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Keep open mind in approach to religion

Published 23/09/2016

Apart from her work, the most striking feature of the life of Saint Teresa of Calcutta was her persistent experience of the absence of God and regular doubts about God's existence. This dark night of the soul seems to have been a feature of the lives of many of the saints.

The notion that religion, or science, provide certainty offers precarious comfort to those who feel adrift in an uncertain world.

One of the most debilitating temptations is to create intellectually safe places in order to survive the ambiguity of living and to escape ideas at odds with our own.

This shows itself in various forms of withdrawal from the world, either in adopting the bogus certainty of some religious practices, or fundamentalist scientism, being seduced by the notion that science, or religion, deliver certainty.

What we all have to face is the weakness of reason; it is easy to get things wrong. We must not overestimate its function in our lives.

It is more realistic to preserve a moderate scepticism. This is not so much the age of reason, but the age of trying to be more reasonable.

Sadly, the Catholic Church has been late in facing up to the fact that it is not a peddler of certainty. The idea of papal infallibility should be confined to the museum of very bad ideas.

Pope Francis has sought to stem the exercise of power and control in the church, evident in the suppression of individual voices of dissent.

The exercise of power is no substitute for the exercise of insight and inspiration.

PHILIP O'NEILL

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