The reign of frightfulness
Clerical responses to the British campaign
in Freedom and the Fifth Commandment
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As the conflict progressed, clerical criticism of the British campaign became ever more vociferous. The bishops gave a clear lead in their October pastoral of 1920. The sentiments expressed there were broadly shared by the Irish clergy, and animosity towards the crown forces only increased when it became apparent that ‘neither sacred places nor sacred persons were spared’, as Pope Benedict XV put it in April 1921. This new focus on British atrocities enabled the clergy to shift their attention away from the moral dilemmas that republican violence presented. However, it also created fresh problems. Clerical condemnations of IRA violence had often included protestations of the innocence of Catholic RIC members. Now that denunciations began to focus on the wrongdoings of the crown forces, the question of the moral status of Catholic constables needed resolving. This chapter examines the development of clerical responses to the British campaign, charting the emergence of the discourse of persecution described in the previous chapter. It also looks at the small number of priests who continued to support the crown forces and analyses their motives.

Freedom and the Fifth Commandment

Catholic priests and political violence in Ireland, 1919-21

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