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The Irish Times, and editorial balance.

Three stories in today’s (on-line) edition of the Irish Times caught my attention.  The first is an informational story from Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent on the new campaign by the IHA for much-needed changes to the religion-drenched Irish Constitution .  For example, to become President of our fair nation – you need only conform to the following…

 The President shall enter upon his office by taking and subscribing publicly, in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court, and other public personages, the following declaration:

“In the presence of Almighty God I    ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.”

 Similarly, to join the ranks for the Irish Council of State, we are again required to invoke the (Catholic please) sky-daddy.

“In the presence of Almighty God I,          , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.”

Or a judge, because there can be no doubt that all authority from the religious cannot be seen to be derived from a mere human.

“In the presence of Almighty God I,      , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me.”

Most of Article 44 could have been written by Pope Pius XI himself, and with the state of Irish belief at the time, potentially it was.  Just for entertainment purposes, if you could kneel in reverence and contemplate it in all it’s pious glory.


Article 44

1.    The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.

2.    1° Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.

2° The State guarantees not to endow any religion.

3° The State shall not impose any disabilities or make any discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status.

4° Legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations, nor be such as to affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school. 5° Every religious denomination shall have the right to manage its own affairs, own, acquire and administer property, movable and immovable, and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes.

6° The property of any religious denomination or any educational institution shall not be diverted save for necessary works of public utility and on payment of compensation.

It is clear that the drafters the above article did not take the time to read the American Constitution when drafting this article – if only they had.  For an Ireland largely controlled by the church, as it was at the times of the drafting, article 44 can be seen as a historical accident.  I think the HAI is correct to get work to change this and we should support them in their endevours, perhaps this may even be an opportune moment for change.

But I digress.  The story in the Irish Times.  

In fairness, the IHA should be happy enough, the salient points they will want to get into the public arena were, superficially at least, represented.   Strangly there is no mention of this campaign on the HAI website (that i could find).  Time for the HAI to join learn how lots of people get their information about organisations and their activities.

To balance this dangerously secular story.  The IT has the following piece by the disgusting pro-life and Pope Benedict apologist Breda O’Brien.   The story assures us the problems of modern society can be remedied by… yes you guessed it, a return to good, honest religous values.  She argues that we need to embrace the postives that religion offers (she is less clear on precisely what postives in particular we are all missing in our lives).  I can accept that religious practice does have positives, at its best, religion does good charity work, offers comfort to the superstitious and offers some atmospheric music at christmas.   O’Brien then allows the Ionia Institute (a Catholic mouth-piece of which she admits to being a patron) to spew its propaganda as if it was conventional academic wisdom.  She parrots a speech from a ‘lecture’ at the institute – one of the more bizzare quotes being…

According to the paper, religious practice decreases the risk of suicide and of depression, helps people to cope with bereavement, reduces involvement in premature sexual activity and drink and drug-taking among teenagers, adds to life expectancy and increases the chances of being happily married.

WTF – just where do you begin with this?  It is clearly just your typical ‘make it up as you go along’,  bullshit from the religious.  Of course if you believe in virgin-birth and body and blood cannibalism, your bar of credulity is set pretty low to begin with.  O’Brien then assures us that the report she quotes from, (from her own religious institute), ‘is a valuable counter balance to voices such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who believe religion is a malign force’.  The difference of course is that unlike O’Brien and her ilk, Dawkins and Hitchens can defend their position with a ready-supply of disturbing evidence.

Just to be sure that the IT is ‘balanced’ it also gives a piece in defence of  Dr Patricia Casey, who defended her public endorsement, as a medical professional, of religious practice.   The Irish Times should rename itself to the Catholic Times, move to Rome and publish pamphlets for the deluded in the Vatican.


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