Is there hope for the Pope?

Is there hope for the Pope?

By Cathy Lee

This piece was originally written for NUI Galway’s Student Independent News/sin.ie. Image is by Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

When it was announced that Ireland was to receive the Pope in late August, once again we were reminded of the reality of the ongoing process of Ireland’s separating of Church and State. For decades, Irish citizens have felt the affects of a constitution being filled with heavy church teachings, values and beliefs given a platform so high that it infringes on the choices of people, regardless of their religious or non-religious background. We live in a changing Ireland, and how this visit is handled by those in power, will do a great deal in defining this position going forward.

To correctly handle the Pope’s visit, we must first and foremost recognise how Ireland has changed since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Almost forty years later, we live in more secular times where Ireland should no longer be defined as “a Catholic country” as it has been on numerous occasions in the past. Today, we are open to others, the various minorities regardless of creed or race in the true honour to the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. I don’t take a position to say that the Pope should not be welcomed or allowed to visit, as that would just be another form of exclusion or intolerance and so, this is not progress. The Pope is a world figure, it would not be in Ireland’s best interest to deny him.
We even saw last month, our Taoiseach rubbing shoulders with US leader Donald Trump for St Patrick’s Day which was met with a mixed reaction. Just because Trump does not represent the position of the majority of Irish people, this does not mean that such visits of a political nature should be boycotted or denied. The same is true of the Pope. Sometimes respect has to be given to those we may not agree with in order to receive respect back, just as long as we don’t act like something we are not. Maybe it is just a case of keeping up appearances but in my view if the Pope’s visit is to be correctly handled, honesty is key. We need not play false roles in pretending that every person in Ireland love’s Catholicism and prays under a candle to the Pope each evening, because this simply isn’t true and does not represent Ireland in 2018.

Although this will not be a formal state visit, but as part of a larger World Meeting of Families, there are talks of civil protesting of the summer events, particularly from those who are survivors of institutional church abuse. I think anyone in this position should be entitled to do that. But of course we are a mixed country, from those who will celebrate the Pope’s visit here and those who may not even be aware of it. What we are all aware of, are the wrongs we have seen from the church in this country’s past and we derive our own position on people and their background that has they where they are from this. But there can be nothing worse than keeping a fire burning instead of trying to find a new more tolerant way forward. Of course not forgetting past atrocities, but progressing in a way that this hurt does not define you as a whole person.

We have marriage equality in this country, we may have the 8th amendment repealed in the upcoming months. The political space is becoming a secular one, and so the Pope should be treated as a guest to this country like any other, with no entitlements or elitism. We saw recently that our previous President Mary McAleese was denied entry to a Vatican meeting for her political views. There is no defending this move from Pope Francis and I don’t think any Irish leader should forget this most recent action when the Pope comes to visit us. It’s true that we have moved on from the days of the Eucharist Congress and 1979 but of course only time will tell how this is going to go down in August. I just hope, that we won’t digress and revert back to an unhappy time of unquestioned Catholicism in forgetting all the progress we have made, both politically and socially.

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21 blog posts series find fourteen

21 blog posts series find fourteen

Fourteen: “Questioning in order to understand politics”

Politics is a tough thing, ever-changing and ever unpredictable (for the most part). I have understanding for those who can become disillusioned with politics because of the nature in the way that it is. But I would hope that this disillusion would be something temporary. I understand that when the results of elections, referenda on a big or small scale don’t come together for you – that could push your interest away on a human level due to disappointment or lack of support.

But I think once something has been passed into law or someone has been elected in, the debate has not stopped, the playing field has just changed up a bit. Are your views or opinions going to change over night? Not exactly. Often, election results present to us the view of the nation. The winner or loser knows their place and the citizens must adapt accordingly. But is that the real picture? If you look to the amount of spoiled votes and those who didn’t cast a vote at all, sometimes those levels can be astonishing and honestly, disheartening.

So what can we do to get people more focused in on politics, to act out their role and entitlement in contributing to the future of a country? I’m currently writing an academic paper on political satire and it’s place within mainstream journalism/news. One scholar notes how political satire can act as an introduction to political issues on an larger scale, being that bit more engaging and emotive. Do we need to be emotionally driven to go out and vote or is the element of duty strong enough?

