24/11/05 Leadership Lecture NCI

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LEADERSHIP AND THE CHURCH
 
Speaking Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
———–
National College of Ireland, 24th November 2005
 
 
 
 
        Three years ago it would never have entered my imagination that I would be speaking here today nor indeed that I would be here as Archbishop of Dublin.   Three years ago I was happily ensconced in a most interesting position as Vatican representative to the United Nations Office and Agencies in Geneva and to the World Trade Organization, after having spent over thirty years in Rome working on questions of international life and international organizations.
 
        Had I been asked three years ago to speak about leadership, I would certainly have spoken about leadership in the world community; about how we set an agenda for the common good of the global community; about who runs or who really owns the global village; about how we mange the increasing number of global realities, goods and values, in a world in which the nation state is still the primary building block in international political relations.   I still believe that this is one of the greatest leadership challenges that the world still has to face.
 
        So often we let the term “international community” drop from our lips as if there existed some sort of global political entity which has the authority to examine and to determine how these global realities are managed.  I have spent, however, days and weeks and months in UN meeting rooms debating such serious global realities and watched as national or regional interest dominated the discussion or even blocked all form of discussion.   The United Nations is fundamentally an intergovernmental organization made up of its Members States whose representatives constantly place national interest into the front line of discussions.
 
It would be very interesting to ask each of you write down on a piece of paper what the term “the international community” means for you and I am sure that we would find a huge variety of answers.  I dare say that many of them would reflect a high degree of idealism and perhaps a lesser degree of realisation of the hard realities of international cooperation, where idealism is far from the top priority.
 
 Do not let me be misunderstood.  I am a committed internationalist.  I know the international system from within, with all its warts and all its defects, but I still defend its necessity;  I would still push for its further development; I would have, indeed I have, the greatest respect for so many who dedicate their lives to working in this area. 
 
I remember however some years ago reading an article by the then US National Security Advisor in which the term “the international community” was used eight times.  On six occasions the term was used with vague and at times almost contradictory meanings.  There were two occasions however in which the meaning was abundantly and unambiguously clear:  that was when it read “the international community, with the United States in the lead”.
 
I would not like to give the impression that I am anti-American.  I have seen the European Union act in blatant defence of narrow European interests or even in the interest of one of other member States which could dominate the position assumed.  I have seen shameful positions taken by regional groups from various parts of the world to prevent criticism on human rights grounds of one of their members. I have seen coalitions of countries from various regional groupings close ranks to defend national economic interest.
 
Exactly three years ago I was following a debate at the World Trade Organization on the relationship between trade related international property rights and access to medicines, especially to medicine needed to save the lives of HIV/AIDS victims.  Up till that moment my only direct contact with pharmaceutical firms was buying aspirin when I had a cold. On that occasion, I was visited by a series of senior representatives of major pharmaceutical firms telling me that I must use my influence to stop proposals to weaken intellectual property rights regimes, presenting at times quite intelligent and plausible reasons and valid arguments.  But one could not but have the impression that the primary concern was the long term interests of the industry.  It seemed to evade their attention that the primary purpose of the pharmaceutical industry is not just to make money, but to save lives and improve health.  
 
        In the end, the adaptation of the TRIPS agreement which had been the work of passionate negotiation over months was blocked by the single-handed opposition of the United States.   To be honest it was clear that the United States at least had the courage to come out and announce publicly its unpopular position, while other countries smilingly kept quiet about their position, hiding behind the United States and happy to have delivered a favour to their own large private pharmaceutical interests.
 
        We live in a global world where our instruments of global governance are inadequate.  We live in a global market in which the balance between government and the private sector has changed and requires not just new norms, but a new framework, within which norms can be effectively set out.   In today’s economic order, national interest may be very closely linked to the interests of the private sector and governments may at times end up defending private interests at the expense of the global common good.
 
        I will take another example from my Geneva experience.  Just in these days a UN World Summit on the Information Society has just concluded in Tunis. You may have read about the debates which took place on the management of the Internet and the dissatisfaction that this remains in the hands of a private US organization.  I attended the very first meetings in preparation for this Summit while I was in Geneva, under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).   The ITU is among the oldest of the international organizations.  It was established in the nineteenth century, way ahead of the United Nations and indeed of the League of Nations. It was founded when it began to emerge that the telegraphic systems of various countries were not connectable and the only way in which this could be resolved was through the institution of an international, intergovernmental organization where decisions could be negotiated.
 
Until about ten years ago the ITU remained very much on the same lines.  It distributed radio wavelengths at periodic conferences to governments who fought fiercely so that their state broadcasting systems could get the best options and – especially in the Cold War climate – so that their propaganda broadcasts could reach the widest possible world audience.
 
But in the last ten years the entire pattern of international communications has changed.  The main players in telecommunications are no longer governments but the private sector.  When questions of internet connectivity arise it is the private sector which is most innovative and which sets the pattern overnight.  Internet Outlook was the product of Bill Gates ingenuity and not that of an international diplomatic conference.
 
