“Some people seem to like giving interviews.”
These were the words
typed on a card from the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome.
was sent on January 2, 1986 to Geoffrey Keating, the Irish Chargé
d’Affaires in Rome, by Monsignor Diarmuid Martin (as the present
Archbishop of Dublin then was).
The subject of this comment was a report in Il Regno by Archbishop
McNamara, the then outspoken and hence controversial archbishop of the
day, who died in office in April 1987.
Keating forwarded the article to Iveagh House with a cover in which
he remarked that it was well-informed and reflects accurately – and in
more detail – the view of the Archbishop.
Msgr Martin had described to
Keating the journal that published it as “a left-wing Italian Tablet”.
Moreover: “Msgr Martin was particularly struck by the Archbishop’s
suggestion that whatever form Irish unity took, it was possible to
foresee a situation where divorce was permitted in the North but not in
the South. He thought this was a new idea and one which had not been
heard before from a member of the hierarchy. I reminded him that a
former Taoiseach had made similar remarks some years ago in an interview
and had encountered some criticism on the matter.”
This intervention was followed by a speech by Archbishop McNamara which was reprinted in the English version of L’Osservatore Romano
(January 20, 1986). This had originally been delivered at meeting of
Family Solidarity, which had provoked criticism due to its reference to
pluralism and divorce.
The editor of the English language edition Fr
Seamus O’Byrne told Keating that the appearance of the article (one of
several requested from English speaking bishops) had been delayed and it
appearance was therefore of less significant than it seems.
“Msgr Diarmuid Martin of the Pontifical Council for the Family had
told me that it would appear and also that he had strongly advised
omitting any reference to Family Solidarity, which he thought was a
rather extreme group.
“As you can see, his advice was accepted by the editor, and the piece
appears simply under the Archbishop’s name with no further reference.
In any event, as the paper only sells 800 copies a week in Ireland, it
may well go unnoticed.”
Archbishop McNamara had called pluralism “an
elusive concept” which would only lead to confusion “when questions of
law and morality are concerned”.
Earlier (on December 20, 1985) in reporting again to Iveagh House
Keating had remarked that “Diarmuid Martin was the person responsible
for briefing the English language journalists during the recent
Extraordinary Synod. You may have noticed that his brother, Seamus, was
covering the event for the Irish Times which may explain the lengthy and
authoritative coverage of the Synod which appeared in that paper.”
These experiences with untimely remarks and the hidden influences on
the press may well have shaped Archbishop Martin’s own careful treatment
of current affairs in more recent years.