Irish Times (IN) editor, Conor Kelly, took to social media yesterday to describe the paper as “taken the piss” by the Irish Catholic Church, describing it as “not a real religion”.
Writing on Facebook, Kelly said the newspaper was “trying to be open” about the problems facing the Church, but “when we talk about faith, we talk only about what the Church has done”.
Kelly said the paper has published articles about the Church’s “lack of transparency” in the past, but that it is now “totally taken aback by the degree to which the Church is being painted as a cult” and “has become very critical”.
He wrote that he had “seen how the Church takes the piss”, and that “they are clearly not a real faith.”
He said that the Church had “created a whole culture of self-pity” by denying people access to their “true identity”, which he said “is not something the Irish people are good at”.
The editor added that he was “not ashamed of saying what we have” but that he is “not proud of it either”.
In response to Kelly’s Facebook post, a statement from the Irish Independent said that it “takes the Church seriously”.
“The Irish Catholic church has always been committed to a robust and open debate on faith and religion,” it said.
“We welcome the Irish National Assembly’s decision to publish its response to the paper, and encourage other journalists to follow suit.
We do not see this as a criticism of the paper or of its readers, nor do we see it as a reflection on the Church.
Rather, it reflects the Irish public’s reaction to a story about the church.”
The Irish Independent’s statement added that the paper had “not been able to find any reason why” the Church should not be considered “a genuine faith”.
“We would like to remind readers that there are no real religions in the sense of the Catholic Church,” the statement said.
“There is a Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, atheist, Jewish, Christian, Sikh and many other faith traditions and beliefs that are not part of any single religion.
We are simply talking about what they believe and what they do.”
Kelly responded to a post on Facebook by a member of the Irish Muslim community, who called the paper “a cesspit of hate”.
Kelly told The Irish Sun: “There’s a lot of stuff in the Irish press that is not very helpful to people who don’t live in Ireland.
I think it’s just that we have this idea that we are a Christian country, where we’ve got this big cathedral and there’s this great church and we just have to accept it.””
The problem is that we don’t.
There’s a whole religion that is going around that is completely separate to us.
The Catholic Church is not a genuine faith.
It’s a cult.”
He continued: “We have had a crisis of faith in Ireland, but now, unfortunately, we’re seeing a new kind of crisis.
This time, the crisis is about the Catholic church, and I don’t want to be critical of the Church because of the way it’s portrayed, but because of what it’s done.”
He went on to say that “if you think the Catholic bishops are a cult, then you don’t know me.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Irish Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage, Shane Ross, said: “The Irish government is supportive of the public service, which is the best possible way to protect our citizens and protect the Irish cultural heritage.”