Religious Liberty Under Attack in Ireland!

It appears that the problem of government infringement on religious liberty is rapidly spreading! Across the pond—almost—the Irish government has voted to reduce the 242 euro grants given to Irish families suffering from First Communions and Confirmations!

Last year 14,000 families were paid the grants, meant "to cover the cost which could include a white dress, veil, shoes and bag."


But on Feb. 2 cash-strapped Ireland's Department of Social Protection said the sacrament payouts would now be capped at a mere 110 euros. That's barely enough to tip the bartenders!

Like the Obama Admin.'s efforts to justify its HHS decision, Irish authorities are struggling to rationalize forcing unsuspecting Irish Catholic families to have less fun by cutting back on the sacramental dough. “[The Communion and Confirmation grants] are designed to meet essential, once-off, exceptional expenses,” a spokeswoman for the department said, not all the craic-raising seen these days. Seems folks are upset at how over-the-top sacramental celebrations have become. (Hey, and while they're at it, could they do something about those crazy curly wigs and outlandish outfits they make the girls wear in Irish stepdancing these days!)

I kid, but amidst our current government/church woes it is kind of amazing to see how folks in thoroughly secular Europe behave on such matters. I know Eire is a bit of an outlier regarding church relations, but throughout Europe many Catholic institutions, seminaries, parishes and schools are supported partly to completely by the state (as are Catholic schools in Canada, Australia and New Zealand) with little of the civic discord that such arrangements provoke living in the USA. Maybe we should take a lesson from the Old World. I look forward to my NY State First Communion voucher this May for himself, the eldest, as he steps up to the rail.

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david power
6 years 7 months ago
Dear Kevin,

I know what you wrote was partly tongue-in-cheek but it is dangerous to joke in this way.The Point of communions in Ireland is to have a good drinking session.It is nothing more.The kids see it as an opportunity to finally have the money to buy an Ipod or Nintendo.
The Parents have a day out and the Priest can finally buy his sunbed(not making this up!) 
Last year I was back home in May for the communion of my niece and overheard a conversation of some kids who were discussing which pubs their parents were going to.This was ten minutes after they had the full encounter with the Holy Spirit!!!!  
The idea ,american catholic Idea, that   the Irish government is anti-catholic is so ridiculous as to be beyond the pale.The current Prime Minister is Pro-Life and anti gay  marriage he only differs from the church in that he thinks Pedophiles are not such a good thing.We shouldn't hang him for that!! 
Most of these kids will never enter a church again.Maybe for a wedding or a funeral but certainly not for any other reason. It is a spiritual wasteland testified to by the massive surge in suicides .    A Poll yesterday on the main radio found that just 60% were against a papal visit for the Eucharistic Congress.Some in Church circles want to pass it off as the government but it is the people.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
I have suspected that the author was pulling our collective leg with his previous comments on the loss of religious freedom when the religious institution does not get to dictate the content of insurance policies sold in this country, and now I am sure he was. 

I am sure everyone knows that Europe is where the government would tell people who would go to Catholic Church and who would go to Anglican Church and who would go to Lutheran Church.  Having the government determine which churches would serve which regions is a loss of personal religious freedom from which we are protected in this country.

We are also protected from theocratic rule by religious institutions.  Until the Catholic Church settles down on the issue of insurance, I will be less generous toward it, given that I do not like how it has spent some small percentage of what I have in the past donated.  I do not like that it has wasted my donations fighting against gay marriage and now fighting the insurance mandate.  Now I will follow the Church's example and make my moral position known by not paying for those things to which I have moral objections.
Tom Maher
6 years 7 months ago
How frivolous to compare the government intrusion on the Religious Liberties of Catholic instituions in America to government cutbacks of religious subsidy to familiies in Ireland.

America has a serious Constitutional crisis from an admistration that is disregarding Consititutional Religious Libertiy rights.  There is nothing funny about the fact the USCCB have months ago setup an Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberties.  Religion in America  is under attack from secular political forces that want to treat religious institutions  as secular organizations sucha s businesses in disregard of religious purpose and mission.  There is nothing funny about the divisive, anti-religious, secular political trends that are finding their way into government policy such as national health care.

