Addressing the congregation at the annual Civic Service in Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, the Right Reverend Paul Colton, said that Saint Patrick’s Day – a festival which is at one and the same time a national day and a religious event – ‘confronts us all annually with questions about the place of religion in our society.’ Referring to issues of our day Bishop Colton said that, as a relatively young democracy, ‘we have some major Church-State growing-up and disentangling to do; and religious groups have to get used to what it means to be religious in a secular society.”
Bishop Colton said:
I cannot help but feeling – especially as I witness, and am personally engaged, in Church-State dialogue, in the field of education especially, in the care of the elderly, and in the voluntary charitable sector; and as we all take part in on-going vigorous debate about all sorts of issues, including the proposed abortion legislation, marriage equality rights, and the affording of protection to Lesbian and Gay people in a religious workplace, to name some examples – I cannot help but feeling that we have some major Church-State growing-up and disentangling to do.
The State has the challenge of accommodating, in a secular way, in its legislation, within the Rule of Law, outlooks which take account of the new diversity, religious and non-religious. Religious groups, churches, particularly churches that have been used to exerting major influence (including, in spite of its size, the Church of Ireland) have to get used to what it means to be religious, and to work out our faith, in a secular society.
A secular State does not mean that there is no place for religion or dialogue with a religious viewpoint. Separation of Church and State does not mean that religious people have nothing to say or should say nothing.
Full text of sermon available here.