Preserving the peace
Mediation, relief work and political activism
in Freedom and the Fifth Commandment
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A majority of the clergy simply tried to avoid becoming involved in the conflict at all. This was an unremarkable course of action in areas of the country where violence was rare. But even in violent counties such as Cork it was a common attitude. The most pressing concern for most priests most of the time was how to avoid bloodshed in their parishes, and, if blood had already been shed, how to relieve the suffering of their parishioners. This relief work was ostensibly non-partisan, but its emphasis on shared victimhood at the hands of a foreign power was intended to reinforce the message of Irish Catholic unity. The current chapter examines a number of humanitarian clerical responses to political violence and assesses their meaning. It also looks at the wider context. Priestly involvement did not happen in a vacuum. There were other political issues at play, related only indirectly to the struggle for independence, but which were of crucial importance to the clergy.

Freedom and the Fifth Commandment

Catholic priests and political violence in Ireland, 1919-21

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