I have criticised the media previously and do so again. I have been appalled by recent coverage in relation to the Church. So much media comment is based on untruth or exaggeration: for example elements of the media have not acknowledged the fact in the context of St Vincent’s Hospital, that the Sisters of Charity have no outstanding obligations to the Irish State under the redress scheme. Rather the media has stated that they have not settled their agreed liabilities.
More generally there is an implication in much of the media that all were aware of – and by association – guilty of the dreadful wrongs committed by some Catholics.
There is no attempt to enlighten the reader that the culture which existed in Ireland towards unmarried mothers, so-called illegitimate children and children generally was reflective of culture, for example, in England and other countries (which were not Catholic countries) and which still exists in many countries today.
The media does not take into account the generosity and goodness of the generations of men and women in priesthood and religious life who dedicated and still dedicate their lives to others – often in difficult and very challenging situations.
The Catholic Church globally is the second largest aid donor after the United Nations, working sometimes in countries where even the UN has withdrawn its workers because of the risks. This is not reported with the same prominence.
Much media reporting does not take into account so many factors which impact on the situations which are reported. The way in which Ireland provided for unmarried mothers and their babies was terrible, but the same thing happened in England and babies who died at birth or before birth were often simply incinerated or buried, without their parents’ presence, in communal graves. That this happened does not make it right. It is how it was.
As a Catholic I feel that in attempting to deal with the wrongs – societal and religious – of the past, there is a risk that the core truths of Catholicism – that we are made by God, that we are loved by Him and called to love others as He has loved us, that we are called to live by the Gospels and that the Church was established by Jesus to help us on our way back to the father who loves us so – are denigrated and treated as just quaint, old-fashioned ideas inflicted on a naive people, which no right minded person would believe today.
The way in which Catholics are treated by parts of the media today is for the most part not respectful, not reflective of the fact that we have a right to freedom of belief and conscience under the law, and is not going to make Ireland a better place.
I know that I get many things wrong, I know that my Church and members of it have done great wrong in the past, but I believe and I think that it is time for more accuracy and balance in the way in which Catholicism is portrayed in the media today.