A few months ago I closed my previous blog, Practicing to be Catholic, explaining in my final post that I worried about our society's increasing addiction to technology. I worried about the things we lose (or at least, weaken) when computers, televisions, MP3 players and mobile phones are everywhere; silence, patience, the meaningfulness of time and space, the erosion of interpersonal interactions like story-telling, ballad-singing and the swapping of comics.
I still feel those anxieties. And I'm still determined to die without ever having read an e-book.
But I think there is a role for blogs. And, when it comes to Catholic life in Ireland, perhaps even a need for them.
The Church and the faith is under unprecedented media and popular attack-- all over the Western world, but especially in Ireland. (The American Catholic commentator and biographer of John Paul II, George Weigel, recently described Ireland as the "epicentre of European anti-Catholicism".) Scrutiny and questioning of institutions is healthy, but the kind of relentless hostility the Church faces-- from journalists, politicians, teachers, university professors, comedians, rock musicians, and barstool philosophers-- comes close to villification.
Nor is the assault confined to the secular world. Self-described Catholics-- all too often, even priests-- attack the dogmas and truths that the Holy Spirit has revealed to its pilgrim Church over two thousand years of discernment, persecution and prayer. There is a widespread consensus amongst the chattering classes that the oldest institution in the world-- and one which has survived through fidelity to its mission and message-- must undergo radical change.
There are too few voices raised in loyalty to the teaching of the Church's Magisterium; so few, I feel justified in launching yet another blog into cyberspace. (Also, I can't believe nobody has named a blog Irish Papist yet.) In fact, the immediate stimulus was an RTE programme I heard mere hours ago, in which Charlie Bird interviewed various (carefully selected) Catholic commentators who all agreed that institutional change (oh deliciously vague word, change!) was imperative. The usual attacks upon the Vatican and the "clerical mindset" ensued.
The media, politics and the advertising industry are all dedicated to flattering their audience. The problem with voter apathy never lies with the voters, but with politicans. Advertisers tell us we "deserve" pampering with skin lotions or weekend breaks or visits to a beauty parlour. Even in everyday life, this mentality holds sway. If you admit that you are terrible at mathematics or history, your listener invariably assures you that "you must have had a bad teacher in school".
Similarly, if there is a problem with the Chuch, the blame must lie with the institutions-- not with the sinners, you and I, who perpetually fail to live up to our Christian vocations.
The humility of GK Chesterton-- who famously responded to a newspaper's request to write on the question "What's wrong with the world?" with the two words, "I am"-- seems conspiciously absent in our own society.
The idea in this blog is to provide a rapid and rolling response to the many attacks on the Church in Ireland. Will I have the time and patience to stick to that plan? To quote St. Paul, "I do not know; God knows". But I'm going to give it a go. I hope you join me for the ride, and don't hestitate to chip in!