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‘The Stalingrad Of Irish Catholicism’

Michael Brendan Dougherty bait! Last week I had a post in which I asked conservative Christians who live outside of the US to talk about what the situation is like in their country. This fascinating comment just came in from a reader in Ireland.

I’m not a Christian but I am an ally.

The situation in (Republic of) Ireland is mixed for Christians. The process of secularisation and the discrediting of the church is perhaps familiar to many around the world but the difference in Ireland is the speed by which it happened. As late as 1995 divorce was not allowed and it was only barely legalised in a referendum. The aggressiveness of the left shifted into higher gear following the financial crisis. The labour party came to power and to balance its support for austerity it has forced the government to be aggressively anti-catholic. I didn’t see this coming before the 2011 election when they came to power but it’s important to understand that we in Ireland and the UK are heavily influenced by American politics. Whatever political fads the american left thinks up spread like a virus here eventually. For example the media increasingly uses the word undocumented to describe illegal immigrants and we’re told we have a rape culture in our universities.

Whenever the government faced a choice it sided against the Church. It closed the Vatican embassy and singled out Catholic service organisations such as the marriage organisation accord for cuts. The pretext was austerity but given its lavish funding for secular left organisations this is nonsense and understood to be nonsense.
The other major agenda is schools and hospitals. Most schools and hospitals in Ireland are church organised. In hospitals this has minimal consequence and schools rarely have clergy as staff members. The government goal was to secularise half the Catholic schools.

The interesting thing has been the response. The closure of the Vatican embassy and prime minister Enda Kenny’s (he leads a David Cameron type centre-right party that is in coalition with Labour) hysterical damnation of the church’s response to the child abuse investigation clearly meant they were further than their voters. The Vatican embassy was re-opened in 2014 when money was still tight. There school agenda has also largely hit the buffers. They have made barely any progress secularising schools because of parental opposition. I think this cost the centre right votes but there has been no significant organised pushback. The election in 2016 led to the collapse of the Labour party (yippee) and the new minority centre right seems to be changing tack. Instead of secularising schools they are trying to de-catholicize Catholic schools. I think they will be more successful here. This is where Irish people are. Less religion but not none (yet).

A gay marriage referendum in 2015 was one cry-bully extravaganza but in reality a side-show. Abortion is where the action is. The Irish establishment dearly wants legal abortion. They view the right to life as an embarrassment and a symbol of catholicism. This is the Stalingrad of Irish catholicism. There will likely be a referendum in the next few years. If the religious segment win and enter the political process more assertively thereafter there is a real chance Ireland will not go the way of the rest of Europe. I go to two masses a year when members of my family are commemorated and it doesn’t skew radically older than the rest of the population and the pews are reasonably full but there is a dire shortage of priests. My mother who is a regular at mass says people start to go again when they have kids(a sure sign of vitality). We have touches of the human rights culture but their progress is patchy and the same people who would gladly legalise abortion are turning against them because of their increasingly strident economic leftism. Ordinary people do not think less of people for their faithfulness so I think this is a major plus for Ireland relative to peer countries.

In Northern Ireland the peace agreement was used by the UK labour government as an excuse to use NI as a guinea pig for every left wing rights culture that can be thought of. But religious society nonetheless is stronger there than in GB or ROI. I suspect Derry to be the most religious christian city in Europe.

By the way, Michael Brendan Dougherty, the Catholic trad and noted Hibernophile, has been tweeting insightfully but dyspeptically about the old sod today. For example:

UPDATE: I’m moving this post to the main page to showcase Irenist’s great comment below. For the record, I’ve met him, and he’s an Irish (American) Catholic:

Everything MBD has tweeted on this has been 100% correct.

I don’t know if the inevitable abortion referendum will legalize it. But if not this time, then another referendum eventually will. Ireland is, for the foreseeable future, almost entirely lost to the Faith. Irish Catholicism is as terminally ill as Episcopalianism.


All that’s sad. What’s it mean for us American Christians? Maybe this:

Irish Catholicism was persecuted for centuries, and the Irish nobility and professional class was hollowed out by discriminatory laws and land confiscations. Many Irish reacted by rallying round an insular (as it were) pseudo-aristocracy of clericalism.

When the Irish nation attained a state, the Irish Constitution and statutes were largely written in line with Catholic social teaching. Ireland came to combine pro-life values and a relatively generous social welfare state in a way that would leave American seamless garment Catholics jealous.

While all this was happening, clericalism, corruption, complacency, xenophobia, Jansenism, puritanism, and pederasty devoured the Irish Church from within like cancers.

IOW, Irish Catholicism was repressed, which led the Irish to idealize and idolize it. This in turn led to clericalist corruption.

So here we stand at the beginning of the BenOp moment in American Christianity. We are about to be more repressed than we’re used to, and we are in danger of reacting by idealizing our counter-cultural enclaves and institutions, and idolizing the leaders of them.

A kind of “patriotism” for the Church is natural and healthy. But the Irish, reacting against the Brits, fell into a kind of “jingoism” for the Church. If we led SJWs (or whomever) goad us into a jingoism for our BenOp communities, we will be, as the Irish Church is now, on the road to annihilation.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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