I got to the end of the post by Eoin on cearta.ie and thought that we have got some way to go before we fully appreciate the role of religion and faith in Irish public life. If the separation of church (meaning of course the Roman Catholic church) and state is going to take any shape, or further develop, then why does it happen in the courts? Eoin takes it as a sign of hope for a fuller delineation of where the state and churches start and end that the courts will deliver a judgement on the sale of pre-signed mass cards. Not a hope. It is in the detail of the everyday practices of people and communities and institutional needs of the various parts of the state that some “wall” can be built.
If a judgement is handed down in this McNally case that he refers to, it will not be out of a concern for the borders between churches and the state. It will be based almost entirely on a commercial basis. In this case, mass cards are a source of revenue for local churches, not a Trojan horse for the secularization of Irish public life. We might, on a broader canvass, as k what this “wall” might look like in Ireland. Would fewer people see apparitions at Knock? Would the Dail not commence its day’s business with a Christian prayer? Would primary schools suddenly find themselves at the front of a long war of Marian statue removal? No. Not at all.
I read this and I still think how far we have yet to come along the road of serious discussion about what faith means in a public context. I know, it is not that this debate is somehow better because it takes place in NYC but because far too often those who wish to see a firmer separation between the Catholic church and the Irish state believe that this is a formal process. A formal process where agreement is finally and definitively reached on what is ‘the state’ is and what ‘the church’ is.