Letters to the Editor

Celibacy is jewel in crown of Church's pastoral love

'Priesthood is a hallowed, busy and deeply satisfying life'

Far from it being ‘a matter of public interest’, as Allison Morris (May 19) describes it, priestly celibacy is strictly a matter for the Catholic Church, with its centuries old rule that its priests be unmarried. It is also not the case that “many men have entered the priesthood and then (sic) felt torn at having to choose between the Church and a family”.  The fact is they had already freely decided to abide by the Church’s celibacy rule before they presented themselves for ordination.

If Ms Morris has “long considered clerical celibacy to be an unnatural state”, presumably she thinks the same of those single men and women who, believe it or not, are not engaged in casual affairs but simply  unmarried and getting on with their lives. Are they also living in ‘an unnatural state’?

The celibacy of the Catholic priesthood is a jewel in the crown of the Church’s pastoral love and concern to serve and meet the many and varied spiritual needs of its believing faithful. The priest is there, from the cradle to the grave, as their spiritual father and counsellor, leading them, in the love of Christ, to the gates of heaven. Even if very young, he is addressed as ‘Father’ by everyone, whether when called to the bedside of someone dying late at night, hearing confessions, celebrating Mass, administering the sacraments, presiding at meetings, etc.

It is a hallowed, busy and deeply satisfying life. The distinguished scholar, Claude de Barreau, has well described the religious tendency in man as “the most characteristically human attribute.”

If a Catholic priest breaks his vow of celibacy he has entered a different relationship which militates against his being Alter Christus (‘Another Christ’) and spiritual Father to his people. In so doing, he has also broken the Church’s universal and ancient rule that priests must be celibate. Clearly he must make way and resign his post, however hard working and popular he may have been.

Belfast BT11


Using science to understand faith is a recipe for trouble

I was intrigued by the letter from Prof John Rooney concerning the matter of Original Sin (May 26). The Church holds that at a specific moment in the past God imbued humanity with a rational soul. It is a simple explanation for a mystery of faith, not a scientific thesis.

His idea of some sort of primordial soup of souls in which we are all present because we are in the mind of God, falls down on one essential point – if we were all present in this primordial soup then we are all responsible for our own original sin.

This is contrary to Church teaching which clearly states that we are not responsible.

The Church teaches that at some point in history God intervened and imbued man with a rational soul, a soul that has the use of reason. When or how this happened is important but it is outside historical time and can’t be fully understood by us – the acceptance of this truth is essential to a person’s spiritual well-being. Trying to ‘know as God knows,’ which is the fruit of Original Sin, drives us crazy.

The teaching of the Church is both very simple and very beautiful. When God created Adam and Eve he looked at his handiwork and said: ‘It is very good.’ Mankind was created to live in friendship with God and to find his fulfilment in his creator. That is our proper condition and the state in which we shall live forever in heaven. Unfortunately, and this is something that not even God could overcome, for two people to love each other freely, each one of them has to be free to choose to either love or not to love. Love has to be freely given. God did not make us robots. He loves us too much for that.

Adam made a simple choice when he ate of the tree – he chose to seek his fulfilment somewhere other than God. That choice broke the friendship we had with God, wounded the human nature with which Adam had been endowed and that desire to seek fulfilment outside of God has come down to us ever since.

Another aspect of Original Sin is a desire to know as God knows. Prof Rooney has fallen into this trap. The Catholic Church is a mystery, as is Original Sin, and the best thing to do is accept the teaching in a spirit of humility and openness. In such a mindset all these problems disappear and become beautiful rather than an obstacle for our intellect. Adam had the same problem, he wanted to know more.

Science is bound to the material world – faith addresses eternal truths and matters of the spirit. They are not in competition, they can be in beautiful harmony. While science can throw light on the material world, it is when we try to use science to understand faith that we run into trouble.

As Jesus said: “Blessed are you, Father, for revealing these things to the simple…”

Portglenone, Co Antrim


Unionist mindset hasn’t changed in 150 years

For most of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century, the majority of people on this island wanted a repeal of the union and an Irish Parliament established in Dublin. The democratic wish of the people was vehemently opposed by unionists, because ‘Home Rule equated to Rome Rule’.

Unionists had applied their own logic, concluding that a Catholic majority would inevitably discriminate against them – which is exactly what unionists did when their ‘Protestant Parliament’ was created in 1922. 

The discriminating Stormont regime was allowed to continue unabated for the next 50 years, eventually leading to street demonstrations and the outbreak of the Troubles. The unionist mindset does not allow any unionist, past or present, to accept any responsibility for the outbreak of the Troubles. 

The unionist mindset is conditioned by sanctimonious men in suits and sashes who have a 17th century fear of Catholicism. Unfortunately these men still dominate unionist policies and must be placated. Mike Nesbitt has no Orange affiliation but must show his support for the loyal orders and the insidious ‘Camp Twaddell’ or be unceremoniously ousted as party leader.

Protestants are indoctrinated from an early age, led onto the streets in an annual perpetuation of sectarian tension and taught all the history they need to know around 11th night bonfires.

They are stuck in a time warp and must commemorate events like the Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Derry by staging up to 4,000 marches annually and flying flags from every lamp post.

These marches are portrayed as being as vital to life as the air we breathe.

The unionist mindset has not changed in 150 years – they engage in facile sectarian battles, usually relating to parades and have no qualms about offending their Catholic neighbours or the symbols of their faith. The ultimate unionist objective is the security of the union, which may someday depend on the votes of those they seek to humiliate at every opportunity. 

Newry, Co Down


Display of ignorance

The row over the remarks by Jude Collins about the Boy’s Brigade reminded me of an incident some years ago in Crumlin, Co Antrim, where I was minister.

The Antrim and District Battalion held their service in Crumlin with the usual parade to the church. Some people objected following the parade and made representation to the Parades Commission along with their solicitor, Pádraigín Drinan.

The grounds for their complaint was that the parade was illegal as it was not notified, that it was a paramilitary parade and that they carried paramilitary flags. All these allegations were false and the Parades Commission took no action.

The real concern I have is two fold.

First the total ignorance displayed by those who formally objected in the past and more recently by Jude Collins.
Secondly, the serious damage vocalising such ignorance, which is often seen as sectarian, does to community relations throughout Northern Ireland. 

I wonder does Jude Collins realise the damage he has done? Judging by his unwillingness to apologise It appears he does not
really care.

Co Antrim

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Letters to the Editor