It is now commonplace in Ireland to present the Catholic Church in the most negative terms. Sometimes this is deserved, but on its own it leads to an unbalanced view of the Church in Ireland and in the world more generally. In practice, very few people are well informed about the history of Irish Catholicism. In an important new essay for the Dublin Review of Books, the Jesuit historian, Fr Fergus O’Donoghue, offers a necessary corrective to the current, caricatured understanding of the Church in this country.
As he writes: “’The Catholic Church’, in the current polemic, seems to be a foreign body, an incubus that fastened itself onto the unfortunate Irish population (‘when the Catholic Church first installed itself in Ireland’), sucking out its vitality while accumulating vast resources in land and buildings, and then set about perpetuating itself with the collaboration of its deluded ordained or vowed recruits. The reality is far more complex, but the basic fact is that ‘The Catholic Church’, even when seen purely as an institution rather than a community, is staffed by Irishmen and Irishwomen who have the same background as most of their most fervent critics.”
You can read the essay here.