A more sober assessment of the political forces that threaten Religous Liberties in America would be greatly appreciated. 
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 7 months ago
You of course have every right to support financially the church or not. The question here, however, is whether or not the government has the right to force a religious institution to provide contraceptive and abortion products within its charitable and other organizations against the beliefs of the faith or be fined by punitive taxation, or more generally, does it have the right to override and deny the religious freedoms the constitution provides for. Many Jewish, Lutheran, Orthodox, and other religious and nonreligious institutions have joined in the protest even though it may not directly affect them. They see the government grab for power at the expense of religious freedom inherent in this decision.
Separately, while I would hope that we do not outlaw humor here (what would Fr Martin do?), we could make the conversation a bit more "catholic" in looking at the entire situation, as Kevin here hints. For instance, it has often been remarked by commentators here that Canada appears to have a more cost-effective health insurance system than we do, that there are lessons there for us. Likewise we should note that its public education system is outperforming its US counterpart despite spending less per student than we do. (Here in the US we can hardly even get vouchers funded over the opposition of our current administration and the union juggernaut to which it is bound.) Part of Canada's success could be that they fund Cathoic education to provide competition for what otherwise might more resemble our chronically moribund public education system. Furthermore, we should recognize that Canadians work longer hours than we do, and that Canada's corporate tax rate is not 35, not 25, but is now 15%, luring larger numbers of the best and brightest to western Canada rather than the US. Let all of us look at the whole picture, not merely the edited comparisons.
Vince Killoran
6 years 7 months ago
This is a tricky issue and the "pitchfork & torch" crowd isn't helping to clarify it. I don't think that's their objective.

 The HHS guidelines might not be quite correct but they do attempt to balance competing rights & responsibilities (e.g., church employees v. larger world of those working for Catholic institutions). Maybe the Church should stop talking all that taxpayer money and then their claims would be on more solid footing.

I do appreciate the fact that Ireland has a national health care system!  We desparately need one as well.
Tom Maher
6 years 7 months ago
Walter Mattingly (# 5)

One needs to strongly object to this article's levity.  This is not a game.  This is real life. Religious Liberties are being challenged by a hostile federal government.  Unique Constutional rights that the Catholic and other religions enjoy in America are under attack and could be lost or greatly dimisnished with long term consequences limiting the scope and role of religion in American.  The church must confront the political values that would interfere with its religious practices and limit its mission.  A lot is at stake here.   This is serious business that needs to be dealt with seriously.

This objection is not catholic???????????????????????????????? ?  W?hy then have the Bishops organized ?a??n ?A???????????D? Hoc C?ommittee ??o?n? Religous Liberty some months ago?  Was  this a joke or was this real??
Kang Dole
6 years 7 months ago
Walter, where did you get the figure that Canadians work longer hours than Americans?

Also, more precision is needed here regarding the funding of Catholic education, which occurs at the provincial-not federal-level. Not every province does it, and some provinces that do (eg. Ontario), do so on such a discriminatory basis that their systems will inevitably change (Catholics and Protestants can be funded, depending on whichever is in the minority compared to the other, but Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. can't be funded-which anyone can recognize as being straight up bullsh*t). And then you have Quebec (which, shall we say, is not exactly the most pro-Catholic place in the world-and is probably in a lot of ways comparable to where Ireland is heading) where lots of Catholic schools-like most other private schools-receive subsidies, but remain under the auspices of linguistic-oriented school boards (i.e. not Catholic ones).
Tom Maher
6 years 7 months ago
Walter Mattingly (# 5) continuation

This objection is not catholic?  Why then have the Bishops organized an Ad Hoc Committee on Religious LIberty some months ago?  Is this a joke or is this real? 

The levity also misdirects our attention away from the essential problem.  " Looking at the entire siduation" as you claim the author is the defense of Religious Liberites in America is not aboult the direct governemnt of religion as in foreign countries.  We have a very different deal in America where the Constitution has always probited such arrangement and without Consistuion Amemndment likley always will.  There is no prospect of direct subsidy to the church or to religous instituions or direct patronage of religious practices  by the governnment.  That is not the deal wh have with the Constitution. Our efforts are  wasted in directing our attention at obtaining direct government subsidy.  That is not what ithe defense of Rligious Liberties in America is all about.  Understanding our Constituional Religious rights is the key here. 
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
Tom asks Walter, " Why then have the Bishops organized an Ad Hoc Committee on Religious LIberty some months ago?"

