The Irish Catholic Bishops are planning to run a candidate for President of Ireland this year.
Leaked documents reveal that the Bishops are divided between proposing Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, or independent Catholic Senator Ronan Mullen.
The Bishops have secured the required nominations from members of the Oireachtas. Catholic clerics have already served in the United States Congress, the Canadian House of Commons, and the French National Assembly.
In the leaked documents, Archbishop Martin says that the Bishops are regularly accused of interfering in politics, and they would prefer to be open about their political purposes.
The Primate’s campaign manager, Father Bartholomew Dunne, argues that: “We have gone from enjoying the faithful loyalty of Eamon de Valera, to the aggressive secularism of having two women and a socialist as our last three Presidents.”
Canon Law 285 usually forbids clerics from sharing the exercise civil power, but there have been exceptions, and the Vatican has agreed with the Irish Bishops that the role of Irish President is beyond the exercise of power.
In recent years, the Vatican has silenced several outspoken Irish priests including Father Tony Flannery, Father Brian D’Arcy, Father Paul Stone, Father Fintan Fay, and the late Father Liam Finnegan.
But Father Dunne says that having the Primate of Ireland as President would both defend the rights of the Church and advance the common good, as envisaged by the ecclesiastical requirements of Canon Law 287.
“The Irish Constitution makes clear that all authority comes from the Holy Trinity, and the President must swear to ask God to direct him,” he adds. “Who better than the Primate of Ireland to interpret that Divine direction?”
The Primate’s opponents within the Hierarchy, led by the more pragmatic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, argue that a loyal lay candidate like Senator Ronan Mullen would have a better chance of becoming President.
In the leaked documents, Father Billy O’Dwyer of the Dublin Archdiocese argues that Senator Mullen could be ordained afterwards. This policy could be kept private during the campaign, by using the theological mechanism of mental reservation.
Senator Mullen’s spokesperson Will McKenzie says that the Senator is in between accepting or rejecting the possible nomination. He will make a formal announcement later today, Easter Sunday 1st April.