From a Special Correspondent In Northern Ireland
Belfast TWO doctrines of the
Churches in Northern, Ire land, one Protestant and one Catholic, have been strongly criticised by Mr. Bob Cooper, joint political chairman of the Alliance Party. They are the Catholic Ne Tonere decree
and the Presbyterian "Westminster Confession of Faith."
Speaking at a meeting of Lagan Valley Alliance Association Mr. Cooper said: "My fundamental political belief is that there must be a reconciliation of all people, Protestant and Catholic, it Northern Ire. land. Only if this is achieved can we ensure that we never again have to go through the disasters of the last few years.
"I left the Unionist Party when I realised that that party had a vested interest in keeping sectarian division. alive and therefore could never have given the lead in bringing about reconciliation.
"I believe that to be true to one's beliefs one must be prepared to examine all aspects of life in our province which may contribute to the continuation of division.
"J ust as clergymen are understandably nervous about appearing to interfere politically but have on many occasions a duty to do so, those of us involved in politics are equally nervous about appearing to comment on religious matters but have a duty to do so where it appears necessary.
"I am a Presbyterian. My Church has as one of its fundamental doctrines the Westmin. ster Confession of Faith, dating from the seventeenth cen tury, which describes the Pope as 'that anti-Christ, that man of sin and son of perdition.' " It was a scandal. said Mr. Cooper, that it was only in this decade that a Christian Church should start seriously talking about changing that. Those whom the Church was trying to convince of the necessity of exercising Christian charity could logically point to this doctrine and say : "Physician, heal thyself."
Those who in theory were attached to the Church but who were daily repudiating it by their unchristian attitudes and actions would not be impressed by talk about legal difficulties or by intellectual arguments about the spirit of a document and not its literal meaning.
DOCTRINE OF 1564
"The Roman Catholic Church." Mr. Cooper continued, "has the Ne Temere doctrine instituted at the Council of Trent in 1564, but not fully implemented in Ireland until 1908. Before that there had been a long-standing Irish custom of bringing male children tip in the Church of their father and female children up in the Church of their mother.
"Many of the problems which have led to the present violence stem from lack of understanding, contact and knowledge between the two -communities. Anything which gets in the way of the spread of such understanding must be critically examined.
"Up and down Northern Ireland, and indeed in the Republic of Ireland, Protestant churches organise youth activities and social events from which Catholic young people are either expressly or impliedly excluded.
"In recent years all Church leaders have appeared impotent in the face of violence and dissension. People have demanded that they should give a lead and they often rightly ask how much more they can do. They have continually condemned violence and murder.
"Is thiS not the time for all Church leaders to make major gestures in the name of reconciliation? Can the Protestant Churches not press on much more quickly with the total erasure of all words in their principles or doctrines which are uncharitable and even questionably Christian?
"Similarly, can the Catholic Church not once more consider -as a recognition of the unique situation in Northern Ireland where over 500 people have died because of sectarian violence and ignorance of the other community the withdrawal of the full application of 'Ne Temere' to Ireland?