Tracing the transformation of Irish Catholicism through the eyes of a journalist
‘The times they are a changin’ ’:
Tracing the transformation of IrishCatholicism through the eyes of a
It was towards the end of May 2009 that the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork,
Most Reverend Paul Colton said that Ireland was in the midst of a ‘a national
trauma’. That followed publication of the Commission to Inquire into Child
Abuse report. Chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan, it followed a decade of investigations by the Commission and contained revelations of truly shocking and
systemic sexual, physical and emotional abuse
The fraught relationship between women and the Catholic Church in Ireland
Catholic Church was in no position to voice
its concern about these developments at the time, in the wake of the child-
abuse and Magdalene laundry revelations. Moreover, the response in the public
forum to the litany of Church-related offences has been to reject the institutional
Church and, consequently, impede the creation of a space for the evaluation of
the cultural legacy of IrishCatholicism. As a result, attempting to explore aspects
of the Catholic Church without falling into outright condemnation of the entire
institution and of its members is deemed insular
Eucharistic controversy and the English origins of Irish Catholic identity, 1550–51
hermeneutical differences have disturbed this remarkably consistent
characterisation. Thus where writers in the older tradition saw in the
archbishop’s action the inevitable awakening, from its late medieval
slumber, of a robust, native IrishCatholicism, their revisionist successors observed that it marked the effective endpoint of what had hitherto been a thriving indigenous flirtation with the Tudor Reformation,
especially in its Henrician form. Both schools were united in drawing
a link between the doctrinally conservative Dowdall’s rejection of the
The spectacle of death and the aesthetics of crowd control
Emma Galbally and Conrad Brunström
checked by a
spectacle of festivity. Death is noteworthy for its absence.
Significantly, British sponsorship of IrishCatholicism is referenced when the question of who is to officiate
at a wedding is raised. ‘Nelly’, the proud mother of
four sons, three of whom are in the British armed forces and one of
whom is a freshly minted priest, speaks up
. There are many
different reasons why this happened, but some of them relate specifically to the
Catholic Church’s teachings about sexuality, the culture of silence and the power
and governance structures of the Church.
This raises questions about the robustness of IrishCatholicism. It would seem
that what makes Irish Catholics similar to other European Catholics, and different
4147 Inglis–Are the Irish different_BB_Layout 1 29/07/2014 09:26 Page 6
from American Catholics, is that the clerical sex abuse scandals have led to a
distaste for and
’Donnell and Eoin O’Sullivan, ‘Introduction’, in Eoin O’Sullivan and Ian O’Donnell
(eds), Coercive Confinement in Ireland: Patients, Prisoners and Penitents (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2012), pp. 12, 13, 26.
12 Mike Milotte, Banished Babies: The Secret History of Ireland’s Baby Export Business (Dublin:
New Island, 1997), p. 16.
13 Michael Carroll, Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion (Baltimore: John
Hopkins University Press, 1999).
14 Eugene Hynes, ‘The Great Hunger and IrishCatholicism’, Societas, pp. VIII (1978), pp.
destroy the roots of family life and
any semblance of moral decency. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid’s 1967
Lenten Regulations for the Dublin Diocese included the missive: ‘Parents
have the serious duty to be vigilant and to supervise the use by their children,
especially their adolescent children, of the modern means of communication: books, magazines, press, radio, television, stage and cinema’.71 Cold
suspicion of critical reflection and foreign influence distinguished traditional
IrishCatholicism with narrow-minded, anti-intellectual and morally rigorist
19. und 20. Jahrhunderts
(Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 2007), pp. 119–34, at p. 125. See also
Emmet Larkin, The Historical Dimensions of IrishCatholicism
(Washington, DC, and Dublin: Catholic University of America Press
and Four Courts Press, 1984), pp. 91–130.
of republicanism, with secret societies plotting armed rebellion,
it was firmly repudiated by bishops and priests alike. Whatever
common bonds tied Irish separatists to the church, the violent
means they used from time to time were never endorsed by the
majority of the clergy. On the
–1943’, in M. G Valiulis
and M. O’Dowd (eds), Women and Irish History: Essays in Honour of
Margaret MacCurtain (Dublin: O’Brien Press, 1997), pp. 173–88; L. Ryan
and M. Ward (eds), Irish Women and the Vote: Becoming Citizens (Dublin:
Irish Academic Press, 2007), pp. 231–50; C. Clear, Women of the House:
Women’s Household Work in Ireland, 1922–61 (Dublin: Irish Academic
Press, 2000), pp. 13–91, 202–16.
42 Clear, Women of the House, pp. 27–67.
43 J. H. Whyte, Church and State in Modern Ireland (Dublin: Gill and
Macmillan, 1971); L. Fuller, IrishCatholicism since 1950
distorting temporal coincidence. The colleges’ demise, or at least that of a substantial number of them
in France and the Austrian Netherlands, overlapped with the French Revolution and the imposition of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Prima facie, this
suggested that the Revolution and its secularist principles brought the curtain
down on the Irish colleges.
On these two temporal accidents, Catholic nationalist historiography
constructed a mighty interpretative edifice according to which the colleges, as
conciliar institutions, saved IrishCatholicism from English