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Bishops must break silence on Trócaire

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Wed, Oct 10, 2012 | Dooleyblog | Dr Mark Dooley

Dr Mark Dooley has written a follow up to his Trócaire article that was posted here a few days ago. He points out that Trócaire’s executive director — Justin Kilcullen, in respons to Dooley’s article — is talking the usual left-wing nonsense whereas the Irish hierarchy keep their silence in this matter. Makes you wonder, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent”. (Proverbs 17:28 — English Standard Version). This follow-up is reprinted here with permission by the author.

Justin Kilcullen, director of Trócaire and president of CONCORD, the European NGO confederation for relief and development. (Image via eudevdays.eu)

Last week, I used this column [Moral Matters, Irish Daily Mail] to ask why Trócaire, the ‘official overseas agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland’, is demanding a boycott of Israeli goods.

I wrote that the charity’s chairman Bishop John Kirby ‘must have given the campaign his blessing’, and that ‘by not publicly distancing themselves from the campaign, the Irish hierarchy have implicitly endorsed a political cause which, I suspect, many Irish Catholics will consider objectionable’.

Since then, I have received dozens of messages confirming my suspicions. Catholics, Jews and nonbelievers have written to express their dismay at Trócaire’s campaign. Many have corresponded directly with its executive director Justin Kilcullen and Bishop Kirby, demanding they explain their obsession with Israel when Catholics are being persecuted right across the Middle East.

In a letter to this newspaper [Irish Daily Mail] yesterday, Mr Kilcullen objected to my contention that ‘such a campaign not only contravenes Catholic social teaching, but also undermines the essence of the charitable motive’.

He cited Pope Benedict’s comments on a visit to Bethlehem in 2009:

‘The Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbours, within internationally recognised borders’.

He also quotes the final statement by the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East in 2010, which refers to the ‘necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories’.

It would be unusual for the Holy See not to want peace and justice in the Holy Land. However, the key phrase in the Pope’s Bethlehem speech is ‘secure and at peace with its neighbours’. In other words, while recognising the right of Palestinians to a sovereign homeland, the Holy Father understands that this necessitates making peace with Israel.

But how can there be peace when terrorists continue to fire deadly mortars from Palestinian territory into Israel? You won’t find mention of those atrocities in Trócaire’s campaign literature. But unless you actively disarm those seeking a Final Solution, you will never find a two-state solution.

And what of Mr Kilcullen’s claim that Trócaire’s campaign is in keeping with the statement by the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East in 2010? The Synod, which was chaired by the Pope, desires an end to occupation of Arab territory. But where does it say that it wants Israel forced or terrorised off that territory? Rather, the Synod seeks to put an end to ‘the occupation’ by ‘necessary legal steps’.

Somehow, I don’t think the Synod sought a selective boycott of Israeli goods when it spoke of ‘necessary legal steps’. In fact, the Holy See does not do boycotts or blockades, especially against a country with which it has full diplomatic relations. So why does Trócaire think that it has the blessing of the Holy Father in a campaign which is patently political?

As far as I can see, the only people who have blessed this endeavour are the Irish bishops. As an agency of the Church, Trócaire is directly answerable to the hierarchy. Indeed, some readers who wrote to Bishop Kirby to complain about the campaign received a response from Mr Kilcullen.

So, unless Bishop Kirby breaks his silence to confirm otherwise, I can only assume that the Irish bishops are backing the blockade. If so, how can they justify using a Catholic charity to peddle such a contentious agenda? How can they support something which is totally at variance with the stance of the Holy See?

As I said last week, Christian charity should never be used as a cover for seeming left-wing activism. Charities are supposed to give help and comfort to the least among us. They have no business agitating on behalf of a particular side in a vexed dispute.

This is not to say that Trócaire can’t express an opinion on Israel and Palestine. However, for the sake of consistency, Mr Kilcullen should remember what Pope Benedict said while visiting Israel during that same trip to the Holy Land in 2009:

‘In union with people of good will everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace, within secure and internationally recognised borders.’

No blame game, finger-pointing or demands for a boycott. In the spirit of true charity, the Pope simply prayed for a just resolution so that ‘both’ Israelis and Palestinians may one day have peace. Surely, if that is the approach of Christ’s vicar on earth, it should also be that of the Irish hierarchy and Trócaire?

It was the great Monsignor A. N. Gilbey of Cambridge who wrote that

‘to make a contribution to putting the world right, we must first establish the kingdom of God in our own hearts … The primary province for each of us is not the Third World but our own hearts’.

By this he meant that when a religion ‘puts secular causes in the place of individual salvation’, it not only fails in its fundamental vocation, but ceases to be convincing.

Unless the Irish hierarchy quickly clarifies its position on this issue, it will soon learn that he was right.

Dr Mark Dooley is an Irish philosopher, author and broadcaster. Since 2006, he writes for the Irish Daily Mail, where his ‘Moral Matters’ column appears weekly. You can contact hem by email at mark.dooley@dailymail.ie.



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