The Election and the Curia; two topical reflections

I grew up in a household where politics was regularly discussed, so I am still very interested in the subject, even if, as a priest, I have had to stay out of any active involvement. I am keeping a close eye on the present election campaign, even to the extent of watching the whole of both leaders debates so far, and even the analysis programmes that followed them. That must classify me as an ‘anorak’!
I am finding this campaign particularly depressing. The quality of discussion, and the issues that are dominating, are often superficial, characterised more by wild, generalised statements, than by any careful reasoning. It seems to me that the media are largely driving the agenda, and deciding what will be discussed. The leaders debates do not add anything to the sum of knowledge, far too much time being spent on attacking each other. Then the analysis programmes that follow them, and the next mornings radio shows are close to being puerile. Who won? Who lost? Who came up with the best put-down? As if any of these would contribute to making a good government for the next five years. The lack of any real analysis of leaders or parties reminds me of the superficial issues that decide who is a suitable bishop — issues and attitudes that have nothing at all to do with ability to lead.
The government parties have so far made a real hash of the campaign. Of course it is in the DNA of Fine Gael to mess up the election after they have been in government. Very clear examples were in ’87 and ’97. They are doing it again, and I don’t have much confidence that they will pull it together between now and the 25th.
My hope is that out of all the confusion we just might manage to get a government that will be stable, and reasonably competent, so that the hardship of the last six or seven years will not be in vain.

The Curia.
I haven’t always seen eye to eye with Marie Collins. Especially on issues like the fairness of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, and the policy of publicly naming priests against whom unproven allegations have been made. I consistently argue that priests, like all other citizens, must have equality under the law.
Having said that, I am impressed with two of her statements this past week. She is now a member of the papal commission on clerical sexual abuse. They had a difficult issue to deal with, when one of their members, Englishman Peter Saunders, was voted out of the commission. Along with Marie, he was the only other member who was actually a victim of abuse by a priest. It was a very awkward situation for Ms. Collins. But I thought the account she gave of it was balanced and fair.

Her second article concerned the Curia, the Vatican ‘civil service’. She wrote a strong critique of the way they are behaving. The commission, she wrote, makes decisions, get papal approval for them, and then they are handed to the Curia for implementation, and nothing happens. I suppose those of us who have had longer and more bitter experience of the way this body operates could have told her that before she took up her position. But still, I was heartened to read what she had to say, and the fact that she has access to Francis that somebody like myself would never have. Let’s hope he listens to her.