COI Gazette – 17th March 2017

Top Irish economist and former Senator, Sean Barrett, urges abandoning ‘tradition of secrecy’ on Church finances

Professor Sean Barrett

Professor Sean Barrett

Professor Sean Barrett – Associate Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin, a TCD representative in the Seanad from 2011-2016, and a member of the Church of Ireland – has entered into the controversy over the central Church of Ireland’s refusing the Gazette basic information regarding episcopal costs (reports, 2nd, 16th December, 17th February and 3rd March).

Responding to a Gazette request for comment on the matter, Professor Barrett – a former member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis and who as Senator introduced eight Bills, including The Fiscal Responsibility Bill – reflected on secrecy in public bodies and concluded that it should be avoided in both the governmental and non- governmental spheres alike.



St Patrick’s Confession is a confession of faith that is genuine. It enables us to get behind the Patrick of myth and legend to the real Patrick. The intensely human and very challenging figure which emerges from his own writings is that of a person of profound humility, deep spirituality, authentic vocation, Scriptural faith and commitment to the mission of Christ.

There is much that can be learned by 21st century Christians who reflect on what our patron saint had to say to his contemporaries in the 5th century and, through them, to us.

With regard to his humility, Patrick’s Confession in the Newport White translation, begins: “I Patrick the sinner, am the most illiterate and the least of all the faith, and contemptible in the eyes of very many.” It is perhaps a commonplace that the greatest of saints have been most conscious of their shortcomings. One has the sense that in Patrick’s case his acknowledgement of sin was no mere form of words but proceeded from a profound sense of unworthiness. “It was not any grace in me,” he writes in the Letter to Coroticus, “but God that put this earnest care into my heart, that I should be one of the hunters or fishers whom long ago God foreshowed would come in the last days.”

The depth of Patrick’s spirituality is indicated by his account of how, in his adversity being seized and carried off into slavery in Ireland, he had learned to depend upon God. “Now after I came to Ireland,” he wrote, “tending flocks was my daily occupation; and constantly I used to pray in the day time. Love of God and the fear of him increased more and more, and faith grew, and the spirit was moved, so that in one day
I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night nearly as many, so that I used to stay even in the woods and on the mountain to this end. And before daybreak I used to be roused to prayer, in snow, in frost, in rain; and I felt no hurt; nor was there any sluggishness in me – as I now see, because then the spirit was fervent within me.”

The authenticity of Patrick’s sense of vocation is indicated in the place where he describes how, after his return to Britain, he had a dream, a vision. “And there verily,” he says, “I saw in the night visions a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it were from Ireland with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter, which was entitled, ‘The Voice of the Irish’; and while I was reading aloud the beginning of the letter, I thought that at that very moment I heard the voice of them who lived beside the Wood of Foclut which is nigh unto the western sea. And thus they cried, as with one mouth: ‘We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.’ And I was exceedingly broken in heart, and could read no further. And so I awoke. Thanks be to God, that after very many years the Lord granted to them according to their cry.”

It is also evident, in both the Confession and in the Letter to Coroticus, that Patrick had so assimilated Holy Scripture that he could scarcely express himself on any topic without Scripture-language coming to his lips. Truly, the example of Patrick is the example of holiness itself. Such will always be the mark of the true Christian person who, while not always succeeding in the heights holiness, will be seen at least as one who has set all that is holy as his or her guide and goal.


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Weekend of mission by bishops in north of England

Letters to the Editor

Bethany Home and the Irish Church Missions

I WELCOME Derek Leinster’s retraction in his letter (Gazette, 3rd March) of his claims in an earlier letter (Gazette, 3rd February) that Irish Church Missions (ICM) ran Bethany Home.

Indeed, in a minute of the General Committee of ICM, not long after Bethany was opened, ICM was asked to come in to take on the running of the home, but it refused to do so. This indicates that it was not involved in either the establishment or the subsequent running of the home and that superintendents, such as T. C. Hammond and others, were operating in a voluntary, private capacity only.

Furthermore, as Mr Leinster knows, the Bethany Home was run by a board comprised of clergy and laity of various Protestant churches and denominations and not just by Church of Ireland volunteers.

Mr Leinster’s letter (Gazette, 3rd March) is also grossly misleading about the Historical Institutions Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) findings regarding Manor House Home.

The Inquiry found that in its 54-year history, there was “no systemic physical abuse
of children in Manor House” (para. 118, p.34, chapter 20); “no evidence of systemic sexual abuse of children by staff … ” (para 119, p.34); “no systemic emotional abuse of children” (para. 190, p.91); and “no neglect in the Home that amounted to systemic abuse” (para.196, p.53).

In other words, there was no systematic abuse happening over the decades of its history. It was a good home, where the children were happy and cared for.

In the case of those six victims, who came forward to the Inquiry, ICM has already apologised and deeply regrets what happened to them and to some others who suffered either peer abuse or abuse from a couple of deceptive, paedophile visitors.

In summing up the 54-year history of Manor House and taking into account all its failings (listed in paragraphs 200-209), the Report states in its summary paragraph (198): “It is clear from the documentary evidence we have considered that the Management Committee and the staff showed a keen interest in the care and wellbeing of the children and endeavoured  to provide a safe and secure home for them. We noted that even in the periods when the physical aspects of care were unsatisfactory the MoHA (Ministry of Home affairs) recorded that the children appeared happy. Also, although inspectors in 1981 found Manor House to be a somewhat out- dated children’s home, they were positive about the care the children were receiving and the trusting relationships that were apparent between children and staff.”

