Catherine McGuinness, delivering CAI lecture in Dublin, tackles ‘sectarianism’ controversy
Speaking last weekend (26th October) at a public lecture given in St Ann’s church, Dawson Street, Dublin, and sponsored by Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI ) to mark the 20th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Republic of Ireland, retired judge Catherine McGuinness said that the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson’s recent comments regarding sectarianism in the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough were “likely to disturb comfort and complacency among the members of the Church of Ireland – no bad thing”.
She said that, leaving aside the challenges that had been made to his definition of sectarianism, the main theme of his message had been that “Church of Ireland people are unwilling to fully accept outsiders into their flock”.
THE HARD GOSPEL PROJECT RECALLED
There has been widespread discussion about the issue of sectarian attitudes in Dublin and wider afield in the Republic since the Archbishop of Dublin’s address at the recent meeting of the Diocesan Synods of Dublin and Glendalough, and following his further elucidations (Gazette, last week). The potency of the word ‘sectarianism’ in our Irish context has been well and truly revealed.
In this context, one recalls that from 2005-2008 the Church of Ireland ran the whole Hard Gospel Project, with a clear anti-sectarian and ‘living with difference’ agenda. There was a full-time Director and there were two further full-time officers – one based in Northern Ireland and the other in the Republic. The Project cost over half a million pounds, having received financial backing from the International Fund for Ireland and the Irish Government in addition to the Church’s own finance support.
Sectarianism, of course, is difficult to define but, at risk of being too brief, it surely comes in different degrees of intensity and is essentially about an attitude to the ‘other’ group or community that is unwelcome to that ‘other’ because it is, at least to some extent, prejudiced and perhaps actually abusive. Sectarianism happens all over the world. Indeed, Archbishop Jackson has suggested that the Church of Ireland now needs a further Hard Gospel initiative.
When the Hard Gospel Project came to an end, the Church was left with the challenge of actually implementing the priorities that had emerged. Yet, the transition from a well-funded project, with staff, to a committee of volunteers with responsibility for the causes which the Hard Gospel had espoused has shown that a momentum is lost when there are no designated staff. The current Hard Gospel Implementation Group is made up of good people and what has just been said is no reflection on their efforts and commitment. It is really all about time and resources – or, rather, the lack of both.
There are many things that we need to do in the Church of Ireland and which require money. The pensions situation will pose a considerable challenge to parishes across Ireland for years to come. We also have things we need to do in terms of the Church’s mission, such as in relation to the Hard Gospel priorities. Last year, the Gazette suggested the establishing of a central group of people who would be asked to come up with new ideas as to how the Church of Ireland could raise a substantial capital sum (Editorial, 24th August 2012).
It is important that the Church does not look on its current financial woes simply as requiring an accounting resolution; the situation really needs proactivity in terms of building up new capital – and a lot of it.
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