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May 26, 2011


Spirit of Vatican II



I too suspected that it was Garret the priest is referring to. Reminds me a bit of the Ted Kennedy saga. I sympathize with his point but it was pretty silly to write to bloody Michael Voris (of all people!) about it.

I was more scandalised by the funeral for Conor Cruise O'Brien. Fitzgerald was at least a Catholic in name.

Fitzgerald was in power before my time (born: 1990) and I can't remember Haughey at all. From what I've read Fitzgerald is overpraised (emigration increased substantially under his watch, something David McWilliams has pointed out) --- I admire Haughey's economic and foreign policies.

Spirit of Vatican II

shane, I am amazed that you can pontificate about people being Catholic only in name. I have no doubt whatever that Garret was a man of deep and sincere Catholic faith. Reading his last book "Just Garret" I see that the Vatican's role in the Northern Ireland problem was a noxious one, part of it being Paul VI's foolish credence in reports from Ireland accusing Garret of being a dangerous liberal etc. -- "attempts to persuade the Holy See that our approach to the IRA threat was in some way to be deplored". Referring to NI, the Pope responded: "He knew how tragic the situation was in that area, but that could not be a reason to change any of our laws that kept us as a Catholic state".



Here's something for Catholics to listen to if they wish.

Here's an excerpt:

"Do you want to continue the wealthy, earthly rewards oriented lifestyles of popes like your predecessor, John Paul II, who took spiritual energies from others instead of giving to others the spiritual energies of God’s Love?

Or would you like to begin a new era by learning how to nourish your own Angelic Light Body, Soul, mind and earthly body with the energies of God’s Unconditional Love, and be able to give these heightened energies of God’s Love to others?"

This is from an audio invitation to Pope Benedict to restore to Catholics everywhere Jesus' truths that have been kept hidden from them.

The full message is here:


Hope Pope B cares enough.


Spirit, if I remember correctly Paul VI said that Ireland was the only Catholic state left in the world and that it should remain that way. I'm not necessarily endorsing that sentiment but is it not likely that it would have been entirely in accord with public opinion at the time? Even as late as 1995 just barely short of half the electorate voted AGAINST introducing the most restrictive divorce laws in the world. We now know that the working class and the rural poor were much more likely to be on the 'no side'; Garret's 'liberal agenda' was very much the agenda of the urban middle classes.

My own take on it is that Paul VI did not grasp the full baleful implications of 'Dignitatis humanae'. He had no problem dictating to Spain that it must make provision for religious liberty and effectively disestablish the Church there, so why therefore should other countries refrain from doing the same thing?

Spirit of Vatican II

shane, do you realize the baleful implications of rejecting Dignitatis Humanae? Do you want a theocracy?


Spirit, the Catholic Encyclopedia defines a theocracy as "a form of civil government in which God Himself is recognized as the head". As a principle I struggle to see in that anything objectionable.

And speaking of the devil, I recently came across a very interesting lecture on 'Church and State in the Constitution of Ireland' given by Fr Enda McDonagh in 1961 (reprinted in the Irish Theological Quarterly, Vol. XXVIII). He rightly asserts that the 1937 Constitution is "by and large a splendid acheivement" though not without defects. Even the (in)famous 'special position' of the Church was recognized by virtue of it being "the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens" --- in substance, that was nothing more than the recognition of a demographic fact. Certainly a far cry from what Maria Duce or Ailtirí na hAiséirighe ("Ireland needs a Salazar") wanted.


I note with some amusement the lyrics of the funeral's opening hymn, widely known in the Cat Steven's best-selling version. It contains the much-loathed phrase in the newly translated Prex Eucharistica II, "like the dewfall"...

Apparently the Liturgiam Authenticam translators are more in touch with pop culture than previously thought :)

Spirit of Vatican II

EssEm -- the use of "like the first dewfall" in "Morning has broken" (its words date from 1931, so they do not reflect pop culture) has frequently been contrasted with the use of "dewfall" as synonym for "dew" in the new translation. Even Msgr Harbert hates the word "dewfall" (he wanted "dew").

Spirit of Vatican II

The issue on which Garret clashed with Paul VI was the legalization of the sale of condoms. shane, do you think a State that forbids access to condoms, NOT for reasons of morality or common good BUT because it bows to pressure from a Church, is a healthy one? I think Garret was very much a man of the 1937 Constitution, very aware that Ireland is a democratic republic.


Ireland was indeed a democratic republic and if the Church had 'power' in the civic sphere it was because the people WANTED the Church to be powerful. Or rather the Church didn't have 'power' (in any temporal sense) so much as the force of public opinion. In a democracy the people rule. And the majority of the Irish people did not want a fully secular state until quite recently.

The Church should certainly be able to lobby the government. Lobbying occurs all the time, and big business has a lot more clout in modern Ireland than the Church. That has been the case for a long time. If the GAA, publicans or (God help us) "human rights" groups can lobby politicians then the Church should enjoy the same right.

Unimpeachably secular France legalized contraception as late as 1967 (where it was passed in the National Assembly to cries of 'race suicide'), only a few years before Ireland.

