Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin hits out at “nastiness” of Catholics on social media

The Archbishop of Dublin has hit out at the “nastiness and bitterness” of some Catholics on social media, lamenting that the “negativity and polarisation” in some discussions online “reflects… a pointless retreat into self-defined false certainties”.

Driving the news

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was speaking at a Mass Sunday night in the University Church in Dublin to mark the canonisation in Rome October 13 of St. John Henry Newman.

The University Church was founded by Newman in 1856.

The big picture

“I am astonished at the content and tone of daily messages on social media by Catholic pundits on the left and the right that are anything but kindly”, Martin admitted in his homily at the Mass.

“There are those who spend all day attacking and responding and feeling that in this they are defending the integrity of Church teaching”, he continued.

Echoing a famous metaphor of Newman’s for God, the archbishop said “the kindly light will never be defended by nastiness and bitterness”.

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“Such negativity and polarisation reflects rather a pointless retreat into self-defined false certainties”, Martin denounced.

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Go deeper

The archbishop also referred in his sermon to the ongoing debate on where St. John Henry Newman would have stood on the Brexit debate.

“In recent days, people have been asking the question would Newman have been a Brexiteer or a Remainer”, Martin explained.

He added: “I have my own idea as to which”.

“My question is however a different one. Where would Newman place himself in the situation of the Church in today’s Ireland?”

The archbishop explained that “Irish Catholicism is marked for many as a culture of religious certainties and for others one where each one determines his or her own beliefs”.

“Newman would belong to neither”, Martin affirmed.

The idea of conversion that marked Newman’s passage from Anglicanism deeper and deeper into Catholicism “is always the roadway of a whole lifetime”, the archbishop said.

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“A Catholicism of self-defined certainties will lead eventually to a doubt about all certainties and thus to emptiness.

“A Catholicism of self-defined certainties and self-importance led to an authoritarian and harsh Irish Catholicism, with consequences we know only too well”, Martin warned.

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Why it matters

The archbishop said that the new saint’s example dictates that “the Church must reach out to those who belong to its fold but also to the many who are religiously estranged or non-affiliated”.

Martin added that the Church’s strategy must not “confronting” people “with readymade answers”.

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Instead, the Church must work on encouraging people “into that search for the true light”, as well as “accompanying” people “on that life-long journey towards discovering their true selves”.

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