Archbishop Martin launches pastoral for Temperance Sunday and Lent 2007

16 Feb 2007



Speaking notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
Father Mathew Statue, O’Connell Street, Dublin
16th February 2007

I suppose that many will react to a Pastoral Letter of the Irish Bishops urging moderation regarding alcohol by saying that the bishops are at it again being negative.  Just as Ireland is acquiring new self confidence and is enjoying its successes, the bishops are once again preaching old fashioned morals against the tide of modernity.

The fact is that moderation is very much a term of modernity. Rarely has the basic revelation of the Judeo-Christian tradition about the responsible stewardship of the goods of God’s creation been so relevant as today.

Our time is one in which the range of choices open to us is in many ways unparalleled.  For the person of our times it is this range of choices that is one of the key elements of modernity.  The person of our times does not want to be told what to do; does not want anyone to take away his or her freedom to choose or to qualify how he or she chooses with words like temperance or even less abstinence.

Recent discussions in the international media on climate change and global warming have however starkly reminded us of the importance of moderation. By moderation I mean responsible use of the goods of creation. By responsible I mean using the goods of creation in a manner which will enhance the conservation of that original harmony which God instilled in his creation.  I mean using the goods of creation in such a way that those who come after me will also be able to enjoy them in the same integrity.  Human lack of moderation is working disastrous effects on the integrity of God’s creation.

        We could say something similar about health.  Many of the current life-style diseases which characterize our developed societies are due in no small part to our misuse of the things which God had given us for our nourishment and to not treating our own bodies in a responsible way.  Moderation is the word which doctors use about diet.  Moderate is the words about they use about the type of exercise we need to take.  Where we do not attain a sense of moderation regarding food, drink and exercise, we put our health and life at risk.
Moderation and responsibility are also social values.  It cannot be stressed enough that drunk driving is irresponsible and unacceptable.  Where people still refuse to recognise this then they put the lives of others at risk.

        Moderation is an attitude which demonstrates human maturity and responsibility.   The Bishops Pastoral on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Father Theobold Mathew is an appeal to all of us to acquire a sense of responsibility and moderation as a means of fostering our health, our bodies, our relationships and our spiritual identity.

        The Bishops Pastoral is an appeal to all.  There is a tendency in Ireland to think that other people have a drink problem.  Perhaps we should look at it in another way:  each one of us – without exception – has challenge to address about drink.    How we respond depends on our situation.  Some may know from bitter experience that total abstention from alcohol is the only way for them if they are to avoid the disastrous path of prolonged dependence.   Others should be asking questions about the extent of their consumption of alcohol.  The choices remain ours.  But the responsibility is ours also.

Parents should be talking to their children about a responsible approach to alcohol.  This is difficult today when there are even more dangerous options about for young people.  The challenge of alcohol still remains.

All of us should be making our voices heard against the problem of binge drinking, which is still at times glorified or excused as being part our way of celebrating certain occasions.

The Bishops’ Pastoral looks at these challenges in a broad manner and Bishop Eamonn Walsh will be giving you some illustration of the concrete suggestions and proposals it contains.   He will also draw attention to the educational work that is being done in parishes by the Bishops’ Alcohol and Drugs awareness programme.

No one can deny that Ireland still has a long way to go in facing the challenge of moderation in the use of alcohol in a new way.   We have to look on temperance and moderation as ways in which we develop a responsible life-style which ensures that our own bodily and spiritual life, and the physical and social environment we create, will truly reflect and foster that original integrity which God gave them.