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Dublin archbishop defends Church role in Irish public affairs

Catholic World News - March 16, 2011

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin defended the institution of marriage, expressed concerns about an overhaul of the Irish constitution, and maintained that the Catholic Church remains strong in Ireland, in an important March 15 address.

Speaking at the Mater Dei Institute, the archbishop said that marriage is “a fundamental good which deserves unique protection.” He argued against plans to provide legal recognition for same-sex unions, saying that such a move would undermine the status of marriage.

Archbishop Martin also expressed concern about a proposed referendum on children’s rights. He underlined the need to recognize parents are the primary educators of their children, and argued against the belief that “simply moving responsibility from parents to the state would provide a more effective answer.” Referring to recent revelations of abuse in institutions to which the state referred troubled children, the archbishop pointed out that unfortunately, “the record of the state in child care in Ireland is not one that we can be proud of.”

The archbishop argued forcefully for recognition of the public role played by the Church. “The Church must always have the internal freedom to take positions that are culturally unpopular,” he said. Otherwise—if the Church only supports “politically correct positions”—he warned that “the life of the Church becomes a sort of civil religion: politically correct, but without the cutting edge of the Gospel.” Although he accepted the widespread belief that the Catholic Church in Ireland needs reform, the archbishop rejected the idea that this reform would entail structural or doctrinal changes. The goal is not to devise sweeping new plans but to encourage virtue and fidelity to the Gospel message, he said. “The great reformers of the Church in history,” he reminded his audience, “were never primarily strategic analysts, but saints.”

Archbishop Martin also chided liberal critics of the Church, saying that their thinking betrayed a time-bound approach that has lost relevance. “There is slowness,” he said, “on the part of some who would think themselves progressive but who fail to realize that many of the things they propose are really the answers to yesterday’s questions and are much less relevant to the realities of today.”

The archbishop said that despite grave problems and heavy defections, the Catholic Church retains its fundamental vitality. “The Church is Dublin may not be as numerically strong as it was, but it is far from being on the brink of collapse,” he said.

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