Secular Sunday #72 – Cardinal Sinners and Feminist Winners

It’s time for another Secular Sunday. With less than seven weeks to go until our Empowering Women through Secularism conference, we profile one of the most experienced of our speakers. We’ve also got the best of Irish atheist blogs (which tend to feature Cardinal Sean Brady quite heavily this week), and of course a listing of all the most godless events we could find.

– Derek Walsh, Editor


  • Our Kiva micro-lending team has to date, raised over $US3,500 in loans for more than 130 entrepreneurs worldwide. If you haven’t already joined, remember, you can get a free loan when you sign up. Join now

Profile: Máirín de Burca

Every week until the Empowering Women through Secularism conference, we’ll be profiling one of the speakers.

Máirín de Burca is an Irish writer and activist. She was a founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, and has been involved in numerous other social justice groups including the Dublin Housing Action Committee, the Irish Voice on Vietnam, the Anti-Apartheid movement,  the Prisoner’s Rights Organisation and lately Right to Die Ireland.
Along with Mary Anderson, she was instrumental in forcing a change in the law to enable women to serve on juries.
Her commitment to direct action meant she often found herself on the wrong side of the law, and spent three months in jail for  her anti-Vietnam war activities, specifically for smashing bottles of cow’s blood on the steps of the American embassy and burning the American flag. When Richard Nixon visited Dublin, Máirín showed her distaste by throwing eggs at his limousine, an act that earned her a fine of £2.
She and two others broke into Leinster House while protesting the Seanad’s refusal to read a bill that would have legalised contraception, and found themselves in the men’s toilets. Máirín was later involved in organising the famous “Contraception Train” action, where a group of forty-seven women travelled to Belfast to obtain the contraceptive pill which was illegal in the republic. Máirín herself did not go as she thought it would look bad for a single woman to be buying contraceptives!
Máirín has largely stayed out of trouble since the 1970s but remains a commited advocate for feminism, secularism and social justice for all.


  • Wednesday 15 May, 8:00 pm, Absolute Hotel, Sir Harry’s Mall, Limerick (map)
    The Mid West Humanists are meeting. As well as old and new attendees (new people always welcome) getting to talk about life as an atheist or humanist, they are continuing their plan to meet TDs in the region, on the Constitution, starting when the Blasphemy article arises in the Convention.
  • Sunday 26 May, 12:00 noon, Galway Lawn Tennis Club, Galway (map)
    Humanists West, Galway are having their monthly meeting. Open to all. Facebook event page
  • Sunday 2 June, Quay Co-op, Cork (map)
    “Confessions of an ex-Scientologist.” The Cork Humanists’ monthly meeting with guest speaker John Duignan. Facebook event page
  • Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 June, O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel, Dubln 2 (map)
    “Empowering Women Through Secularism” An international two-day conference featuring some of the biggest names in atheism, skepticism, secularism and feminism. Buy tickets now


“We know what the law is about excommunication, about abortion, that’s a fact.” said Brady. He has a doctorate in something called Canon law – a system of in-house rules peculiar to his institution that has no standing in the Irish state – yet he delivers his promulgations on abortion and excommunication ‘law’ without trace of irony. – Geoff examines Sean Brady’s comments on abortion.

The battle lines are being drawn up for what will be a major turning point in church and state relations in Ireland, a debate that is no doubt occupying the minds of many Fine Gael backbenchers are the moment. I think this has been a particularly important weekend which will show the waning influence of the Catholic hierarchy in Irish politics.  – Michael Fisher also looks at Brady, abortion and the separation of church and state.

I couldn’t even begin to explain just how hypocritical it is for this man, this celibate cleric to think that he has a say in X case legislation. This is a man who stood over and actively covered up the systematic rape and abuse of children by priests. – Brady again obviously. By a blogger known to us only as “Oriental Cutlery“.

I will detail as much research as I could find which shows that same-sex parenting has the same benefits to children as married biological parents. And I will also supply some large scale national surveys which David somehow missed even though some are a number of years old. – Peter Ferguson lists a plethora of studies that David Quinn couldn’t find.

Secular Sunday