A New Ireland: Viral impact of Catholicism

Book review: Niall O’Dowd’s answers US friends asking what happened to Catholic Ireland

\ Pope Francis, passes through O’Connell Street, Dublin in the popemobile. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

\ Pope Francis, passes through O’Connell Street, Dublin in the popemobile. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The coronavirus pandemic offers a chilling metaphor for the fall from grace of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The lethal virus provides the epitaph for an authoritarian hell-fire clericalism that was implanted in Ireland from 19th-Romanisation under Cardinal Paul Cullen and reached its mid-20th-century zenith with the imperious Archbishop John Charles McQuaid.

This complex legacy is chronicled in Niall O’Dowd’s coherent and well written narrative of Ireland’s priestly paedophile crimes and the equally shameful cover-up by bishops and religious superiors. It is the first book to attempt a comprehensive account of that phenomenon and may be the only one for the foreseeable future.

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