Before the commencement of the Dáil, it has been customary for the Ceann Comhairle to read this short prayer:
Direct we beseech thee O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspiration, and carry them on so that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee and by Thee be happily ended.”
Protocol has been to stand and pray in union with the Ceann Comhairle, but this week six TD's refused to stand and held posters stating “Separate Church and State”.
Happily, Ireland along with the UK, are the only two countries in Europe who say a prayer before before the start of parliamentary proceedings.
What did the Archbishop have to say about separation between Church and State? Read the excerpt below taken from Against the Heresies:
When I entered the French Seminary at Rome (in 1923), had I been asked about the question of the separation of Church and State, I would have answered: Yes, there should be separation, Church and State have different goals; everything in its place. Well, it took the Fathers of the French Seminary to introduce me to the encyclicals, especially those of Leo XIII and St. Pius X, to deliver me from this error. No, the Church should not be separated from the State. At least in principle, for in reality one is often obliged to tolerate a situation which one cannot change. But in principle, Church and State should be united and work together for the salvation of souls. The State was created by God, it is of divine origin, and thus cannot remain indifferent on the question of religion.
As I said, not long ago there were a good number of States, Italy, (Southern) Ireland, Spain, the countries of South America, several cantons of Switzerland (Valais, Ticino, Fribourg) that affirmed their officially Catholic status in the first article of their constitutions. But that has disappeared. The modern world will not stand for the influence that a Catholic State might exercise to stunt the growth of the Protestant, Moslem or Buddhist religions. Religions, after all, have to be free.
This is absurd. Other religions have States with constitutions proclaiming the State religion, and they have no intention of changing their constitutions. England has a Protestant constitution, as do Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Geneva and Zurich. And the Moslem States are Islamic without apology or concession. There the religion is an integral part of society. And what about the Communist States? No one belongs to the government who does not belong to the party.
And should we Catholics, then, hold that Church and State must be separated? What an error; and what consequences for society, the family, and every walk of life. We must steep ourselves anew in the Catholic Faith; that is why we study the encyclicals. How do the popes stand on the major issues? How did they view and judge the world in their time?
We can see how they condemned the same errors and shortcomings that we know today. We can thus rely upon these official declarations to combat the errors of our time, and tell how they destroy the plan of God in society.