Just one more about this. At the Sectarianism conference, the Moderator raised a question about the way in which sectarianism inhibits open debate between churches. I think she was expressing the hope that we could reach a stage of maturity where churches could take issue with one another without the media and others placing that debate in a sectarian context.
Is it true that the latent and subtle sectarianism of our society hinders open debate? Yes I think it is difficult to debate issues such as faith schools or the social and moral positions set out by the Cardinal. It’s not totally the fault of the churches – just that some element of sectarianism enters in or is imputed to the debate in a way which makes it very difficult to conduct. It’s as if there is always more at stake than the issue itself.
And that in turn takes me back to Northern Ireland – where one of the signs of the presence of sectarianism was the presence of anger or passion which was out of proportion to the significance of the issue itself.