Church Must Act as Moral Compass for Law – New Law Term Service Hears

Law Term Service October

The annual New Law Term Service took place in St Michan’s Church, Dublin, yesterday, Monday October 6th. Archbishop Michael Jackson presided and with him were the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne, and the Archdeacon of Dublin, the Ven David Pierpoint, who gave the address.

The large congregation included the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, and Chief Justice Susan Denham as well as members of the Irish Judiciary, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, the Diplomatic Corps and many from the legal profession. There were also visiting judges from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales. The choir was from The King’s Hospital School.

In his address, Archdeacon Pierpoint suggested that law and religion went hand in hand. However, he said that the Church should not interfere in matters of State or the law but instead should act as a moral compass.

‘Law is there to protect the weak and at times we all need that protection. Law is there to protect us from ourselves, but it cannot make us virtuous and when Law enters the arena of morality, it nearly always runs into difficulties. How far can sexual behaviour or same sex marriage or blasphemy or the right of women for personal autonomy be dealt with by Law, except in the limited sense of protecting the vulnerable?’ he asked.

‘By the same token, the talk about the imposition of harsher penalties for certain crimes and lesser penalties for others and still further proposed legislation on issues of integrity and self–determination in the name of law and order can only make a very limited impact on the well–being of society and may even prove to be counterproductive,’ he added.

The Archdeacon urged legislators to be cautious when preparing changes to our Constitution, particularly in the area of morality.

Archdeacon Pierpoint’s sermon is reproduced in full below.

St Michan’s Church

(The church of the Law Courts)

6th October 2014

Sermon preached by The Venerable David Pierpoint, Archdeacon of Dublin

Readings: Jeremiah Ch 31 vs 31–34, Romans Ch 7 vs 14–25

Almost 20 years ago when I last gave the address at this service to mark the opening of the new law term, a wise old priest gave me some good advice. ‘You must avoid the temptation to pontificate on legal matters about which the congregation is likely to be much better informed than you’. ‘Stick to what you know’ he went on to say, ‘for there is much in church doctrine, church history, theology and in the bible to speak about issues which are relevant to the congregation at the service’.

From today’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, it is obvious that he was a man of great faith, yet he was also a social reformer, in search of justice and a champion of the oppressed. How many of us here today can honestly say that about how we conduct our lives either in the church or in the courts.

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