Letter in the Irish Independent, March 25th.

(I don’t know Philip, but of course I think it is a good letter!!)

* Differing faces of the Catholic Church were revealed in your newspaper recently.

On the one hand, we read reports of the Pope’s compassionate, non-judgmental response to questions about gay priests and gay marriage. On the other hand, we read that Fr Flannery had been silenced and banned from saying Mass, albeit by the machinations that the Pope himself seeks to reform.

The Fr Flannery case implies that outside the Vatican faith-police there is no salvation.

The idea that there is only one way to God, fenced in by various statements about what we ought to think and do is clearly at odds with the more inclusive example of Christ.

This demeans the whole Gospel tradition, reflected in the work of Pope Francis, who reaches out to the world rather than retreating into a cocoon of doctrine.

Of course, to claim to be a Christian, as I do, must distinguish me from those who claim not to be so inclined.

Yet, I often fail to see the difference.

Many of my atheist friends seem more forgiving and more compassionate, and hence more Christian, than I am.

I see my commitment as a direction I take, rather than as adherence to a set of clear-cut conclusions.

Indeed, I sometimes seem to weave my way in and out of a clear sense of purpose, feeling increasingly at home with the ambiguity that this engenders. My life slips in and out of sense.

It seems counterproductive to repress honest misgivings expressed by the ministers or laity of any church.

The repressive inculcation of orthodoxy and resignation reveals a fear of releasing our God-given intelligence, as if there was something sinister to hide.

A world of certainty and inner assurance has its advantages but tends to cultivate a superficial glow of self-satisfaction, often leading to a rush to judgment of those whose lives are more precarious and less assured.

The faith of our fathers is not the faith of our sons.

I took some comfort from my five-year-old granddaughter’s recent declaration that she felt she was half-Christian and half-normal.