The Church's concerns about legal contraception were very much related to public morality and the common good. Archbishop McQuaid had warned that legalizing contraception would offend the "objective moral law" and would be "a curse upon our country": http://lxoa.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/contraception-and-conscience/ It was not simply arbitrary power wielding.

Spirit of Vatican II

We all thought McQuaid was bizarre at the time. That kind of lobbying was already a thing of the past. The same is true of Abp McNamara's statement that divorce would be a Chernobyl. Fitzgerald relates how the Church fought for the continuation of the mickey-mouse arrangement whereby church remarriages that were bigamous in civil law would be overlooked by the State. Your idea that the curse of contraception has ruined Ireland is based on romanticization of the past -- take a look at the Ryan Report to see how miserable our virtual theocracy could be.

Legal restrictions on the pill in Japan until very recently went hand in hand with systematic recourse to abortion as contraceptive method. The Vichy regime executed a woman who had an abortion, and in natalist postwar France babies were the thing, not birth control. I did not know that the law on the latter changed only as late as 1967 (abortion was legalized in 1975).


I neither romanticize nor demonize the past --- I take it as I find it. Child abuse occurs in all societies and in all ages. According to UNICEF Ireland's rate of child abuse and maltreatment is extremely low by international standards: http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/repcard5e.pdf

The most developed (and the most constitutionally secular) country in the western world - the United States of America - has a much sorrier history of child abuse and maltreatment than Ireland does. The same can be said for the most pagan and libertine country in the west --- Sweden: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2011/may/21/child-abuse-catholicism-johnjayinstitute

It's not like modern secular Ireland is free from child abuse or maltreatment either. The HSE believes that 200 children died in state care between 2000-2010 (Sunday Business Post, 23 May 2010). David Quinn reported that Mary Harney ruled out a State inquiry into the deaths of children in the care of the HSE because "it would take a considerable amount of time and it would cost an enormous amount of money."

France's law on abortion, like that of most European countries, is quite restrictive when compared to Britain or America.


I think he deserved a state funeral. Though I disagreed with much of his thinking, I think that, unlike some, he was well intentioned, and was a believing Catholic.


Here's Michael Voris today on 'Irish Destruction':


Spirit of Vatican II

Voris can only find one bishop to blame for the decline of Catholicism -- with unerring wrongness he points his denunciatory finger at Bp Willie Walsh. He says Walsh should have had the courage to resign, But in fact Walsh handed his resignation to the papal nuncio, saying he had never wanted to be a bishop, and the papal nuncio prevailed on him to withdraw it!

The Archbishop of Ireland is a new ecclesial category dreamt up by Voris.

Spirit of Vatican II

Some would say the mistake of Irish Catholics was to become too obsessed with Voris issues, losing theological, liturgical and even social imagination.


I like Michael Voris, even if he is a bit caustic. But I don't agree that Ireland was a solid bastion of Catholic faith. Under that solid façade, many dark secrets lay hidden and now we know all about that.

I don't have a romantic view of pre-Vatican II Catholicism in Ireland. Vincent Twoomey in his book, The End of Irish Catholicism?, says that essentially that the Church in Ireland was neither authentically Catholic nor authentically Irish. The book is worth a read.

Fr. Gabriel Burke

I agree with Fr Twomey. Blame cannot be laid at the feet of any one Bishop. I remember a line from the Field, were the priest is chatting to the Yank and describes Catholicism as a veneer over paganism. The root of the problem is we had no roots


I read Vincent Twomey's book 'The End of Irish Catholicism?' and found it a load of rubbish. It was immediately obvious from reading it that it was the work of a 'moral theologian' rather than a historian (which is certainly not to say that one can't be both). Prof. Roy Foster mentions in his book 'Luck and the Irish' that it doesn't even contain a single word about the sex scandals (though it actually does refer briefly to the conditions in industrial schools) which surely makes a nonsense of its title --- considering that it was published in 2003.

Mary Kenny's book 'Goodbye to Catholic Ireland' is likewise a popular rather than a scholarly work. While many of her assertions are out-dated and flawed, the book is vastly better researched and supported than Twomey's fantasies.

IMO the best scholarly study of 20th century Irish Catholicism and its decline is Louise Fuller's 'Irish Catholicism since 1950: the undoing of a culture'.

Spirit of Vatican II

"We had no roots" -- you are perhaps too young to remember the 1950s -- the immense devotion of the laity, the self-dedication of nuns and brothers, the piety of the clergy -- that world has disappeared, but it certainly had deep, deep roots in the love of God and in the faith brought by St Patrick.

The transition to modernity has been bumpy, but I believe there are still solid roots both old and new (among the latter I count Scripture, Vatican II, wider lay education, conscientization of feminists etc.), and that a new and vibrant Irish Christianity can be built thereon.


Spirit, if you're ever stuck for something to write on this blog, can I please register a request in advance for a post on the Irish Catholicism of the 1950s as you view/experienced it?