Alongside, nations, international organizations, international business, there is another player in the international area which has taken on in our day special significance:  international public opinion.  International public opinion emerges through a wide network of non-governmental organizations, large and small, which use modern communications media extremely effectively and which build up consensus around ideas, a consensus which transcends national boundaries but which have effects within national boundaries.
 
I remember ten years ago there was a UN Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen.  I instructed the Vatican Delegation which I was leading to ask for the insertion into the documents a small reference to land mines, which were recognised as having disastrous humanitarian consequences thus hindering social development.  The response to my proposal was a resounding, unanimous no”.  I was told that this was a conference on social policy and not on arms control.  With great effort it was possible to insert a mention of certain “weapons which were highly injurious had indiscriminate effects” which to the uninitiated seems a complicated phrase. It is in fact the title of a UN arms control Convention.
 
Within three years, those same countries which had answered with a choral “no” in Copenhagen, were sitting down in Ottawa signing an International Convention Outlawing the Use of Anti Personnel mines.  What had happened?  Had the delegates undergone a religious conversion?  No, but international public opinion had changed and had forced one government after another to change it view point.
 
My intention here today is not just to reminisce on my past experiences but to try to bring some of the fruits of that experience back into the realities of daily life and to show how the quality of leadership at international level affects the quality of lives in our own country, in our own culture, while remembering always that no one will be secure as long as any others in the world are insecure.  We have to translate the clearly recognisable interdependence of humankind worldwide into the principle of solidarity and into effective solidarity.
 
        I have been quite struck since coming back to Ireland by the high incidence of violence and especially of the cold-blooded way in which people are being murdered on the streets – and indeed on what some consider the “respectable”” streets – of Dublin.  I took part in a radio discussion the other day in which I expressed my concern about this violence.  I have spoken on the question consistently over the past year.  During the radio programme there was discussion of the increased “fatal accuracy” which hired killers have attained due to the use of more and more sophisticated weaponry.
 
However you do not buy hand held machine guns at the jumble sale.  You do not walk into your local shop and buy highly sophisticated weaponry.  Where do these highly sophisticated weapons come from?  Respectable people produce such weapons in respectable democratic States.  Many European States consider their arms industry as an important part of their economic life.  Despite norms which are in place about export controls on small arms it still has not been possible to prevent such weapons of death from reaching areas of conflict or into the hands of criminal gangs within a short time of their production.
International collaboration is an essential tool in fighting international crime.  The first enthusiastic clients of modern international globalization have been criminals.  They have used new trends to enhance drug sales, to facilitate trafficking of people, including children, to oil the processes of money laundering and the trafficking of arms.
 
When I lived in Italy I worked on a small project which started out when a local priest from near Naples who had worked on the missions in Nigeria suddenly found that there was an emerging prostitution business in a section of his Italian parish and that the women involved were from the part of Nigeria where he had worked.  I will not go into the details about how this aspect of the trade in persons was eventually exposed and stopped.  What struck me was the fact that with these women it was not the case of them being picked up somewhere in Nigeria and being brought by an international gang to work in Naples.  The women, some of them young girls, were bought and sold about twelve times on their journey by different gangs, each of which specialised in a particular geographic region and exacted its own tariff for the services they provided.
 
Trafficking in arms is a similar situation.  How do highly sophisticated arms of European manufacture appear on the Dublin scene?  How do huge consignments of arms from the former Soviet republics appear in wars in Africa?  How is it that weapons flow from one conflict to another?  Very often the purveyors of this merchandise of death are people who sit in nice offices and never touch a weapon themselves, but who without scruple breach the existing international norms or find the loop holes.  Weapons can be marked. Munitions can be made traceable.  But this does not happen.  Again there is at times a strange collusion of omission on the part of governments and private sector manufacturers.
 
What role can the Church or a Church leader play in such a context?  Was my past contribution and experience unique in that I was in a position to directly intervene in the technical mechanisms of the United Nations or other organizations?   What should I as a Church leader be doing here in Dublin to draw attention to such questions?  What should be my role as a Bishop and as a religious leader be doing to influence trends in society.  Does the Church still have such a role?   Has the Church – as some say in these days – lost its mandate to speak about the moral condition of society?
 
I describe my mission as a Church leader in terms of evangelization. Evangelization means preaching the Gospel. Evangelisation in a modern world means allowing that radical newness of the Gospel to emerge and to challenge ourselves and others.  Even the word challenge is not enough:  the phrase that comes to my mind is more like turning ourselves and our expectations head over heels!   The Gospel Message must be read and lived anew by each generation.  Too often the Gospel and the Christian faith are looked on – and perhaps even presented by us – as yesterday’s message rather than as a radical newness which opens a future for each generation.
 
The radical newness of the Gospel must be brought into dialogue with the culture in which we live.  At times that radical newness will lead us to appreciate the signs of the times, as they can be discerned through the major currents of thought and searching of contemporary humanity.  The Church has to learn from modern culture.  Values of openness and transparency have not always been the marks of the Irish Church.  The biblical reflection on the integrity of creation was rediscovered in our times spurred on by a secular environmental movement.
 
