TOLERANCE and understanding, on the model of St Paul, must be the principle of cohesive community, the Dean of Armagh, the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan, told the most senior law-makers of Ireland at the annual New Law Term service in St Michan’s, close to Dublin’s Supreme Court, on Monday.
In St Paul’s call to diverse communities — "Welcome one another, therefore" — Dean Dunstan said that he provided a grammar with which to address questions that test community.
"Take human sexuality and the Churches," Dean Dunstan said. "Two positions, founded on the interpretation of scripture and the dignity of the human person, reach opposite conclusions. But, if these conclusions are held in Christian conscience, must we not say, with Paul, that those who do so are acceptable to God? Neither side may judge or despise the other."
He described the contemporary European state — secular, culturally diverse — as "bereft of the unifying influence of any dominant religious tradition", and asked whether St Paul’s "Welcome one another" could hold even where its theological foundation had been eclipsed.
"It must [hold], because the law, prescribing and proscribing, cannot do it all. We cannot relate by regulation. . . We will thrive only if we can welcome one another graciously.
"For again, on this island, conflicting truths are held with conviction. Terrible things have been done. No easy resolution is available. . . But to flourish together, we must learn to welcome one another across the differences that divide. If we do, we may find them not quite so divisive after all."