As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 19 December 2012 edition
In the recent American Presidential Election, great emphasis was put on the fact that the incumbent Vice-President Joe Biden, and his challenger Paul Ryan are Catholic. Many asked if their faith would influence the decisions they’d make while in Office.
The answers these two Catholic men gave, could not have been more different. Joe Biden said his faith was a private matter and it wasn’t his place to impose his faith on others. Paul Ryan answered that he would govern as a Roman Catholic.
You might think it remarkable that this question was asked, but don’t forget that the USA had always considered itself to be a White Protestant Nation. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic President and don’t think he didn’t have to give a bit of reassurance about not imposing Rome Rule.
This election, the Americans chose men of faith, but men who would not impose their particular faiths. This had never been an issue in Ireland as we have always had Catholic men, ruling as Catholics, wielding their Catholic Constitution. The few Protestants left in the Free State after independence, were slowly pushed near out of existence. We became even less diverse.
Fortunately for those of us who are not Catholic, or who’s Catholicism is worn lightly, Ireland again has difference. There are even atheists about the place. And this change means that our Catholic politicians must now face the questions that Biden and Ryan faced.
Will our politicians insist that non-Catholics adhere to Roman Catholic dogma? Will our schools and hospitals remain Catholic? Will gay people continue to be second class citizens? Will women ever be allowed to control their own bodies?
I consider myself most fortunate to be a citizen of an increasingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and an ever so slowly secularising 21st Century Republic. I’d hate to see us return to the days when priests and bishops could command our leaders. Do we really want to return to a time when Catholicism was law and the law was Catholic? We know where that led. We know what the consequences are, when a religion is given too much power.
I hope we don’t allow ourselves be herded backwards. And I hope our Catholic politicians will put their duty to us before their loyalty to their church.