

His Grace, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, has issued a message concerning the same sex marriage referendum which will take place here in Ireland on the 22nd May. As successor of St Patrick, he speaks for the Church here in Ireland. Here is his message in full.

Care for the Covenant of Marriage
On 22nd May 2015 people are being asked to vote in a referendum which will change the meaning of marriage in the Constitution of Ireland.
In recent weeks and months I have received many letters and messages asking me, as a Bishop, to explain clearly the Church’s teaching on marriage in the context of the forthcoming referendum. The Irish bishops have already said that we cannot support an amendment to the Constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children.
The Church’s vision for marriage and the family is based on faith and reason and it is shared by many people of all faith traditions and none. Since time immemorial, Church and State have recognised marriage to be of fundamental importance for children, mothers and fathers, and society. To interfere with the definition of marriage is not a simple or a trivial matter.
The teaching of the Catholic Church on the issue of same-sex unions was reiterated at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome, 2014: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” (Synod Report n55). At the same time, the Church emphasizes that gay people ought always to be treated with respect and sensitivity.
The ‘dignity of difference’ between male and female
As people of faith, we believe that the union of a man and a woman in marriage, open to the procreation of children, is a gift from God who created us ‘male and female’. But we are also people of reason, who hold to the truth about human sexuality, grounded in the natural law, that the relationship between a man and a woman is unique.
How have we got ourselves into the situation that when people stand up to guard the dignity of difference between a man and woman, and speak for the traditional definition of marriage, they are often portrayed as being against freedom, or against equality? How is it that many people won’t even raise these issues in their families and workplaces for fear of being ridiculed or condemned as homophobic? Could we not expect at least some of our legislators to engage in public discussion on both sides of this debate?
Until now, Ireland has accepted that it is in the best interests of children and of society to promote and protect the model of children being born and raised in a family with their biological parents. The proposed amendment to the Constitution will remove the unique and privileged status in society for the marriage between a man and a woman. It is worth noting what Pope Francis has said recently: ‘When the stable and fruitful covenant between a man and a woman is devalued by society, it is a loss for everyone, especially the young (General Audience 22nd April 2015)’.
Care for the Covenant of Marriage – Pope Francis
We read in the Book of Genesis that from the beginning, God created human beings in His own image – ‘male and female’ – and commissioned them to ‘be fruitful’. Marriage is willed by God, and instituted and sanctified by God, to be the way in which God’s work of creation continues in the world. The gift of life, which flows from the intimate union of a man and woman in marriage, is a gift from God Himself.
Catholics give marriage the dignity of a ‘sacrament’ because it mirrors the mystery of God’s love for humans and of Christ’s love for His Church. Pope St John Paul II, who is remembered as the ‘Pope of the Family’ described marriage as the ‘primordial sacrament’ – in the sense that it is the original and most ancient sacrament which belongs to creation itself. In April, Pope Francis reminded us that marriage is a ‘noble vocation’ and he urged all of us to care for the ‘covenant’ of marriage between man and woman.
A misunderstanding of ‘equality’
What makes marriage unique among other types of relationship is the distinctiveness of the union between a man and a woman which is open to life. To remove this specific difference is not, as some would argue, a development or evolution of our understanding of marriage; it is, rather, a very definite break with human history and with the natural institution of marriage. We end up using the term ‘marriage’ for something that it is not. Many of the arguments being made for the proposed amendment appear to be based on a misunderstanding of ‘equality’. It is a fact of nature that same-sex unions are fundamentally and objectively different from the complementary sexual union of a woman and a man which is, of itself, naturally open to life.
During the current debate we are conscious of same-sex partners who love each other and wish to share their life together. ‘Marriage’ is about much more than a loving relationship between consenting adults. Marriage has another essential element – the openness to children who are born of the love and sexual relationship of their mother and father. This is why, as Article 41:3:1 of the Constitution puts it: “The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack”. The State encourages and favours the marriage of a man and a woman, open to children, because it is for the common good. It not only satisfies individual love and needs, but it also ensures the future of society and forms the ideal environment for the development of children.
We know, of course, that, as Pope Francis put it recently: ‘A perfect family does not exist’. Many families experience great trials, and struggle with wounded relationships and disappointments. Tensions and loneliness can build up within the home. The marriage relationship does not always ‘work out’ as hoped for. Sadly, and despite their best intentions, many married couples separate, often for the good of their children and for their own well-being. We also know that many parents are generously and successfully raising children on their own, and many others are giving great love and joy to children through adoption and fostering. This does not mean, however, that we should not continue to hold up the example of a faithful, life-long and committed marriage relationship between a man and a woman as something beautiful and special. Society should do everything in its power to support and encourage this unique union so that as many children as possible can have a father and a mother who live together in a relationship marked by stability and love.
Freedom of conscience
Some commentators have said that ‘sacramental’ or ‘religious’ marriage is not affected by the proposed amendment. It is important to remember that religious freedom means much more than simply the freedom to worship or have ceremonies of a particular type. Freedom of religion is linked very closely to freedom of conscience and freedom to express publicly our values and beliefs in daily life.
If society adopts and imposes a ‘new orthodoxy’ of ‘gender-neutral’ marriage, being defined simply as a union between any two persons – including a man and a man, or a woman and woman – then it will become increasingly difficult to speak or teach in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman. Will there be lawsuits against individuals and groups who do not share this vision? What will we be expected to teach children in school about marriage or about homosexual acts? Will those who continue to sincerely believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their faith and conscience?
Reflect and Pray before you Vote
I encourage everyone to reflect and pray carefully about these issues before voting on May 22nd. It is very important to vote. Do not be afraid to speak up courageously for the union of a man and a woman in marriage.
Pope Francis reminds us: ‘While a noble vocation, marriage is not an easy one: it must constantly be strengthened by a living relationship with the Lord through prayer: mornings and evenings, at meals, in the recitation of the Rosary, and above all through the Sunday Eucharist’.
I invite you, especially in May, the month of Mary, to pray the Rosary for all the families of Ireland, remembering those who are especially in need of prayer at this time. May our families be models of faith, love and generous service.
+ Eamon, 
Archbishop of Armagh,
Primate of All Ireland

Please keep Archbishop Eamon in your prayers, he will be attacked for his clear teaching. Things are very bad here in Ireland. Yes campaigners are extremely aggressive and have the full support of the government, media, business and it seems also the police force here. Before his appointment I prayed that Ireland be given another St Oliver Plunkett, a brave and courageous shepherd and Primate to lead the Church in what could be a time of persecution. So far in his ministry, Archbishop Eamon has certainly proved himself a worthy successor of St Patrick and St Oliver, and those two other great Archbishop Primates, St Malachy and St Celsus. As the "first of the Irish" (as St Oliver referred to the office of Primate of All Ireland) Archbishop Eamon must stand firm, teach and encourage. May the Lord give him every grace to do so.