It is therefore quite unfair and irresponsible of Mr Leinster to be so dismissive of the overall findings of such a thorough, objective and well-researched Inquiry, the report of which can be viewed online at the HIAI website.

Like Canon Courtney, I welcome the Mother and Baby Home Commission investigation in the Republic to establish the truth and to bring justice for victims and for those individuals and organisations that may stand unfairly accused.

Eddie Coulter (The Revd) ICM Superintendent, 2003-16 Lisburn Co. Antrim

Post-Brexit Celtic Confederation?

IS IT now time to begin some serious radical re-thinking on the whole future constitutional structure/s within these islands?

While England and Wales voted to leave the EU, do the current pro-UK majorities in either or both Northern Ireland and Scotland, both of which voted to remain in the EU, really rate their UK status more highly than retaining EU membership?

If they, however reluctantly, put retaining their EU membership first, then one vehicle for either or even both to retain full EU membership might to join a Confederation with their nearest EU member-state, the Republic of Ireland, perhaps on the Swiss model, with a very small Confederate Cabinet – the Swiss have seven seats – with almost all issues handled by the constituent components.

Sovereignty would lie, both in principle and in practice, individually with the three components, while the Confederate level would handle only what was specifically assigned to it.

Each component could have its own detailed internal Constitution, with only a small and mainly procedural Constitution governing the new Confederation.

There is no reason why the post-EU Kingdom of England and Wales should not be the major constituent of Joint Forces raised from, funded by and defending the entire Archipelago.

Shared training of policing between the three Forces (Police Scotland, PSNI, Gardai) would also be a positive development.

There is no reason in democratic or constitutional principle why either all three (or one or two) components or the new Confederation should not be in the Commonwealth and UN, as well as, having the Queen as their titular Head of State.

This proposal offers a new context for resolving the endemic, otherwise unresolvable, festering and still- toxic tensions within Northern Ireland about its permanent constitutional destiny, and about North-South relations.

Belfast – and maybe Stormont  – would also be the ideal Capital for a Confederation linking the 66 ancient, historic Counties (six in Northern Ireland, 26 in the Republic of Ireland and 34 in Scotland). A 66-County Ulster!

Furthermore, a 21st Century Celtic Confederation would avoid the inherent imbalance of both (a) any two-island Federation which inevitably would be dominated by the 55 million people in England, and (b) any All-Ireland structure, where the Southern component of over 4.7 million people so outnumbers the Northern one of over 1.8 million.

A meaningful and informed emerging debate among both the Scots and the Northern Irish about their priority (EU before UK?) is expanded and enhanced by locating it in the wider and imaginative context of a possible loose Celtic Confederation – within both the Commonwealth and the EU.

Tom Carew Dublin 6

Bishop Poyntz

I HAVE both read and heard a number of tributes to the life, work and ministry of the late Bishop Sam Poyntz.

One important aspect of his ministry to which I believe there has been no reference, was that to the military community in the greater Belfast area during the latter part of the Troubles.

As Bishop of Connor, Bishop Sam offered assistance to military chaplains when there were many injuries and fatalities.

I was the Senior Chaplain of 39 Infantry Brigade, then the busiest operational brigade in the army, from 1991 to 1994. Bishop Sam went out of his way to offer assistance when there were military casualties, of which there were many, and he supported the difficult work of chaplains in that context.

Later, when I was the Senior Chaplain, HQNI and Bishop Sam was in his first retirement in Lisburn, he again offered himself for Confirmations for military personnel.

This aspect of Bishop Sam’s ministry may not be known to many but it should be recorded with thanks. May he rest in peace.

Peter Rutherford (The Revd) Kinsale

Co. Cork

Connor Children’s Council St Patrick Exhibition & Interactive Story Trail

WHEN I opened my Gazette (issue, 10th March) today and read about the proposed activities in St Anne’s Cathedral to teach people about our patron saint, St Patrick, I was appalled.

If this is to project the truth about who he was and how he thought, the image in the Gazette was a comic caricature.

What was the supposed saint wearing – a mitre? They were not worn in the 5th century. He was surrounded by snakes – there were none in Ireland. Vikings were to be featured. They did not come to Ireland until centuries later. As for Mr and Mrs Leprechaun, folklore and the Christian faith should be kept firmly separated.

I have spent many years trying to understand the real St Patrick. This was a man of deep humility, steadfast in his faith, thinking little of his own
glorification, refusing gifts, facing danger, carrying his staff and his bible, praying for the Irish people.

While I love the harp and Irish dancing and have not seen the show at the Cathedral, I believe the Church of Ireland should be going all out to portray the ‘real’ saint at this time of year.

He is to be found in the quiet and beauty of such places as the St Patrick Country around Downpatrick which was dear to his heart and where he held his first service in Ireland in a simple barn, preaching a simple faith.

I wonder if those who have attended the exhibition at St Anne’s will come away knowing the purpose of the real St Patrick and his life.

Maureen Donnelly Clough
Co. Down


Book Review

THE CHURCH AND BOYS – MAKING THE CONNECTION Author: Nick Harding Publisher: BRF; pp.174

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