The Archbishop of Armagh’s Presidential Address to the General Synod of the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland

But then, in the culture in which we live, we must strive also for what I would term as real “agility” as a Church community. A phrase coined by a great humanist writer of our era, Zygmund Baumann, shortly before his death, was ‘liquid modernity’. By this, Baumann meant that we are living in a time when there seems to be no permanence – no solid ground – beneath our feet as a society. Whether economically, culturally, politically or socially, we have lost any sense of solidity, of certainty, of permanence. This is undoubtedly a major factor in the rise of a toxic and aggressive populism that is threatening everything in the world around us that we have long taken for granted. People grasp for old certainties even when these are unattainable and even pernicious. It is fascinating that another writer who spoke in similar terms about the erosion of the foundations of everything we take as a given in
terms of proper societal norms, was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing in Germany at the outset of the Second World War. To that, we should surely pay serious heed.

But, as Christian disciples living in liquid modernity, what are we to do; in the words of the psalmist, “What can the righteous do?” They must, first and most importantly, recall the solid foundations on which we are to rely in any place and time – in the words of the traditional prayer for the work of the General Synod, that we may “evermore hold fast and abide in the Apostolic and true Catholic faith”. But we must also be ready to think carefully and critically about everything around us, and indeed about ourselves. The political philosopher Hannah Arendt, best remembered for her phrase, ‘the banality of evil’, also warned us that human stupidity is often not a lack of intelligence, but rather an unwillingness to think critically. And in this sense, stupidity is also a primary source of evil in the world. If we are to think critically and analytically, then we must be able to act with agility in a world where the certainties around us have dissolved into liquid, and herein lies the challenge. We must seek to balance the folly of imagining that the latest whim is a panacea for every issue we have to face (when it may actually be plain daft), with the careful and necessary analysis of the new idea which may take such a length of time to process that, by the time we make a decision, we will be so far behind the proverbial curve that we might as well not bother putting it into effect.

Read it all.


Print Friendly

Posted in --Ireland, Church of Ireland, Religion & Culture

Leave a Reply