The Irish Defence Forces should not have apologised for a homily delivered by its head chaplain, Msgr Eoin Thynne, in response to this year’s Christmas message from the Irish President, according to a former army officer.
Following a move last weekend by Chief of Staff Lieutenant General
Conor O’Boyle to diffuse the row which erupted after the Defence Forces’
head chaplain noted the omission of Christianity from President Michael
D. Higgins’ December 21 Christmas message, Dr Tom Clonan told The Irish Catholic this week that “the chief of staff should not have apologised”.
“The comments made by Msgr Thynne are within his own pervue and are
his right as a priest. His observations were correct and accurate. I am
disappointed to see him subjected to hostile scrutiny for views he is
entitled to articulate.”
He added that a “form of censorship” was
evident in the “spin” surrounding the monsignor’s homily.
The reaction to Msgr Thynne’s words, Dr Clonan went on, was a
consequence “of the hierarchical culture inherited from the British army
in the 1920s”, a culture, he pointed out, which is at odds with army
practice in other democratic societies where fora exist for members of
the military to contribute to issues of importance to society.
Such an “intellectual tradition is now emerging within the Irish
Defence Forces,” Dr Clonan said, pointing by way of example to links
established with NUI Maynooth and where “today, officers engage with
studies on domestic and foreign policy and complete dissertations
sometimes at odds with Government policy. Should they be punished for
their views now in light of the Eoin Thynne issue?”
Dr Clonan, who previously served with Msgr Thynne during peacekeeping
duties to Lebanon described the priest as “an exceptional and highly
respected chaplain” who, during a testing overseas posting, “was someone
all soldiers, regardless of faith, could turn to”.