Tenets of Catholicism are ideals not rules, says Irish bishop
The Catholic Church will not reject people because they use contraception, don’t attend Mass every Sunday, have sex outside marriage or live lives that run counter to the ideals of the Church, according to the Bishop of Cork and Ross.
Bishop John Buckley has said the central tenets of Catholicism were not established as rules of memberships but as “ideals”.
“These are all ideals that we must try to live up to. If you do not meet all these ideals, it does not mean that you cannot take your place at the table the Lord has prepared for you. The Church is a refuge for the weak, not a home for the perfect.
“I welcome all to the Church and I would encourage everyone to welcome all. I will hear no condemnation or rejection of people. Jesus loves his people no less in their absence,” he said.
In an end-of-year interview, he said he welcomed with open arms those who only turn up to Mass once a year, namely Christmas Day. “Irish people have a religious instinct. I believe that firmly. People retain that instinct even though they are not regular Massgoers. They may not attend regularly, but they still retain their affiliations. You will see them at funerals, at communions, even though they may have grown casual or careless,” he says.
Bishop Buckley said that people needed to realise, especially in a time of recession, that religion is about hope and strength and not about condemnation. “For all the talk of Mass attendance falling, if the church was a political party, it would form a one-party government with an overwhelming majority in this country.
“Jesus Christ is a message of hope, a message of joy, we must share it. As Pope Benedict said ‘many people now think the Church is a collection of prohibitions, but it is not. It’s positive, it’s totally different,” he said.
During the Apostolic Visitation, the visiting senior clerics discussed the possible amalgamation and even halving of the number of dioceses in this country.
At present there are 26 dioceses, all led by a bishop or archbishop. Bishop Buckley does not agree with the concept of amalgamation. “I would rather see a redrawing of the boundaries rather than an amalgamation ie, the County Cork town of Macroom is in Cloyne, Blarney in also in Cloyne. There is an argument for having these in Cork and Ross. Amalgamation is a blunt instrument” he said.
As for the Pope’s assertion in a recent book that there were no animals in the manger in Bethlehem, the bishop doesn’t believe schools should be discarding animal costumes just yet. “I’ve wondered about it and I’ve wondered was it tongue in cheek? The animals are part of the crib as we know it. I think we’ll continue on with the crib as we know it” he said.
• Clare O’Sullivan’s interview with Bishop Buckley was first published in the Irish Examiner on 4 January 2013