It might take a little digging but somewhere in there it is possible that we would find a Republican strategist, just like we were able to find them engineering the 2004 election to be about who was the best anti-abortion candidate.  This did more to hurt the image of the Catholic Church than it did to help the anti-abortion cause.  Similarly, this issue disgraces the Church in the eyes of most citizens and counters its purpose.  It takes only a little reasoning to comprehend that this regulation mandating that all insurance policies offer coverage for contraception is a far cry from mandating that Catholics use contraception.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 7 months ago
Tom (7),
Because Kevin Clarke and America have, somewhat uncharacteristicly perhaps, come out with editorial commentary quite critical of this administration's severe restrictions of the church's right to exercise its religious convictions, I believe they have earned this rare moment of levity.  Indeed,  America went on to suggest that those Catholic religious leaders, such as Sister Keenan and Fr Jenkins of Notre Dame, who went out on a limb to support President Obama on health care and other issues, and who at Notre Dame was assured by the president that he would allow considerable room for accommodating the church on such issues, now seem to fear that trust was betrayed. No surprise from here; I have previously suggested that the president's lack of integrity to his word is so common that we should pay minimal regard to what he says, but close attention to what he does. This is one of those instances that confirm that suggestion.
And this is the type of autocratic treatment we can expect if we relinquish more and more authority to this administration's governance. I have hesitated to mention this before, but it now seems to me a plausible possibility that the Obama administration has an informal agenda aimed at reducing the influence of faith groups in general and the Catholic church in particular. The determined fight against the badly needed choice vouchers would provide to the underserved, with the disproportionate representation of alternatives in the parochial school systems, the thus far unsuccessful attempts to reduce the deductibility of charitable donations whgich would reduce church resources, the appointment of proabortion Catholic women such as Sebellius and Sotomayor to positions to wield decision-making power against the interests of the church, and now this ruling. Perhaps this is making an impression upon the center left Catholic population which supported him in the last election. The liberal Catholic Mark Shields, who rarely has anything other than praise for President Obama, did his best Rush Limbaugh imitation on PBS recently, excoriating the Obama administration, describing the ruling as "outrageous" and "tone-deaf," disrespectful of the Catholic carisms of which all Catholics are proud, the care for the sick and education of the people of all faiths. And the liberal NYTimes columnist Dionne was not far behind Shields.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 7 months ago
Tom again,
I think I may have been unclear in my "catholic" comment, in which I referred not to the faith but the adjective, in the sense of universal, or widespread overview of tangential, yet different, situations in the other countries, not directly part of the argument at all, but useful for a comparative overview. I found the essay useful for that purpose. I knew, for example, the support of choice for religious education in Scandanvian countries and Germany, for example, but not in Canada.  
Abe (8),
In answer to your question, the work week figures were from an article summarizing the most recent report of the OECD. In that report, Canada ranked #4 in length of work week among the nations represented, with an average workday of over 8 hours. Mexico was #1, with just over a 9 hour workday. (So much for the image of the Mexican asleep under his sombrero at siesta).  Japan was #2, while the US had dropped to #9. It seems that among the quite industrious nations of North America, the US is bringing up the rear.
Thanks for your overview of the chaotic situation of religious education in the public schools of Canada. Most similar might be Germany, where each school district decides the religious instruction by vote of the parents whose children attend them. 
Vince (6),
Take heart! We may yet indeed have a broadly based health care plan for US citizens after all. And it may not be the one drawn up behind closed doors and sprung upon an unwilling public, not one Ms Pelosi says we will have to pass in order to find out what is in it, not one with the wheels falling off with over 1,000 "exceptions," the entire long-term section consigned to the trash can, not one whose true costs were wildly and surreptitiously distorted, not one whose very constitutionality is threatened because of its rushed flaws and ill-conceived construction, but a genuine bipartisan play, the Weyden Ryan proposal, which would allow choice and genuine competition for all, allowing the free market to come into play. 
Kang Dole
6 years 7 months ago

Your assumptions are wholly incorrect.
Bill Freeman
6 years 7 months ago
Well, you know what they say about payback . . . The church agressively interfers with the civil rights of gays and lesbians as a matter of practice - even to the tune of spending millions of dollars to defeat ballot initiatives and bankroll hate groups (NOM).  Welcome to America!

I'm thrilled with the HHS decision. Thrilled!  I wish it was effectively immediately. The real issue is that the bishops are pissed off that their members are making their own reproductive choices.  No one is forcing contraception on anyone.   
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 7 months ago
Tim Reidy (12),
Thanks for the correction. 


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