Arlene’s dog whistle

Posted By: November 04, 2017


“The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the New York City-based  Irish Echo.
 In it, I explicate the meaning of Arlene Foster’s statement that she would meet with the Pope if he were to visit Northern Ireland, but only in the Pope’s capacity as ‘head of state’— not the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. In other words, it is a ‘dog whistle’ (coded language) to anti-Catholic bigots who still see the Pope as the Anti-Christ, for God’s sake! Unfortunately, there is still a significant section of the Unionist/Loyalist/Protestant community that still refuses to accept Catholics as equals—and political leaders have to pander to them.Just like how some political leaders in the USA still pander to those who do not accept Blacks as equals. … In the United States color has been used to keep Blacks down. In Northern Ireland, anti-Catholicism has been used to keep Catholics down. Honest, informed people cannot deny this—nor should they try  to.” —Fr. Sean  McManus.

Letters to the Editor. Irish Echo. New York City. November 1-7, 2017

As I write this, I am preparing to celebrate — as the Pope,  the Catholic Church, and World Federation of Lutheran Churches have urged—  the 500 TH Anniversary of the Reformation on Reformation Sunday, the last Sunday in October. And I am doing so at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

I was prompted to write this letter by reading this: “Last November, a spokesperson for then first minister Arlene Foster said she would meet the Pope in his capacity as ‘head of state’ if he came North.” (“DUP MP welcomes prospect of papal visit to north.” October 27).

That is some dog whistle by Mrs. Foster. In other words, she loudly proclaims the non-ecumenical — some might say sectarian and anti-Catholic — message that she will meet with the Pope as the head of  a tiny, unimportant State (in secular terms) but not as visible head (Christ being the invisible Head) of the universal Catholic Church, the largest Church in the world.

Can one imagine any other politician in any part of the world making such a point: that they would NOT meet with the Pope as head of the Catholic Church?

How utterly sad is that! What lack of leadership. Dog-whistling to those in The North who  still blasphemously sees the Pope as the Anti-Christ.

What an awful example to set just days before the entire Christian world — in repentance and reconciliation —is commemorating the Reformation.

The Catholic Church and the World Federation of Lutheran Churches have reached the  historic agreement on the Doctrine of Justification (commonly seen as THE issue that caused the Reformation).

The Anglican/Episcopal Church and World Methodist Council also welcomed and approved the Joint Declaration on Justification. And the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) formalized its assent to the statement at an ecumenical prayer service in Wittenberg, Germany, on July 5, 2017.The WCRC is the largest association of Reformed churches in the world and the third largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (which also welcomed the Joint Declaration on Justification).

But Arlene —of whom I had been proud as a fellow Fermanagh person for her becoming First Minister— still appears to be fighting the religious wars of the 16TH Century.

Such lack of respect for Catholics and the Pope is no way to provide a proper foundation for the Beloved Community as taught by the Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr.— or for the Good Friday Agreement.

Fr. Sean Mc Manus, Washington, DC.

The writer is founder and president of the Irish National Caucus


en used to keep Blacks down. In Northern Ireland anti-Catholicism has been used to keep Catholics down. Honest, informed people cannot deny this—nor should they try  to.” —Fr. Sean  McManus.