Crisis in the Irish Catholic Church: A Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Agenda by Fr Michael Bennett

image Today we continue with the third of Fr Michael Bennett’s guest posts on the Irish Catholic Church, A Look from Afar. Here, Fr Michael argues that establishing an agenda for justice, peace and integrity of creation (JPIC) is absolutely essential in today’s Ireland.

Fr Michael urges us to take another look at some of the ideas developed in Social Justice Ireland’s An Agenda for a New Ireland. He contrasts the lack of debate about how we might construct a ‘common good’ for social, political and religious life in Ireland, with our obsessive focus on the private sexual lives of celebrities and politicians.

A Look from Afar – Part Three: A Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Agenda

Justice, peace and the integrity of creation (JPIC) tends to be an ambiguous agenda. While it easily rolls off one’s lips as if it is crystal clear what it means, the ambiguity arises when it becomes obvious that it is little understood and in recent times largely ignored by corporate Ireland.

image I recently read a book by Shane Ross, The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees, which opened my misty eyes to the Ireland I purported to know.

I used to think that dictatorship and oppression was synonymous with Zimbabwe (where I spent thirteen years). I now see that a more subtle form of economic and political oppression – the collusion of bankers, builders and politicians (BBP) – has brought Ireland to the brink. Present and future generations must pay materially, socially and emotionally for the economic mess.

If we add church leaders to BBP, it becomes clear that many authority figures in Ireland have failed or betrayed their people.

The JPIC agenda is taken up by Social Justice Ireland in their socio-economic document, An Agenda for a New Ireland, reviewed by Gladys on this website. SJI refer to four core values:

  1. human dignity
  2. sustainability
  3. equality/human rights
  4. the common good

imageI note where Gladys is intrigued by the principle of the common good. Perhaps many more should also be. The common good refers to the good of each individual and the good of all people. It is denied where greed, individualism and selfishness are embedded in society, and ‘my good’ rather than the ‘common good’ is emphasised.

Can the ‘Prophetic Church’ get us Talking about the ‘Common Good’?

This has been the experience of Ireland in recent times. Striving for the common good is a responsibility of both individuals and political authority, and the common good should be the first priority of public policy. Sadly, too many governments focus on a party political agenda at the expense of the common good!

While the JPIC agenda should be central to the pastoral agenda of the Christian community, it finds a particular niche in the ‘prophetic church’ as it involves prophetic people adopting a counter-cultural perspective.

Social Ethics v. Sexual Ethics?

The JPIC agenda is related to church social teaching which is often labelled ‘the hidden gospel’, or ‘the church’s best kept secret’. Taking this teaching out of the cupboard and putting it on an Irish table as a source of rich nourishment has never been adequately done.

Sexual ethics are more discussed in everyday parlance than social ethics – which is a great pity as church social teaching is extremely nuanced, borrowing from many disciplines including psychology, sociology and economics. However, there seems to be more concern about the private lives of celebrities and public figures than about the integrity of their public actions.

I will post Fr Michael’s final contribution in this series later this week.

Read Part Two of Fr Michael Bennett’s A Look from Afar – Restoring the Community to the Centre

Read Part One of Fr Michael Bennett’s A Look from Afar – Understandings of the ‘Church’

(Image of St Finn Barr’s church, Cork, sourced on flickr photosharing, by battyward)

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