The Irish Catholic And Their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad “Journalism”

The Irish Catholic is the best selling religious newspaper in Ireland. On April 11th 2024 they published an article titled, “Religion-Free Spaces”. Their piece discussed both the recent controversy over blessing planes at Dublin airport, and also recent developments with regard to military chaplains in Ireland. On the latter point, the article refers to “a concerted effort by atheist campaigners to eject religious chaplains from hospitals and from the defence forces”. With respect to the blessing of planes, the article asks why “if pilots, crew and passengers draw some comfort and consolation from knowing that at 35,000 feet their plane is blessed, try to stop this?”.

I am the litigant who took the case that gave rise to recent changes within the Irish military chaplaincy. The outcome of that case was a decision that the method of appointing military chaplains in Ireland constitutes unlawful religious discrimination. The Defence Forces were instructed that they could no longer allow these State-funded jobs to be appointed by bishops, but rather that the roles must be open to those of all faiths and none such that they are appointed to the best candidate for the job. The remedy that was sought and obtained, was that non-Christian chaplains should be allowed to apply for these public jobs too. Nobody sought to “eject religious chaplains” from the Defence Forces. Nobody sought to stop the blessing of planes either. In fact, the request submitted to Dublin Airport was that there should be more blessings of planes, with non-Catholics permitted to participate alongside a Roman Catholic priest.

Nevertheless, The Irish Catholic went on to state as follows:

“fallen soldier Private Seán Rooney was murdered by Hezbollah Islamists in Lebanon in 2022. As news spread in the close-knit Defence Forces community, it was the priest-chaplains who took the lead. It was the ‘padre’ serving in Lebanon who comforted Private Rooney’s comrades. It was another chaplain in Ireland who drove at pace during the night, to ensure that he could bring the dreadful news to Private Rooney’s mother Natasha that the child she had nursed in her arms just a few years earlier had died in the service of his nation. Bland secular platitudes and cheap nihilism feeds nobody’s soul.”

Quote from The Irish Catholic

In the context of the false claims about trying to “eject religious chaplains from the Defence Forces”, the clear suggestion here is that I would seek to deny comfort to a bereaved and grieving mother. That is an appalling suggestion, and it is utterly false. The Irish Catholic has just invented that idea out of thin air. As such, I submitted a letter to their editor using the address provided on their web site. The letter I wrote is reproduced below. The Irish Catholic has since printed other letters to their editor on these topics, but has not printed my correction to their false reporting.

The original article in The Irish Catholic also states that:

“there is a strand of strident atheism that can only be described as aggressive secularism. They actually care little about deep philosophical debates, and care more about removing every vestige of faith from the public square.”

Quote from The Irish Catholic

It is not difficult to discern who cares about dealing with these issues honestly, and who is more interested in dreaming up false allegations to use as the basis of hurling insults.

Dear Sir,

I write with regard to your recent article titled “Religion-Free Spaces”, which refers to “a concerted effort by atheist campaigners to eject religious chaplains from hospitals and from the defence forces”. I am the litigant you refer to with respect to the recent case concerning military chaplains in Ireland.

Your article goes on to describe the events surrounding the death of Private Rooney in Lebanon and the associated work carried out by military chaplains in connection with these events. Contrary to your article, absolutely nobody has sought to “eject” the chaplains who performed these tasks, and in fact my litigation included considerable praise for such efforts. The issue that I had litigated was whether or not these State-funded jobs must appointed by Christian bishops only, and the outcome was a finding that the process by which those chaplains were appointed involved unlawful religious discrimination.

The narrative of your article around the supposed efforts of secularists to “eject” those who would console the family of Private Rooney, is utterly appalling and entirely false. The relevant litigation also cited atheist soldiers who have been keen to enjoy the counsel of a chaplain who shared their convictions. I would never suggest that The Irish Catholic would seek to prevent atheists in military service from enjoying equal rights, because you have done no such thing and so that would be dishonest.

Yours, etc.

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