Both are up for questioning here. If we aren’t happy with a politician, political party or even a Taoiseach, I think we have the right to hold them to account as members of the electorate. We were the ones who voted them in their based on what we conceived as their ability and commitment to the policies they wished to evoke. If they aren’t doing what they said they would do, peoples’ own power should come into play here. Or else, what’s the point in being involved at all?

We are seeing a lot of this recently with the number of strikes and public protests or rallies in the last number of months. I find this public participation something to truly admire. It shows the lack of fear that exists and of course the belief in the power of having a voice to back up your view. I think this activism allows us to question the way things are and really if our way of living is up to scratch. Protests are rooted in history and marked for a reason so I feel we should never live in fear of voicing our views.

As well, support is key in political protest in terms of lending a helping hand to the cause of our fellow citizens. This can come in the form of men marching at the Women’s March or those who took part in the Strike 4 Repeal campaign on International Women’s Day. Last week those with physical disabilities spoke out at the Irish Government for their lack of supports and the fact that standard law regulations set by the EU/UN has not been passed here on disability rights. Here we could see people from all different backgrounds supported by family and friends out for the cause.

I think this encouragement is vital when a group has the courage to step up against an oppressor. Even at the moment with the Bus Eireann and public transport strikes, I have seen those with no fixed personal involvement stand with these workers who feel they are up against it. The question remains, do we all have a part to play? We have the choice whether to participate in any of these campaigns, but as we know, politics is unpredictable. Each and everyone’s role as individuals is vital in some shape or form.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

A Message Amidst Madness Series: Dealing with Changing Times.

By Cathy Lee

Ireland is a place for decisive and divisive referenda.

The Divorce referendum of 1996 and of course The Marriage referendum of just last year come to mind.

Call me biased, but these all happened in my lifetime.

Last week the Literary and Debating Society in NUI Galway held a debate on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment of the constitution.

This of course is topical as it has been raised as an election issue currently, with some politicians showing their true colours as is to be expected.

But some politicians have been giving mixed messages about their stance on the matter.

About a year ago a Fine Gael TD claimed that he himself was pro-life in his stance but would agree with the need for his party to call a referendum on repealing the 8th and legalising abortion.

The term that first comes to mind during this time is “uncertainty” in these changing times.

We can’t be certain what’s to happen and what really defines “progress and change” to Irish politicians.

What is good for the country moving forward versus the sincerity in the views of Irish politicians seems to be an issue.

The government changed legislation in 2013 to make abortion accessible on the grounds of when a woman is showing signs of being suicidal.

Pro-Life campaigners were unhappy with this legislation and Galway representative for this campaign told me she’d like to see this legislation changed back to the way it was before 2013.

Although this legislation passed, you take the example of the “Ms Y” case of the same year (that is still ongoing) where the woman in question claimed to be suicidal and was still not able to access her own wishes to abort the foetus who had been conceived through rape.

Pro-Choice campaigners would prefer to have the 8th amendment of the constitution just be deleted and therefore avoiding any confusion around matters of defining whether a woman is sincere or not etc.

Deleted is a key word to this, as phrasing is so important when trying to convince the general public of complex views.

Last month national radio station NewsTalk launched their conversation campaign around Election 2016.

Their phrasing really struck me.

Their slogan was “Time to terminate the 8th?” with a photograph of a 6 month baby scan.

I couldn’t believe that this campaign was spread across the main billboard in my small home town.

(Just 100 metres away from the Catholic church too I might add).

We can experience bias when it comes to these referenda when we are presented with a fogged view of the reality.

When speaking to a local county councillor at home in Wicklow, he explained that a campaign to repeal the 8th would be certainly harder to achieve than other referenda.

With the “Yes Equality” campaign running up until last May, there were positive stories to tell about couples finding love and wishing to marry.

With abortion, often the stories are highly sensitive and not always positive.

But it also makes you wonder where all the losers on the side of these referenda go?

Do they just disappear off the radar when their views aren’t the majority?

Do those who voted “No” in the Marriage referendum boycott same-sex weddings or those who said “No” to divorce just force wedding rings back onto fingers now?

I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions and moral views on these topics, but it just get to wondering where is the future and will it actually facilitate everyone?

The conversation must be opened more instead of one side shunning the other’s views out.

Compromise is key in my view for this debate.