 The Church must also be critical – in the best sense of that word – of modern culture. The Church must be critical of aspects of modern culture not on the basis of seeking power or authority, but in terms of the message of the Gospel.  The Church must proclaim the message of the Gospel but it must also live that message.  It must form also alliances with people of different backgrounds who share the same questioning.
 
Evangelisation brings with it the double task, springing from Gospel principles: of enlightening and discerning.   It is the opposite of being uncritical.   Evangelisation must always be something which leads us to examine questions in depth.   It will always be a process which enhances us in the depth of our personality.  It is very distant from ideology or any superficial new “political correctness” or “ecclesial correctness”.  By ecclesial correctness I mean an alliance with the wrong aspects of contemporary culture which may easily lead the believer to fail to recognise Jesus as he really is in our midst and the sharpness of his message. This is the perennial temptation of the Church, even though the message of the scriptures is abundantly clear, as only the Old Testament can be, that we should not place our trust in princes.  
 
It is easy today to create a special form of political correctness in religious matters which is equally as empty as its secular counterpart, because it shares the same philosophical foundations. Conformism is always easy and may even be popular. But one can be conformist in a secular sense and conformist in a progressive sense.  Keeping ourselves fresh and open to new ideas is a continual challenge and anyone who thinks that they have achieved that state is probably deluding themselves. 
 
I have spoken since becoming Archbishop about a new, more humble, listening Church.  A listening Church will always be a discerning Church, a Church which scrutinizes always the authenticity of its actions.. A humble and listening Church will quickly realise that all gifts and all ministries in the Church are not of our making but are received from the Spirit.  Ministry requires the ability to listen to the Word
 
Evangelisation means also announcing the good news in the structures of the world within which we live and evangelising the culture of that world.  But here once again we have to recognize that we can only evangelise in the measure in which we ourselves become open to the meaning and the call of the word of God.  We must listen and hear, before we can preach and evangelize. We are ourselves part of that process of change, subjects to be evangelized anew ourselves.
 
I look forward to mature debate on this important topic in the context of the future of Ireland.  It should be a mature debate and an informed debate.  Take for example the question of education.  I have welcomed the fact there is in my diocese a plurality of providers of education, to respond to the needs of children and the wishes of parents, as set out in the Constitution.  Catholic schools are part of that plurality of providers. 
 
Some would give the impression that Catholic schools were an anachronism of the past and must inevitably be retrograde. I would say – certainly about the Dublin diocese which is the area I know – that there are very few institutions in Irish society today which have done so much for the integration of the new Irish into our society than the Catholic schools.  In areas where various alternatives exist, parents of children of many nationalities and religious backgrounds opt to send their children to the Catholic primary school and are highly satisfied with their decision.   We have schools in Dublin with up to 41% of the pupils were not born in Ireland.  These schools go about their work, within a genuinely Catholic ethos, fostering mutual respect and tolerance and enhancing the talents and abilities of each child. These schools become a focal point for the formation of community, not just within the school walls, but within the wider work of community building. They are forward looking schools about which I can be proud, with teachers who are among the best you will find.
 
As I have said on previous occasions, I have no monopoly of schools in the Dublin diocese.  We have Educate-together schools, Gael-scoileanna, Church of Ireland and other protestant schools, a Jewish school, Islamic schools as well as Catholic schools.  I welcome that plurality but I defend the right of Catholic schools to exist and I am proud of the quality of those schools.
 
There is no way in which the believer should attempt to impose his or her belief on any another person. The act of faith by its very nature can only be a free, personal act.  But it is also unacceptable that valid insights which flourish from religious concepts and language be excluded from the public square just because they are religious.   Religious language can in fact bring an original contribution, especially in a world where everything is considered quantifiable and marketable and has its price tag.
 
Religious expressions contain lessons which are relevant to political thought and to the elaboration of policies. These insights can be most profound and at the same time have practical implications.  The famous injunction of Jesus “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”, clearly stresses the legitimacy of political authority, and its distinction from religion.  But it also implicitly rejects any attempt to make political authority divine or absolute.  Jesus teaching rejects despotic use of power and any rendering of political interests absolute.  
 
In his own life Jesus made it clear he was making no claim to be to be a political messiah, clearly distancing himself totally from the forms of in which political power was exercised in his time. 
 
We live in a pluralist Ireland.   Pluralist, however, does not mean secular.  The public square in that space of dialogue on public issues where different viewpoints are aired and debated in a process of tolerance and respect and where decisions come to be made which respect differing opinions.   A pluralist society will not request people to leave their religious values at home or on the street corner before they enter into the debates of the public square.
 
 I, for one, am totally at ease in a pluralist society.  It is the type of society I have lived in for most of my life.   I have no longings for returning to the past.  But I affirm that religious expression has its place in such a pluralist public square, just as any other expression. It does not seek a privileged place; it has every right to a prominent place, today and in the future.  
 
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