COI Gazette – 26th April 2013

Diocese of Cashel and Ossory receives landmark environmental award


Janet Crampton (extreme left), the Revd Andrew Orr (2nd left) and Bishop Michael Burrows display Cashel and Ossory’s environmental award following the presentation at the ECI Roadshow in Kilkenny. They are accompanied by the Roadshow’s two guest speakers, Fr Seán McDonagh SSC and Gavin Harte (front row, 2nd right and back respectively), and Catherine Brennan SSL, chairperson of ECI. (Photo: Fiona Murdoch)

Janet Crampton (extreme left), the Revd Andrew Orr (2nd left) and Bishop Michael Burrows display Cashel and Ossory’s environmental award following the presentation at the ECI Roadshow in Kilkenny. They are accompanied by the Roadshow’s two guest speakers, Fr Seán McDonagh SSC and Gavin Harte (front row, 2nd right and back respectively), and Catherine Brennan SSL, chairperson of ECI. (Photo: Fiona Murdoch)

The Diocese of Cashel and Ossory recently made history by becoming the first Church of Ireland diocese to receive a diocesan award from Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI). It was given in recognition of Cashel and Ossory’s programme of environmental initiatives. The only previous diocesan award had been made to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kerry in May 2012.

ECI is an ecumenical project enjoying the support of the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist and the Presbyterian Churches in Ireland and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).




It was the Chicago journalist, Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936), who coined the saying that journalism is about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Certainly, journalism at its best – and excellence should be the aim of all – will naturally tend to seek truth and justice, and this quest will inevitably upset many of the powerful and privileged, quite deeply at times, because truth and justice can threaten the arrangements of a cherished status quo.

Dunne’s saying is the chosen motto of Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who recently wrote that in 2012, the world’s 100 richest people became $241 billion richer, now being worth $1.9 trillion, which, he pointed out, is just a little less than the entire annual output of the British economy.

The Dunne motto has been re-applied in different spheres of life, often being adopted by social justice campaigners, such as in the World Social Forum (WSF), which describes itself as “an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action”.

In a particular case, the World Council of Churches has reported how, at a recent meeting of the WSF, ecumenical voices warned about “the grave consequences of extraction of natural resources and mining, which they say generate a tremendous amount of social and ecological debt”. At the event, we were told, Nicolas Sersiron, from the French Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, explored links between financial debt and extractivism. “The debt is forcing countries in the South, and more recently and increasingly in the North, to pursue an ecologically destructive development path based on the extraction and exploitation of natural resources,” he said.

Against this background, it was heartening to note how one of the major goals of the inter-agency ‘IF’ campaign has now seen success in the EU, with backing for strong accounting transparency legislation for the oil, gas and mining sectors, aimed at tackling corruption (report, last week’s Gazette). No matter where one stands on the political register from left to right, there can be no justification for people’s countries being exploited by leaving them, the people, entirely out of the equation.

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Letters to the Editor

Same sex marriage

The submission made by Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) to the Constitutional Convention in the Republic on the subject of same-sex marriage (Gazette report, 12th April) contained a number of exaggerations.

CAI claimed: “The argument against homosexuality from Scripture depends on just half a dozen isolated verses out of over 30,000.” In fact, the argument depends on much more than the verses where homosexuality is specifically named.

From Genesis 1 and 2 onwards, sexual activity is presented as being appropriately expressed within marriage, and marriage is defined there as a permanent, heterosexual and monogamous union.

These three properties of marriage are all explicitly affirmed by Jesus in Mark 10: 1-12.

CAI also claimed that “there is no trace of monogamy being the norm in Scripture apart from a single suggestion in one of the later of St Paul’s letters that bishops should have only one wife”.

In fact, not only does Paul also apply this principle to deacons (1 Timothy 3: 12) and presbyters (Titus 1: 6), but monogamy is clearly taught by Jesus in Mark 10: 7,8 – “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

The reference to “two”, as well as to the fact that “leaving” one’s parents would only happen once, confirms that Jesus taught monogamous marriage.

Monogamy is also implicit in, for example, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7. Most importantly, Scripture describes marriage as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his Church (for example, in Ephesians 5).

The three characteristics of permanence, heterosexuality and monogamy are all extremely important to this illustration.

It is vital that we pay close attention to the overall sweep of the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, as well as what is said in specific texts about homosexuality.

David Huss (The Revd) The Rectory Donegal Town Co. Donegal

When Clodagh Robinson (Letter, 12th April) says that the Regnerus study, which found differences between the outcomes of children growing up in different family structures, “cannot be relied on … as it does not compare children in stable, longterm family units”, she is admitting that not all family structures are equally good for children. This crucially true observation requires us to ask which structures are better and which are worse.

Regnerus helps us by comparing eight different family forms, but why did he not use ‘intact’ LGB families (who had stayed together throughout the child’s upbringing)? Because the LGB relationships were usually so transient. For example, fewer than 2% of children whose father had had a same-sex partner had spent even three years in that family arrangement. This is devastatingly bad for children.

The one clear fact is that the intact biological family of mother, father and child(ren) is the gold standard. Thus, when Clodagh correctly says, “The meaning of ‘the family’ has changed in Ireland over the years”, she is saying that things have got worse for children.

While we must be careful not to stigmatise children, the remedy must be to try to promote intact biological families, as, indeed, the Irish Constitution requires.

All research which has found that, in Clodagh’s words, “children growing up with lesbian and gay parents turn out just fine” (on average) is methodologically flawed, as Loren Marks’ review has highlighted. Why leave out the ‘B’ in ‘LGB’? We must expect pressure now to allow ‘bisexual parenting’ – meaning at least three parents and even less family stability.

Clodagh is right that Regnerus’ study has been severely criticised. A claim of “scientific and scholarly misconduct” was even brought against him. This was fully investigated by the University of Texas and the verdict was clear: “None of the allegations … put forth … were substantiated.” The recent Constitutional Convention, while wellintentioned, has set its face to go in the wrong direction.

Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough Co. Down BT26

St Anne

The Revd Peter Rutherford has asked me, through the columns of the Gazette (12th April), to explain the reason for the dedication of St Anne’s Cathedral, otherwise known as Belfast Cathedral.

The dedication of the cathedral came from that of the former Parish Church of St Anne that stood on the same site.

Perhaps I can quote from our guidebook concerning the earlier place of worship: “Built 1774-1776, the church was a gift to Belfast by the landlord, Lord Donegall, who chose to call it St Anne’s in honour of his wife, Lady Anne, nee Hamilton. Anne is the name traditionally given to the mother of the Virgin Mary.”

That is the reason for the dedication, but my words about St Anne, in relation to the opening of the new library at the cathedral, made reference to a medieval (principally English) tradition that depicts St Anne, usually with an open book in her hand, teaching the young Mary not only reading but also embroidery. Such clear evidence of later tradition is reflected in the fact that everything is wrong: from the book to the clothes; from the delicate needlework to the genteel scenes.

Occasionally, I stand or sit in the middle of the nave of the cathedral and glance up at the four archangels carved traditionally in Basilicastyle churches, such as St Anne’s, high in the corners of the central nave. I like the thought of them looking down on us each day.

Only two of them, of course, are named in the canonical Scriptures. The fact that two of them are not does not keep me awake at night – a few other things do!

John Mann (The Very Revd) St Anne’s Cathedral Donegall Street Belfast BT1 2HB


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