24 May 2015

No Revolution, but a Revelation


American Media (Left and Right) is making much of the recent vote in Ireland to legally recognize same sex marriages.  Now, why they are making so much of it is worth a whole essay on conspiracy theories.  Yet let us take them at their word: the American Left and the American Right are all susprised.  This is because they have not done their homework on the Irish Republic, on Irish History or on the Catholic Church in Ireland and her place in the Irish Culture.

Here's an outline: a preces, if you will. A full version would be worth a history book about Irish religion in the 20th Century.

1) The Catholic Church holds a near mythical place in the hearts of the Irish and the Diaspora.  This is very true.  But this mythical Irish Church has no resemblance at all to the Church in Ireland for any number of reasons:
  • It was the Pope who gave Ireland to the English Crown.
  • The hierarchy several times abandoned the Irish People and their aspirations for nationhood.
  • Despite the support of many parish clergy in their political aspirations,  the larger Church mostly ignored or even supressed - or reported - any "revolutionary activities".
  • The presence of the Church Heirarchy in Irish Politics in the 20th Century was written into the Irish Constitution by a politician (Eamon de Valera) who knew that the myth of Wholy Catholic Ireland would need to be played up in order to keep the funding coming in from the Diaspora.
  • The Church in the Early 20th Century taught that the Irish should support the proto-Nazis in the Spanish revolution.  This was totally ignored, thank God.
  • What has not been ignored at all is how the Church treated Childen, unwed mothers and anyone else who departed from her cultural ideas of a "Catholic Nation".
  • The Church's inability to repent of the various issues around pæophilia has done even more to distance her from her people in the country.
2) All of the political parties in Ireland claim some sort of allegiance to Catholicism, but none of them live up to it.
  • Despite the image of "Catholic v Protestant" in Northern Ireland, which does wonders for funding from the diaspora, the Republican parties are all on the socialist left.  The images may be shamrocks and celtic crosses in the States, but in Ireland it's fists and guns and Che.  
  • The only folks that believe in a Wholy Catholic Ireland in Ireland are a few folks in certain Protestant chapels in Belfast. They use it to scare people the same way the Republicans use it to market to their people.
  • Irish pols go to church about as often (and with as much intent) as American pols.
3) The Church knows all this.  In Ireland, the Church has been on a "let's reconvert Ireland" kick for as long as I have been vacationing there.
  • While there are pockets of piety around the country and more people may go to church more often than in the States, on the ground coming to the US to get a divorce or going to England to get an abortion is not at all surprising.
4) When any of this gets pointed out the dispora gets up in arms. President Mary Robinson thought The Commitments was one of the best examples of Irish Culture to ever be exported.  American Irish throught it was vulgar and wanted to boycott it.  The Myth of Catholic Ireland is important to (for example) the Ancient Order of Hibernians who want to keep gays out of the St Patricks Day Parade.  The Gays have been marching in Dublin for nearly two decades.
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When I was in Ireland just after gay activity was decriminalized in the Early 90s, one of the largest and most successful pubs in Dublin was a gay bar.  There were bathhouses, sex clubs, you name it.  They didn't happen overnight though. Hold hands on the street, make out in the park across the street from Parliament in broad daylight: no one cared.  It was less Wholy Catholic Ireland than it was Thoroughly Modern Mill Ireland.  One gentleman caught me making out with my then-boy friend on a stoop as he walked by us in Rathmines.  In Irish, he called us "English" under his breath as he passed. We laughed.  He wouldn't dare have called us anything else, it would not have been polite.

25 Years later, I'm not at all surprised by the recent vote.
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I think those parties in the US and elsewhere who are beating the drums the loudest are either clueless, or else they have their own political axes to grind: I can imagine one important message might be "See, if the Gays can do this in a really religious country what might they do here where we are lukewarm?"  This might be important to either side of the marriage debate in our country: "Look what we can do in a backward religious country like that! We're all modern here!" It is pure political propaganda, however.

This was less a klaxon than a confirmation.