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Elections should address ‘burning issue’ of ecology

Gerry O’Hanlon SJ, Jesuit theologian, speaks to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications on the consideration of various Christian issues for the upcoming general election on Saturday, 8 February, 2020. He discusses the latest statement from the four Archbishops of Ireland and the document from the Irish Inter-Church meeting. He also pays attention to the suggestions from the Dialogue of Hope group, who are calling for an alternative vision for Ireland based on common values and a more participatory democracy. While the Irish Jesuit recommends that people come up with their own decisions on voting, he provides a means of discernment for those who wish to align themselves with their Christian faith.

Fr O’Hanlon points to some core aspects of the Bishops’ statement and the Inter-Church document. These include the need to promote the common good, the plight of the most vulnerable and ecology (the Archbishops use the term ‘human ecology’ as a mixture of environment and abortion issues). He says that they both provide a framework based on the Gospel and Church teaching.

However, the Jesuit theologian is disappointed with the Bishops’ statement as there is very little passion about the ecology issue, which is “the burning issue of our day”. He considers there a need for a Church body to be able to discuss the current issues with freedom and without fear, which he maintains is lacking in Ireland. On the other hand, he says that the document from the Inter-Church meeting is good, for instance, it contains helpful questions that citizens might ask canvassers and themselves such as: Are we willing to pay more taxes to change the homeless crisis?

Referring to the seven parties who are contesting the general election, Fr O’Hanlon points out that “the green agenda is mainstreaming”. There is a need for change, he observes, among the main parties such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. He states: “It strikes me that they need to get a message that the current narrative is not sustainable”. He believes that part of the function of the more left-wing parties is to stimulate this movement toward new ways of thinking such as the consideration of a new model of economics.

Fr O’Hanlon, who is a member of the Dialogue of Hope group, speaks to Pat Coyle about the importance of public discourse on bigger issues such as the extreme inequalities in Irish society. He says, “perhaps we all need conversion” when it comes to making lifestyle changes that promote care of the environment and quality of life for everyone. He recommends people to keep in touch with online commentary and media, but at the same time to tap into deeper values based on their human wisdom and Christian faith.

Click on the link above to listen to the interview ».