LIKE it or loathe it, 240,000 copies of Alive are shifted every month. The Catholic newspaper has been in existence since 1996, is free of charge, depends entirely on volunteers and is edited by a remarkable Dominican priest, Fr Brian McKevitt. The publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the Irish Dominican Province.
But its contentious opinions relating to abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage and the EU have incurred the wrath of the so-called Irish liberal class. Political trendies perceive the newspaper as dumb, downright nasty, too Roman Catholic, intolerant and bigoted.
For instance, when Alive opposed the Lisbon Treaty, Fine Gael’s now Minister for Industry Paschal Donohoe (then a senator and eager to demonstrate his ‘broadminded’ EU credentials) became almost apoplectic with indignation.
He complained that the newspaper’s position on the Treaty could be interpreted as representing the official views of the Catholic hierarchy, and he wanted Cardinal Brady to put an end to its comments!
Fianna Fáil deputy, Thomas Burke, told an Oireachtas sub-committee that the newspaper was doing damage to politicians, while Aodhán O Riordáin, now a Labour mini-minister for something or other, advised his constituents to fling the paper into the dustbin. Another Labour TD said Alive preached hatred of the EU.
Ivana Bacik, a senator at the time, described it as the ‘equivalent of the paramilitary wing of the Catholic Church’.
Talk about muzzling free speech! And all because the newspaper took a different line to that propagated by the official elite!
Now, Alive is courting controversy once more. It described as a ‘disaster’ the decision by St Vincent de Paul to give €45,000 to a Galway homosexual lobby group, ‘whose aims are, to say the least, highly controversial’.
St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) is an international charitable organisation that traces its roots to the work of Blessed Frederic Ozanam in the 1830s. As a Catholic organisation active in 149 countries, it helps people in need through person-to-person contact by a system of family visitations. It is highly respected for its commitment to the care of vulnerable members of society.
Alive argues that the donation could erode public confidence in the SVP and that many Catholics will believe their trust in the charity has been betrayed. According to the newspaper, it was a ‘disgraceful decision’.
The recipients are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement – an outfit that promotes the gay scene in Ireland. The SVP explains that the cash will go towards a LGBT resource centre, or ‘drop-in’ place for young people. There are eight such LGBT Drop-in centres in Ireland and the Galway centre, presumably, will enable adolescents to ‘hang-out’ with their peers on an informal basis. They can chat, play pool and access a free internet connection.
But here’s the interesting bit: the SVP grant bears no relation to the cash the Galway group receives from the government, a mere €3,000.
Losers are the poor
In a statement, the St Vincent de Paul society said the decision to help the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people was made ‘purely on the basis of need in the Galway area, in the same way as all requests for support are assessed’.
The SVP also made clear in a statement to The Irish Times that it had no formal association with the Catholic Church or its bishops but that ‘relationships at a local level were very strong, with local clergy very much involved’. A remarkable comment, indeed, considering that the SVP operates under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which assists the Pope in his dealings with lay ecclesiastical movements!
Even more polemical is the fact that the SVP rejected the Bishop of Galway’s advice that the money would be better spent on funding those more obviously in need, and that the losers would be the poor of the city. Bishop Drennan also questioned the morality of the donation, telling the SVP that the Catholic Church could not support what it believes is ‘morally-wrong behaviour’.
In a comment to local radio, he said: ‘Gay culture is a different culture. We respect their view. But in our eyes it is morally wrong behaviour and we cannot put funds at the service of behaviour we don’t believe is morally correct. We cannot be seen to support a culture that promotes that kind of activity’.
In a follow-up comment, Senator Rónán Mullen described the Galway LGBT group as ‘highly-politicised’ and that the group had been helping ‘to promote the pro-abortion cause’.
Needless to say, despite the Bishop’s right to express his opinions, the ‘liberal’ backlash wasn’t long in coming. A city councillor, Mike Cubbard, denounced Bishop Drennan’s comments as ‘senseless’. He called on him to apologise and to reconsider his position as the head of the Catholic Church in Galway!
In the meantime, Alive has been warning of the dangers of Catholic charities adopting secularist values. It argues that Catholic agencies should act in accordance with Catholic moral and social teaching.
In its January edition, the newspaper highlighted the frustration of SVP members at the way the Society is changing, asserting that many members were resigning as a result of inadequate consultation. Quoting the remarks of a member who recently attended a meeting of the Cork and Kerry regions (now called the South West Region), Alive reported that just over an hour was given to volunteers’ questions and answers.
It referred to complaints about changes being implemented without input from members.
In November, the newspaper drew attention to the fact that one of the Society’s largest branches was almost ‘wiped out’ after 18 members resigned in protest at the Galway LGBT donation. Alive warned of the loss of the Society’s Catholic identity.
Core values at risk
The newspaper reported that members were concerned at the way that the SVP was drifting from its core values, namely that prayers were no longer said at weekly meetings; that in a recent job advertisement for a manager no mention was made that applicants should identify with the ethos of the Society; that shops were being rebranded as ‘Vincent’s’ and that no annual Mass was said on the feast day of St Vincent de Paul.
Alive warned of the need to take urgent and radical corrective action if the SVP was to regain the confidence and support of the Catholic faithful. ‘Much of the Society’s funding comes from the donations of Catholics wanting to help the poor.
How could donors now have any confidence in the Society?’ the newspaper asked.
It was a question that touched on the implications for Irish society of the rise in secularism and of a minimalist approach to the traditional religious values that are inhrent in Catholic organisations, such as St Vincent de Paul.