It is appears to be widely known in diplomatic circles that if any embassy should have had to close it was the Swedish one as the Swedish, in the nicest possible terms, have said they didn't need an embassy in Dublin such was the good relationship between the two countries.
 
It was more than reasonable then to close our embassy in Sweden given the strength of the ties and the Swedes would not have been insulted.
 
But, of course, the ministerial move was to close the Holy See embassy, when the Foreign Affairs department was recommending closing Sweden's.
 
 

Therefore it was 'gratuitous', as Wexford priests concluded at a recent meeting.
 
Amid the more mundane of diocesan business, the priests requested their bishop to write to the Taoiseach and express their disappointment at the ''unconvincing'' reasons to close the Irish embassy to the Holy See.
 
Yet the Wexford priests know that sometimes politics is wasted on the politicians. Apparently, Fine Gael thought it could stand idly by and allow Eamonn Gilmore to close the embassy to the Holy See and that none of the shrapnel of such an overt attack on tradition and history would fly back at them.
 
Coupled with the overwrought tenor of the Taoiseach's speech, it is clear that many now view the Fine Gael party responsible for the irresponsibility of their coalition partners in dealing with the Church.
 
Now if every priest is a sounding board of unease among his parishioners, Fine Gael politicians in the sunny south east must be shifting in their seats. How many more gatherings of priests around the country might do the same?
 
Reform
 
It is not that laity or clergy have an uncritical view of the Holy See -- they long for reform and demand it.
 
Yet they part company with Eamonn Gilmore and the secularising forces behind him who would throw the Church out of Ireland, or in Cromwelian terms drive it to a modern 'Connaught' where it won't bother those within the new 'pale' of acceptability.
 
This is reactionary thinking and aggressive secularism and the people who advocate it should have the courage to admit to it as their macro societal agenda.
 
For many Irish people however, they still see merit in the Christian value system, in its Catholic form and in its Protestant form, and see this system as adding to the rich texture of Irishness rather than taking from it.
 
This is the dialogue and discussion that is needed between State and Churches: how do both work together but apart for the same goals.
 
Currently, however, it seems that neither our politicians nor many of our bishops can be trusted to have this discussion, nor are many in fact capable of having it.
 
New nuncio
 
One person who might be able to facilitate movement in our understanding of what is going to happen in the Church is the new nuncio, Msgr Charles Brown.
 
It is very interesting to note that he does not come from the usual diplomatic pool. This represents very clearly a break with tradition -- and shows the mind of the Pope -- not the Vatican and tradition.
 
It also shows the desire of the Pope to have a man on the ground quickly and with focus. It is also appears to be a personal intervention by the Pope who has obviously discerned and monitored the developing situation in Ireland. A further point is that it is likely to have a resonance with the priests on the ground and the laity as he is younger than any Irish bishop and signals accountability to the Church by the episcopate.
 
As an American with inside understanding of the Vatican, he will be in a position to speak to us first-hand of what has been done about abuse and what needs to be now done.
 
It is also worth noting that clearly the intention of the Pope is to act respectfully -- but not in a self subjugating fashion -- to a Government which has played politics with important issues and realities -- and it is solidarity with the faithful in Ireland first (for necessary reform) -- and shows a dignity the present Government could profitably study.
 
Finally, it gives confidence to those who feel slighted by the reactive action of the Irish Government to close the embassy to The Holy See and is likely to strengthen calls for a reversal of this gratuitous act and perhaps then we can have a robust debate on our relationship with the Holy See.

Garry O'Sullivan is the editor of the Irish Catholic, Ireland's largest circulating Catholic newspaper.

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