Written by Emmet Scott
The recent spectacle of Franciscan priests and brothers marching with the anti-Trump and pro-abortion, pro-LGBT protesters in Chicago brings forcefully to our attention how far great numbers of the Catholic clergy have moved from Christian orthodoxy.
Recent developments also call to mind the notorious decision of the Irish people, in May 2015, to legalize homosexual “marriage”. At the time, there was considerable shock at the result, though more perceptive observers were not in the least surprised by it.
As usual, the media on both sides of the Atlantic offered their penny’s worth of interpretation – and as usual they got it wrong. Almost all mainstream media outlets declared the result to be a formal rejection of Catholicism by an Irish public disgusted by the clerical abuse scandals. No doubt this was true for small numbers of people, but I would contend that it was a small number. The truth is that the Irish people did not reject Catholicism; it is that Catholicism itself has changed almost beyond recognition.
Contrary to what the mainstream media declared, the Irish are still a church-going people. Indeed, they remain by far the most religious nation in Western Europe. In terms of actual church-attendance, the Irish are only beaten in Catholic Europe by the Poles. In excess of 50% of the Irish still attend weekly mass – a colossal figure compared that of neighboring peoples like the English, French or Germans.
So, the vote for “Gay marriage” did not represent a rejection of Catholicism. Many, perhaps even the great majority, of those who voted yes considered themselves Catholics; some even considered themselves committed and devout Catholics. Indeed, several leading members of the clergy came out in support of a yes vote. Such was the case, for example, with Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry, who, in a radio interview immediately prior to the vote expressed his hope that no one would vote against the proposed law for any “bigoted” reason, and held that one could vote either yes or no with a good conscience. Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin and one of Ireland’s most senior clerics, expressed a similar sentiment.
Indeed, only one Irish bishop, the Bishop of the diocese of Elphin, came out clearly and unequivocally against the proposed law; and strange to relate, the voting constituency corresponding to his diocese was the only one in Ireland which voted no.
This circumstance might lead us to suspect that it was the cowardice and treachery of the leading clergy in the immediate run-up to the election that led to Ireland’s historic and disgraceful rejection of Christian marriage. And this would be partly true – but only partly. For the fact is that over the past forty to fifty years the Catholic faith has not been taught in Ireland. It has not been taught from the pulpit and it has not been taught in schools. What has been taught in both places is a heretical and frankly repulsive caricature of the faith.
It is now at least forty years since any Catholic priest in Ireland has mentioned sexual morality from the pulpit; and in that time the country has been overwhelmed by the sexual revolution. Sex outside of marriage and cohabitation has become the norm; the majority of children in many parts of the country are now illegitimate; divorce and marital breakdown is rampant; pornography and sexual imagery is everywhere, in advertising, on the television, on the internet; sexually transmitted diseases are a massive and increasing problem, and so too is abortion (the latter usually performed in England).
In the face of this tidal wave of degradation the church and the priests have said precisely nothing. Just when a voice for Christian morality and decency was needed most, they chose to be quiet.
Together with the refusal to teach the rules of the faith on sexual morality there has been a parallel abandonment of the very concept of personal responsibility. So, just as the priests stopped talking about the former issue, they also ceased to mention things like Hell, Purgatory, penance, and confession. Instead, sermons (or ‘homilies’ as they are now known) became multiple variations on a single theme: God loves us all unconditionally, warts and all, whatever we have done. To be a Christian, all one need do is accept God’s love for us. Many priests indeed took this theme even further, claiming that our first (and only real) duty was to love ourselves, and that the only sin we could actually commit was to feel guilty about our actions (thereby apparently showing that we don’t trust in God’s forgiveness).
This “new” theology, which began to be foisted on the Irish people in the early 1970s, was what might be described as a mish-mash of liberal Protestantism combined with elements of Freud with a bit of Karl Marx thrown in. Priests began to use classically liberal Protestant theology in the rejection of Purgatory and the claim that Christ’s sacrifice and it alone was sufficient for our salvation. Our works and disciplines and sacrifices were useless. And, in keeping with this, virtually all the traditional disciplines were abandoned. No more fasting on Friday; no more fasting before Communion; no more fasting during Lent, etc.
And so, from the early 1970s, the “Catholicism” that has been preached to the Irish people from the pulpits has been (with virtually no exceptions) a veritable caricature of the faith. And the problem reaches far beyond Ireland. Almost all the Catholic churches of the developed world are involved. In other countries however the people were far less devout and influenced by their priests: The Irish, by an ironic twist of fate, were far more willing to place their faith in their clergy – and that faith has been cruelly betrayed.