Irish identity and the future of Catholicism
in Irish Catholic identities
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It is a truism to say that the Catholic Church came to dominate both the public identity and the personal values of the great majority of the Irish people from the middle of the nineteenth century until recent times. This chapter begins with withering judgements on the Catholic Church in Ireland by two of the country's most important public intellectuals, Fintan O'Toole and Roy Foster. A discussion of the decline of Irish Catholicism purely in terms of the sexual abuse crisis would be, of course, to overlook the broader secularising societal changes in the west, affecting both Catholics and Protestants. Roy Foster has written that 'the 1970s feminist saw the social values of Catholicism as a major obstacle inhibiting equal opportunities for women in Ireland, however personally devout they might be'.

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