Archbishop of Armagh responds to Lord Carey on welfare reform debate
The Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Alan Harper, has responded to an outspoken article by the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who took issue with those in the House of Lords, in particular the Lords spiritual, who opposed the westminster government’s welfare reform proposals.
Lord Carey, writing last week in the Daily Mail, said that, while he accepted that the five bishops who voted against the government’s proposal to cap welfare benefits at £26,000 a year had done so because they believed it was their duty to speak up for the poorest in society, especially children who might suffer under the proposals, the Bishops could not lay claim to “the moral high ground”.
THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Prime Minister David Cameron has used the UK’s current presidency of the Council of Europe to question the way in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) operates. with a backlog of over 150,000 cases, something would certainly seem to be amiss. either the ECHR is not sufficiently large as an institution to meet proper demand or, as Mr Cameron has intimated, the Court is simply not recognising the principle of subsidiarity – that is, that decisions should be made at lower levels as appropriate. There is surely no point in the ECHR engaging in what the British attorney-general, dominic grieve, has described as the “micro-managing of human rights” across europe.
The ECHR had recently been at the centre of controversy in the UK as a result of the country’s ban on prisoners voting in elections being judged as contrary to the provisions of the european Convention on Human rights. Antipathy has now deepened following the success of an appeal to the ECHR by the radical Islamist, Abu Qatada, who argued that deporting him from the UK to his native Jordan, where he is wanted on terrorism charges, would be in breach of his human rights. The Court held that evidence for charges against him may have been obtained by the torturing of a co-defendant, although the Court accepted assurances from Jordan that he himself would not be tortured. The former head of counter-terrorism at scotland Yard, Bob Quick, has described Abu Qatada as “very dangerous” and he is included in the UN’s al-Qaida sanctions list as an individual associated with al-Qaida.
In an article last week in The Independent newspaper, the uK’s nominee to the eCHr, sir nicolas bratza, countered the Prime minister’s stance, citing landmark rulings that have lifted the ban on homosexual people serving in the armed forces, have allowed the media to challenge restrictions in reporting the Thalidomide case and have ensured that child criminals are not tried in adult courts. sir nicolas described the Court as “an institution of inestimable value”.
However, mr Cameron has not been questioning the existence of the Court – only its modus operandi. unless the ECHR allows greater recognition of the principle of subsidiarity, the reputation of the Court will not be enhanced. A fundamental purpose of law is to serve the common good; allowing those properly elected to govern actually to do so in the day-to-day affairs of nations is necessary for that common good. Certainly, a question such as the deportation of suspected terrorists should fall to national governments which, in turn, have the responsibility of obtaining credible assurances that fair trials will, in fact, take place. In the case of Abu Qatada, who for the time being remains in high-security custody in worcestershire, it is to be hoped that Jordan will provide whatever further assurances are necessary.
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Letters to the Editor
To those readers who knew me as Church of Ireland Press officer from 1972 to 1983, i say hello – i’m still around! to those who do not know me from Adam, I also say hello! I aspire to be 86 next week and I now wish to share some elderly thoughts.
There are at present some momentous happenings in society – economically, environmentally, public and family mores, socially and (this being ireland), of course, politically and the year ahead promises more of the same. Right across the world, much is afoot too, within and between Churches and other faith communities or none.
Unquestionably, the institutional Churches are there in the mix. People, young and not so young, are boldly and articulately questioning the status quo from different perspectives.
Now, in the middle of all this, stands our own Church of Ireland Gazette that is something of a treasure going back over 150 years. my contacts with the Gazette date back to the 1970s and the then editor, the late archdeacon andy willis, of urglin glebe, Carlow, a wonderful man.
I have been encouraged by the Gazette issue of 20th January containing a special supplement on the imminent conference in march to tackle the thorny subject of human sexuality and its ramifications. This conference is, in my opinion, a wise move towards steering the Church of Ireland away from any rifts, and it was also a wise and brave move by the Gazette to produce such a supplement.
Indeed, I feel that there is room for more such supplements on a wide range of subjects. For instance, I believe we need a lexicon to elucidate the huge range of Irish and international religious organisations (most only known to the few by clumps of not-very- memorable initials) and the Church of ireland’s input.
Readers’ letters are a wonderful way of communicating opinions of both laity and clergy. Keep them coming!
May I wish the Church of Ireland Gazette continuing success in its mission, and, just finally, who can fairly object to the relative pittance it costs, even in current economic times?
Alan Johnston, Strangford Co. Down
Note: Thank you, Mr Johnston – and Happy Birthday! Editor
In his letter on the causes of homosexuality (13th January), Dermot O’Callaghan says that if one identical twin is homosexual, the other usually is not. This is not entirely correct.
There have been several studies of identical and fraternal twins, all with similar results. If one identical twin was gay, the other was also gay in 50% of the cases. Fraternal twins were both gay in 22% of the cases. Identical twins were more likely to be both gay compared to fraternal twins.
These findings strongly suggest that that there is something in their genes that makes them gay. mustanski and bailey (2003), in a review of the research, noted that homosexuality appeared to run in families, and that “twin studies have established that genes play a substantial role in explaining individual differences in sexual orientation”.
Genes are not the whole story. Some researchers think that there is an interaction between genes and pre- natal influences: “modern scientific research indicates that sexual orientation is partly determined by genetics, but more specifically by hormonal activity in the womb.” ( wilson and rahman, Born Gay: the Psychobiology of Sex, 2005).
About 5% of the population are homosexual. we do not know precisely what determines sexual orientation, but it is clear that it is something with which we are born and of which we become aware during or shortly after puberty. It is not something that we choose.
Paul Rowlandson Londonderry BT47.
Dean MacCarthy on the clergy
I was appalled at and annoyed by the remarks made by dean macCarthy in The Irish Catholic as reported in the Gazette of 27th January, where he said that “The Church of Ireland … is scraping the barrel for clergy”. In the original article, he went on to say: “Since i have met many of these scrapings, I know what i’m talking about.”
I wish to refute his remarks from two perspectives.
First, as a Diocesan Director of Ordinands. Here in dublin diocese, there is a careful process of discernment before anyone is sent to the annual selection Conference, including a rigorous psychological assessment over two days by a registered and very experienced psychologist.
Second, as coordinator of the new Internship Programme, I am in regular contact with the students of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This year, 17 intern deacons have been placed in parishes in many dioceses. Almost universally, their training clergy have been positive and affirmative about the standard and quality of their intern deacons. As one rector remarked when I asked for feedback: “Top quality assistance!”
I, therefore, find Dean MacCarthy’s comments unfounded, unjustified and gratuitous and, indeed, offensive to the students, staff and work of CITI.
I suppose the twelve disciples wouldn’t have escaped either!
Ted Woods (The Revd) Terenure Dublin 6W
Features and Columns
- Insight – CMS Ireland’s Mission Director, Ronnie Briggs, recently attended two significant events for the Diocese of Kajiado, Kenya.
- Soap – Down at St. David’s
- Rethinking Church – Stephen Neil – Less fear, more awe
- Lifelines – Ron Elsdon – Regulation and reformation
- Standing Committee News – January 2012