Thursday 23 August 2007
The Primate and the Stars, A Homily
The Catholic Primate, Archbishop Seán Brady, has made the headlines with his attack on modern Ireland. It is true that the 'new Ireland' has indeed many warts, and people have felt for some time been feeling that society has somehow lost direction. The primate's denunciation of the new Ireland, however, is puerile, incoherent, and ulitimately no more than a self serving homily.
Ireland has gone from the land of saints and scholars to the land of stocks and shares, said the Primate. This cliche jars and says nothing at all about Ireland. First, the land of saints and scholars - when was that? Roughly speaking we've had five centuries that could be summarised as conquest, colonisation, suppression, famine, and self ruin. In which of these periods was our emerald Isle the home of sainthood and scholarship? Or is the Primate referring to the early middle ages when the Irish monks saved civilisation? So when did the new Ireland begin? And since stocks and shares have been the foundation stone of prosperous nations for four centuries, why do they come in for such critque now? Perhaps the archbishop was aiming for the volatility of global finance or the fickleness of the multinational corporation. If that's the case, he should have said so.
The archbishop decries the culture of violence. True there is a serious problem we need to address. But the primate knows why it came about "And all of this has occurred as the external practice of faith has declined". Would that be faith in the institution which tortured, possibly murdered, young boys in the industrial schools? Was there less violence in the 'old Ireland' when the likes of poor Peter Tyrell (whose recently published letters recount his time in an industrial school in Connemara) suffered appalling brutality and humiliation. Hundreds of young children were stripped of their dignity and lived in sheer terror. Then there were the laundaries. But say no more. The eyes of the Primate give him selective vision of right and wrong.
Then there is the stress "of financial success and security". Yes, more horse manure. As if the 'old' Ireland of the 50s offered security to those poor divils who left in their tens of thousands. They arrived in the huge urban centres of London and Liverpool, with one arm as long as the other, mostly unskilled and utterly ill equiped to deal with the culture shock. Many clawed their way onto the deck of their host society, but many more fell over board.
Our Primate moves on from the sublime turf of violence and insecurity to a purely ridiculous attack on tarrot cards and palm reading. That the good archbishop aimed his blunderbuss at such trifles reveals an analysis of Irish society that is appallingly shallow for a man in his position.
The archbishop's homily was so silly and juvenile that it bordered on funny and he should seriously consider taking to the serious art of the horoscope.