Monday, March 2, 2015

Still Throwing Patrick Under the Lorry

Around 400 A.D., a 16 year old of Roman heritage was kidnapped and sold into slavery.  Though he escaped six years later, a love for the people of his captive land was planted in his heart.  A few decades later, Patrick returned as a bishop to Ireland - to what was then considered the outskirts of Western Civilization - intent on converting her to Catholicism.  He left a lasting impression.  Soon after Patrick, Anita McSorley tells us that Ireland saw an end to the slave trade and an end to human sacrifice; Patrick followed Christ's great commission to bring the Gospel to what was then considered the ends of the earth.
Fast forward through Catholic Ireland's hay day of monasteries and shrines (cf, Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, 1996), through the suppression of Catholicism after King Henry VII (cf., Christopher Check, The Great Divorce: The Evil Fruits of Henry VIII's Adultery, 2007), and to the early 19th century, we find that religious practice in Ireland had greatly waned.  Center City's Irish Memorial also reminds us of "Ireland's Great Hunger of 1845 - 1850 when more than one million Irish were starved to death and another million forced to emigrate" (So many of the "sons and daughters" of Saint Patrick now call America their home.). 

Less well known than Patrick or the Great Hunger is Cardinal Paul Cullen's mid to late 19th century religious revival, returning Irish religious practice to what was intended by Saint Patrick.  In 1972, University of Chicago historian Emmet Larkin coined the term, "Devotional Revolution," to explain this Cullen-led revival, which resulted in the vast majority of Catholic Ireland going to Sunday Mass for more than 100 years!
Fast forward through mid 20th Century Ireland, we find that religious practice has again greatly waned in the early 21st Century.  Going from 90% Sunday Mass attendance in the 1970s, it was closer to 25% in the earliest years of the 21st Century.  Different from the early 19th century wane in religious practice, however, there is now an anti-Catholicism frequently exhibited by people of Catholic heritage.  Early 19th Century apathy has been replaced by early 21st Century hostility.

Ireland saw an economic hay day in the 1990s, which seemed to usher in a secularization of the society.  At the same time, it is undeniable that scandals of clerical sexual abuse and institutional abuse have also led to diminished religious practice among Irish Catholics and their Irish-American Catholic cousins (cf, How Catholicism Fell from Grace in Ireland, Chicago Tribune, 7/9/06; John P. McCarthy, What Happened to Catholic Ireland, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 3/6/14).  Father Tom Forde, OFM Cap suggests that what has happened goes deeper than rejecting miscreants and hypocrites.  He points to the earlier beginnings of a rejection of moral teaching, which was to result in a loosening of Ireland's restrictions on contraception (and later to divorce and abortion): "faith does not thrive under disobedience."

There is a legend that Saint Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland.  With Catholic moral teaching now being chased out of Ireland (as well as out of the lives of so many of Irish Catholic heritage on this side of the Atlantic), isn't it hypocritical to pretend to  "celebrate" Saint Patrick's Day with activities that have either nothing to do with the saint or which run counter to that for which he stood?  For example: For many, inebriation is what first comes to mind, when Saint Patrick's Day is mentioned.  How can adults think that Saint Patrick is honored by lifting far too many pints of Guiness? 

If we are not embracing (or trying to embrace) that for which Saint Patrick stood, shouldn't we be more honest than to claim to be "celebrating" Saint Patrick's Day.  Wouldn't it be more honest to just choose a different name, if we are celebrating things opposed to that for which Patrick stood?

Throwing Saint Patrick under the lorry

Around 400 A.D., a 16 year old of Roman heritage was kidnapped and sold into slavery.  Though he escaped six years later, a love for the people of his captive land was planted in his heart.  A few decades later, Patrick returned as a bishop to Ireland - to what was then considered the outskirts of Western Civilization - intent on converting her to Catholicism.  Patrick left a lasting impression!
"By the time of his death, or shortly thereafter, 'the Irish stopped slave trading and they never took it up again.' Human sacrifice had become unthinkable....Not only had he accomplished what he'd set out to do - convert the nation to Christ - but in the process he'd retrieved from obscurity the primary objective set by Christ for his apostles: the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth"  (Anita McSorley, The St. Patrick You Never Knew, St Anthony Messenger, March 1997)
Fast forward through Catholic Ireland's medieval hay day of monasteries and shrines to the early 19th century, and we find that religious practice had greatly waned.  Center City's Irish Memorial also reminds us of "Ireland's Great Hunger of 1845 - 1850 when more than one million Irish were starved to death and another million forced to emigrate."
Less well known than either Patrick or the Great Hunger is the mid 19th century religious revival led by Cardinal Paul Cullen, returning Irish religious practice to what had been established by the saint.  As University of Chicago historian Emmet Larkin wrote in 1972:
"In the nearly thirty years that he faithfully served Rome in Ireland, Cardinal Paul Cullen not only reformed the Irish Church, but perhaps what was even more important, in the process of reforming that Church he spearheaded the consolidation of a devotional revolution. The great mass of the Irish people became practicing Catholics, which they have uniquely and essentially remained both at home and abroad down to the present day" (The Devotional Revolution in Ireland 1850-1875, American Historical Review).
Fast forward through mid 20th Century Ireland, and we find that religious practice has again greatly waned in the early 21st Century:
"As recently as the 1970s, 90 percent of the Irish identified themselves as Catholic and almost the same number went to mass at least once a week; now the figure for mass attendance is closer to 25 percent....by the 1990s this once-impoverished nation was on its way to becoming the European Union's second-wealthiest nation by capita (behind Luxembourg). Prosperity and secularization weakened the church's traditional hold on the Irish soul; the sex scandals accelerated the process" (How Catholicism Fell from Grace in Ireland, Chicago Tribune, 7/9/06)
The dramatic decrease in religious practice among those of Catholic heritage in Ireland would appear to be at least matched by the Irish American "cousins" (cf, John P. McCarthy, What Happened to Catholic Ireland, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 3/6/14).  What strikes me as different from the early 19th century wane is an anti-Catholicism exhibited by people of Catholic heritage.  Early 19th Century apathy has been replaced by early 21st Century hostility.  While much of this undoubtedly has to do with revelations of clerical sexual and institutional abuse, Father Tom Forde, OFM Cap suggests that it goes deeper than rejecting miscreants and hypocrites.  He points to an earlier rejection of moral teaching:  
"if one could chart the decline in Mass attendance and the increase in contraceptive availability/ sales (especially after legalization in 1979) I think there would be a clear correlation....faith does not thrive under disobedience....Neither can it be denied that the abuse of children by clergy and religious both in institutions and in private has done immense damage to the Faith in Ireland ....But the Church and the Faith were in decline even before the scandals broke....The rot was already there spreading beneath the veneer of Irish Catholicism"


With Catholic morality chased away on both sides of the Atlantic, isn't it hypocritical to pretend to  "celebrate" Saint Patrick's Day?  He’d be aghast to learn that inebriation and leprechauns first come to many minds for a holy day associated with his name.  Absent another Devotional Revolution, shouldn't we stop pretending March 17th activities are associated with a saint?

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"

 

Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

Book & Film Reviews, pt 1

Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

Blog Archive

About Me

I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

Total Pageviews

12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010

CatholicsComeHome.org