Mags Gargan and Greg Daly
Church leaders have been urged to stand up to negative bias in the media, after a recent spate of ‘Church-bashing’ during emotive debates around abortion.
This comes after Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said there was a “justified resentment” among priests, religious and committed Catholics at being “unfairly under attack” and a sense that it is “time to stand up and respond” to bias and unfair reporting.
Baroness Nuala O’Loan has thrown her support behind Archbishop Martin’s comments, saying Catholics “justly feel resentful about blanket criticism”. Baroness O’Loan said she was “appalled” by recent media coverage around the proposed National Maternity Hospital to be built on a site owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity.
The archbishop warned that there is a sense in Ireland today in which “there is a culture of relentless reminding the Church of the sins of its members and at times of painting every individual and every moment in the history of the Church with the same condemnation”.
Baroness O’Loan welcomed the archbishop’s remarks insisting that “so much media comment is based on untruth or exaggeration”.
The Association of Catholic Priests, meanwhile, has said that priests do feel that priesthood and the Church is portrayed unfairly in some sections of the media.
Fr Gerry O’Connor of the ACP said he waspleased with Archbishop Martin’s comments. However, he also said he felt an “absence of any leadership voice” from the Church during recent debates such asin relation to the maternity hospital.
“Silence doesn’t help matters. It creates a vacuum where this branding and labelling can flourish,” he said.
Fr O’Connor said “priests and others [in the Church] do feel that there is a very negative image being presented” and that it was at times “very difficult to defend ourselves”. However he said it was “important for priests not to shy away, to continue to engage in the public square and to continue to listen to people’s concerns and try to be one voice among others in putting the Church’s view across”.
Baroness O’Loan said she was disappointed that “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.
“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,” the former Police Ombudsman insisted.