Fr. Gabriel Burke

Way too young Joe, I was born in 1967.
Maybe I am being too pessimistic. But for me when I look at the 50's from hearing and reading about them I can't help wondering what was beneath all it.
I agree with you about the self dedication of the nuns and brothers. I was taught by the Christian Brothers and despite all that has been said in the media to me they are the finest bunch of men I have ever known.The inspired me so much by the prayer and dedication I thought of joining them.
There has always been something niggling at me. You will probably think me old fashioned but how is it that such a catholic country we have no modern saints. Holiness does not seem to be to the forefront. When I look at other countries and see how many saints they have I just wonder.
We have no great theological centres. You mention wider lay education but they get the same theology I got which was just to repeat in exams what the lecturer gave us. Any deviation to the "right" or "left" you were in trouble.
I do think that people nowadays are more hungry for scriptures and to a lesser extent the Father.This is a sure sign of hope.


In the last two years, I have spent thousands of very happy and peaceful hours reading back issues (mostly in our library at uni) of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Doctrine & Life, Studies, the Irish Monthly, the Capuchin Annual, The Furrow, the Irish Rosary, the Irish Theological Quarterly, etc. from pre-conciliar times, in addition to the newspapers of that era. I originally had very negative preconceptions (mostly media-imbibed) of Irish Catholicism in that era and my research was a deeply humbling experience. I could not stress enough how highly impressed I was. If you were to compare the intellectual precision and vigour of Catholic periodicals back then to any modern equivalent today (whether liberal, conservative or traditionalist), it really would make you despair.

I'm only 21 so I can't speak from experience. But my research leads me to the conclusion that 1950s Irish Catholicism, whatever its imperfections, was immeasurably more robust than any modern strain of Catholicism, whether in its doctrinal orthodoxy, pastoral solicitude, intellectual precision --- even in presentation. It was certainly vastly superior to modern traditionalist Catholicism.

It never ceases to astonish me how rapidly things change in the 1960s. The Furrow in the 50s basically reflects the ethos of Catholic Ireland in that decade (even if it was slightly subversive) but by the end of the 60s, things change totally. If you were to compare a periodical from 1955 to one twenty years later, you'd almost think they represented two totally different religions.

I also read back issues of America, The Clergy Review, Revue Thomiste, Concilium, Downside Review, Blackfriars, from the 50s and 60s. The Irish periodicals (at least the IER and ITQ) win hands down.


"There has always been something niggling at me. You will probably think me old fashioned but how is it that such a catholic country we have no modern saints. Holiness does not seem to be to the forefront. When I look at other countries and see how many saints they have I just wonder."

How modern ? And does the question include those whose cause has not been concluded ? Presumably the Irish Martyrs of the Penal Times are pre-modern, but there is the Servant of God Frank Duff, whose cause was introduced not long ago. ISTM that by any standard the foundation of the Legion of Mary has led to many blessings for the Church.


Spirit of Vatican II

I see Voris has been invited to speak at a novena at a Dublin parish, and that he has made videos about the state of the Irish Church. One blames it all on Michael Ledwith, in a rather libelous way. The other consists of asking Dubliners on College Green if they go to Mass every Sunday. It is a delight to watch. It is obvious that the Irish mission is a hard nut to crack. Voris's sort of browbeating has been tried before and failed. What is needed is a vision and practice of Christianity that will attract people in a deep and lasting way. Our extreme focus on the Mass has backfired tragically. http://www.youtube.com/user/RealCatholicTV?feature=mhee#p/u/0/SaGj1rJdPKo


Spirit, what you describe pejoratively as "Voris's sort of browbeating" has indeed "been tried before" but it certainly did not 'fail'. Traditional catechetics had as its primary objective the inculcation of elementary Catholic doctrine to the young --- by any unit of measurement it succeeded tremendously. You are living proof! Had you been born 40 years later you would be as ignorant as those people being interviewed.

Sorry but you need to stop living in a 60s time warp. That era is thankfully long dead and gone. Nostalgia has led you up a blind alley but it will not allow you to escape reality. The game's up. The toothpaste isn't going back in the tube.

Spirit of Vatican II

I did not think that the people interviewed were "ignorant". One said that the Church no longer teaches that missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin; this seems more correct than Voris's naive presupposition. Others frankly declared agnosticism; I don't see that catechesis has anything to do with that. Plenty of people who got the pre-Vatican II catechesis also became agnostics, and very many of them went to Mass to please their relatives, as is still happening today to judge by Voris's interviews. So what is needed in not any toothpaste exercise but a rethinking of the Christian message and practice in such a way that it can recommend itself as meaningful and nourishing to the Irish people.


Spirit, it mystifies me how you could observe a participant claiming (in perfectly good faith) that the Church "no longer teaches that missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin" (false) and conclude that it has nothing to do with catechesis.

Believe me, as someone who is not long out of secondary school, I can categorically affirm that I learned nothing whatsoever about the Catholic faith from my RE classes. All but a handful of people my age know zilch about Catholicism. They conceive of it (at best) as a mushy, benevolent sentiment rather than anything possessing actual substance.

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