Despite setting this blog up to add my tuppenceworth-- or less than tuppenceworth, perhaps-- to the defence of the Catholic Church in Ireland, I have somehow felt disinclined to comment on some of the most recent controveries regarding the State's and the media's attack on the Faith. They are familiar to anyone in Ireland who even reads the newspaper headlines, but for the sake of those reading from abroad, or those who might be coming to this post when the hullaballoo has died down, I might mention...
The Irish government's closing of the Irish embassy in the Vatican (supposedly for economic reasons, but coming a few months after the Taoiseach's diatribe against the Vatican's supposed "interference" in the affairs of State, an accusation shown to be entirely baseless);
The disgraceful accusation made in an RTÉ television documentary that an Irish missionary priest had raped a girl in Kenya and fathered her child, only disproven by the priest taking a paternity test, and the station's half-hearted apology and apparent reluctance to take disiplinary action;
And the eagerness of Ruairi Quinn, Minister of Education, to diminish the Church's effective role in Catholic education, despite polite noises to the contrary.
Somehow, I'm not surprised or even outraged by any of these developments. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I'm surprised that the assault on the Church in Ireland isn't even more intense than it is. I'm surprised that the Angelus is still broadcast on RTÉ, and that all the candidates in the recent Presidential election said they were in favour of this. I'm surprised Catholic schools are allowed to exist in this country at all. I'm surprised, not that Enda Kenny stands up in the Dáil and launches into a tirade against the Vatican, but that he prefaces it by insisting that he himself is a practicing Catholic. I'm surprised that the Irish media even pretends to be fair to Catholicism.
When we have a situation where only a handful of Irish journalists are professing Catholics; where all the parties in the Dáil support the gay marriage lite of civil partnership, and only a very few senators and backbenchers call for a conscience cause to protect religious believers who cannot recognize such partnerships; where even Archbishop Diarmuid Mairtin bemoans the lack of intellectuals and artists who espouse the Catholic faith (and intellectuals and artists are usually adept at going against the mainstream); where Mass attendance in many working class parishes is down to single figures, what else do we expect?
Our Lord told us that he who is not for him is against him, and he who does not gather with him, scatters. History has told us the same thing. Christianity, when rejected, is usually rejected with fire-breathing fanaticism. I very much fear we are now living in the hiatus before the hurricane.
The Fenian John O'Leary, a mentor to WB Yeats, refused to complain about his treatment in an English prison. When it was pointed out to him that such denunciation was good propaganda for the nationalist cause, he said that there were some things a man should not do even to save his country. All he would say was, "I was in the hands of my enemies."
I am not suggesting Catholics in Ireland should adopt John O' Leary's attitude. I am simply saying that I see a certain resemblance. The enemies of the Church in Ireland are, of course, our compatriots and our brothers and sisters; and insofar as they are our enemies, we are instructed to love them and pray for them.
But perhaps we should stop expecting any quarter from them. There is no point appealing to freedom of religion; the militant secularist doesn't believe religion should have any special freedoms. There is no point appealing to Ireland's Catholic heritage; the bullish liberal sees nothing in it but a cause for shame-- and besides, he doesn't have any time for ethnic nostalgia and badges of tribalism. There's no point even asking for objectivity, since the progressive thinks objectivity is a sham-- read a few posts on Indymedia if you doubt me.
We cannot expect fairness, or tolerance, or broadmindedness, and it is foolish even to seek them. I have come to believe more and more that there is only one front on which the Faith can be defended, when the culture has become so hostile-- and that is the front of truth. All we are left with is the insistence that the Creed is true, now that the the hollow promises of pluralism have been shown up. There is no point in Catholics seeking to convince the Irish people that religion deserves a "place at the table". We must seek to convince them that, in rejecting Christ, they are losing everything. And such a bold claim, even if it is rejected, is guaranteed to garner more respect than a mere plea for secular Ireland to be nice to us.