Dermot O'Leary - some balance

One of my parishioners has commented on the post "Lent Fast Day". I am happy to post her comment in full:
Fr I believe you are treating Dermot O’Leary in a very harsh fashion, and have seriously misrepresented him.

Dermot is a person that does very good charitable work, he believes in helping others less fortunate than himself and using his talents to achieve this. Misrepresenting Dermot as a shallow TV presenter is unfair, he comes from a serious journalistic background his family were regional newspaper proprietors in Ireland and he has done extremely well in his career in the British media.

I respect Dermot’s involvement with Charity; he has tackled difficult health campaigns such as Male Testicular Cancer with charity Everyman. The picture of Davina McCall and Dermot, on your blog, is actually originally from a photo shoot taken as a promotion for Breast Cancer Awareness – another difficult health awareness promotion, asking women to undertake regular self-examinations.

Alongside national charities, Dermot has enthusiastically supported small community charities that have little PR value for himself, such as Southwark Irish Pensioners Forum and Irish in Greenwich.

Along with his family, Dermot has supported Catholic charities all his life. How many other people in the British Media support Catholic Charities – it is hardly a fashion statement. Dermot is exemplary in getting young people interested in Charities, Sports and good works.

Dermot’s comment about being “cleansed from sin” was obviously made tongue in cheek in an interview situation.

I have meet Dermot’s parents at a charity function and I know that they would be so upset to see their son misrepresented in this way. Dermot is a person who is genuinely interested in people’s welfare, young and old, and has shown great respect for people as individuals in his work. I think it is very important to present a balanced view of individual especially when we are broadcasting over the World Wide Web.

Just some of charities Dermot supports:

Southwark Irish Pensioners Forum – works with most disadvantaged and isolated people in London http://www.irishinlondon.org/volunteer.htm

Everyman: - UK Male Cancer Campaign - http://www.icr.ac.uk/everyman/

NSPCC http://nspcc.org.uk/

Dermot has worked on London St Patrick Parade Organising Committee.
I'm happy to quote that in the interests of a balanced picture. I think it brings us to a deeper question regarding our culture. That picture with Davina McCall is not justified by the desired end of promoting breast cancer awareness. We once installed a disabled toilet in the parish Hall. The press photographer asked me if I would have a photograph sitting (clothed) on the toilet. I refused because it would inevitably have trivialised the issue of providing proper facilities for the disabled and would be used to denigrate the priesthood.

However, this is not as serious a question as that of presenting oneself as a Catholic in public life whilst repudiating Catholic morality. Let me stress here that I am only in a position to comment on what Dermot does in public - I am more than ready to admit that he may be sincerely following his (albeit misinformed) conscience. As well as cohabiting with his girlfriend and "cheerfully admitting to using contraceptives, he says:
"I do get it in the neck from some Catholics who say I am a 'buffet Catholic', picking and choosing the bits I like or don't like. But if I thought - and this is going to sound anti-Catholic - that there was this one true religion and that anyone who didn't follow it would be damned, firstly I'd be mad, and secondly I'd put myself in a position where I could be shot down.

"I'm not interested in preaching from the rooftops. All I do is show in public my own faith. I was brought up with it and I still practise, but I don't think that my God is any more worthy than that of a friend of mine who happens to follow Allah."
This kind of statement is irritating and misleading. Catholics do not believe that all non-Catholics are damned. Never mind Vatican II - there is a long tradition of theological study and magisterial teaching examining just how non-Catholics can be saved. The widely vilified document Dominus Iesus is perhaps the best recent examination of the whole matter. It explains not only why Catholics do accept that many non-Catholics may be saved, but also why this does not imply that there is no difference between Catholic teaching on God and the teaching of other faiths. Foundational to this is faith in Christ as truly God made man and therefore the acceptance of his teaching - part of which is that we should proclaim his teaching "from the rooftops".

The net result of playing down the more challenging aspects of Catholic teaching is that young people who follow such media role models are confirmed in their rejection of Catholic morality with the result that another generation is deprived of the Catholic vision of family life - one that is becoming increasingly crucial as secularism threatens the Church and society itself.

Of course it is laudable for any public figure to support charities and I willingly congratulate Dermot on this work. Nevertheless it is quite fallacious to assume that the rest of Catholic morality can be dispensed with. Such an approach opens the way to medical charities supporting embryo experimentation, disability charities supporting the abortion of the disabled, charities for the aged supporting euthanasia, children's charities undermining the family. I would urge Dermot, CAFOD and anyone else allured by the doctrine-charity dichotomy to take Pope Benedict seriously. If we lose our grip on the truth, charity and justice will be casualties.

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