I respect First Minister Arlene Foster. She is a smart and strong leader and, naturally, I am proud she is a Fermanagh woman.
Arlene recently chastised me in the media because our Internet Animated Video (IrishNationalCaucus.org) states that – despite the welcomed progress of the peace process – “there is still deep-rooted anti-Catholic bigotry in Northern Ireland” (‘Arlene Foster’s fury at US video’ Belfast Telegrap , January 29).
Well, as if to prove my point, Rev John Gray, minister, Enniskillen Free Presbyterian Church, Co Fermanagh, issues in the News Letter a 17th century-type of a letter full of contempt for the “blasphemous Mass”. (‘Free Presbyterians warned of Catholic canons in CoI’ August 3).
Nothing could be more offensive than such an attack on The Eucharist, which is “the source and summit of the Christian life,” and one Christ’s most sacred commands and commissions.
The Rev Gray cites Martin Luther (one of my heroes, apart from his awful anti-Semitism and theological errors) but fails to note that Luther deeply believed in the Eucharist and in the Real Presence (although he explained things differently).
The Rev Gray also seems to be unaware of the wonderful agreements that have been reached between the Catholic Church not only on the Eucharist but also on Justification by Faith – the two wedge issues of the Reformation.
However, the issue here is not just about theology. The Rev Gray has deeply offended the Catholics of Fermanagh in his sacrilegious contempt for the Mass.
It is now incumbent on First Minister Arlene Foster to show she is the leader of all the people in Fermanagh – Protestants and Catholics alike – by publicly repudiating the Rev Gray’s hateful rant.
This is particularly relevant because it was Paisley’s Church, the Free Presbyterian Church, that brought the DUP and Arlene into power (even though she is not a member of the Free Presbyterian Church).
But Arlene is not the only one who must repudiate the Rev Gray’s awful bigotry. Tom Elliot, MP, must do likewise. Interested folk in Washington and in the U.S. Congress will be carefully watching to see if the two top Unionist/Protestant leaders in Fermanagh condone the Rev Gray’s anti-Catholicism.
Fr Sean McManus, President, Irish National Caucus