Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Closure of embassy to the Vatican (Comment)

SO, the Reds were under the bed all the time – and it’s possible Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore was among them!

Tánaiste Gilmore probably would not describe himself as a ‘Red’ despite having been a member of the strangest Lefty grouping this country has ever seen.

Yet, many ordinary Catholics interpret his closure of Ireland’s Vatican embassy as a blast from a time when pseudo-Lefties like him were perceived as a threat to Catholic Ireland.

And, they have a point. It takes a certain kind of nerve to smash the historic and special relationship that Ireland had with Rome, one dating back to the fifth century.

Public anger at his action is only now sinking in. The Irish Times suggested that the closure was linked with the Labour Party’s ongoing assault on the Catholic Church and its control of national schools.

An Irish Examiner editorial declared that the Irish Government was thumbing its nose at the Vatican and that it should reconsider its decision because ‘we should not cut off our influence in the restructuring that will take place in the Holy See’. (What De Paper meant by ‘restructuring’ is anybody’s guess!).

The editor of The Irish Catholic, Garry O’Sullivan, described as downright reckless the ‘rupture of diplomatic networks and contacts built over generations with what is probably the world’s best connected information hub. He accused Gilmore of wiping out a vital part of our diplomatic inheritance with the stroke of a pen.

Settling old scores

Gilmore’s excuse that the closure was done for economic reasons cut no ice. People saw Cloyne smeared all over it, and came to the conclusion that Gilmore was engaged in the settling of scores from the time the coalition accused the Holy See of meddling in a government inquiry. Kenny described the Vatican as dysfunctional, disconnected, elitist and narcissistic.

Implicitly targeted in the condemnation was Pope Benedict XVI. An astonished Vatican recoiled with horror at the bilge that came from the Catholic leader of the most conservative Catholic party in Ireland, Fine Gael.

Even more perplexing was the fact that Pope-bashing Fine Gael later wanted the most orthodox Catholic in Europe, Gay Mitchell, to be the next president of Ireland! No wonder the Vatican is confused.

Amusingly, Sir Anto’s organ, The Evening Herald, claimed credit for everything after one of its chaps, Fergus Finlay (a backroom Labour guru), wrote in the wake of the Cloyne report that the government should consider the value of keeping an ‘expensive’ embassy in Rome.

‘Sometimes diplomats recognise the value of a short sharp shock … and it’s time the Vatican recognised that no one in Ireland is going to put up with their patronising nonsense any longer’ was the gist of Finlay’s offensive spiel. Gilmore, it seems, listened and learned.

Gilmore’s brainstorm

Reading The Evening Herald, however, will not help the Pope and his cardinals to figure out why Gilmore put the boot in, although it might encourage these questions: what sort of mental function prompted a politically insignificant Paddy to take on the oldest and most powerful religious organisation in the world? What thoughts and emotions influenced his astonishing decision? Where did he get such ideas?

But, when the princes of the church try to solve that conundrum, imagine the task facing them as they seek to identify the part of his cranium which is full of Official Sinn Fein anti-clericalism, or the bit occupied by Sinn Fein the Workers Party anti-clericalism, or the area devoted to The Workers’ Party anti-clericalism, or that of Democratic Left, or New Agenda, or the Labour Party? Except the last one, all were pro-Soviet Union outfits, and all were once Gilmore’s political home.

Will the cardinals throw their ecclesiastical hats at it and come to the conclusion that Gilmore’s brainstorm will pass when he’s invited to see the thumbscrews on his next visit to Regina Coeli?

Or, do they think that his exotic political past, and the Workers’ Party admiration of North Korea (the most repressive regime in the world), might have had an unshakeable influence on him?

And if Pope Benedict tearfully laments ‘where did it all go wrong?’, will the Pontiff be thinking of the rare auld times when no difficulties existed between Ireland and Rome.

Code of relations

Will Benedict recall Pius X11’s famous remark to historian Jean Blanchard who suggested the need for a concordat between the two states? ‘Neither the Hierarchy nor the civil power see any necessity for one.

The heritage of modern Ireland is such that there is never any occasion for difficulties to arise between the Irish nation and Rome. 

What purpose would it serve to draw up a code of relations between the two states, when there is never any conflict?’ answered the Pontiff.

What halcyon days those were! To think it has come to this: Ireland and the Vatican at loggerheads! So sad! So very sad! 

As someone memorably said: ‘Sic transit gloria mundi’. 

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