Church and State in modern Ireland


Sir, – Dr Martin Hanrahan (September 3rd) seeks to spread more broadly the blame for the terrible things done by people within the Catholic Church, but he fails to recognise the extraordinary control over Irish society wielded by the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. I was raised, educated and fully indoctrinated as a Roman Catholic. I well remember the overwhelmingly strong and pervasive power of the Roman Catholic Church.

Ireland was then like a theocracy. Every public, civic and social institution was in thrall to the Roman Catholic Church, and not just the Irish media. Mass attendance was a strict social obligation, the Roman Catholic catechism was a parallel and superior law, the religiously driven stigma of accusation of illegitimacy hung over all of us like a horrible pall and the danger of denunciation by the clergy was real, potentially leading to social ostracism. The belt of the bishop’s crozier could and did end careers.

Speaking up to the institution of the Roman Catholic Church was the road to early involuntary emigration.

Roman Catholicism of a Jansenist kind permeated every crease and fold of society. The power, influence, temporal and spiritual control of the Roman Catholic Church were ubiquitous and all seeing. We were truly a church-ridden society.

Education, health, justice, law, politics and social policy were all under the absolute dominion of the institutional Roman Catholic Church.

In such a theocratic environment, it was hardly possible that any journalist could have challenged the hegemony of the Roman Catholic, even if there had been any external contemporaneous awareness of the dark, vile and secret evils lurking within the institutional Roman Catholic Church.

It would be unfortunate if a new revisionism were to remove the much deserved blame from the institutional Roman Catholic Church and invalidly diverted the blame to the other institutions in society. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.