Dublin Review of Books: The Catholic Church

by Fergus O’Donoghue

Article recommended by Pádraig McCarthy.

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  1. Sean O'Conaill says:

    “All the commentary, and all the criticism, is based on the false premise that Irish Catholicism has been and still is a sole body.”

    Fergus O’Donoghue’s very interesting article could be expanded into a one-volume up-to-date history of the complexity of the Irish Catholic Church, properly annotated. (I did not know, for example, that ‘Sissi’, Empress of Austria – currently a fascinating focus of streaming media and the history of anorexia – was foxhunting in Ireland in 1888.) As it stands the article will provide comfort to all of us who cannot identify with the bête noire ‘Catholic Church’ of simplistic media references.

    I wondered, though, why Fergus could not apply the term ‘diaspora’ to describe our current multivariate and largely alienated and ‘through-other’ nature. Never, surely, were we as dispersed and less ‘together’ than we are today – and synodality has a long way to go if a full recovered communion is its intended end.

    I have myself objected to Patsy McGarry to the use of the term ‘the Irish Catholic Church’ as though it is still sensible to think of it as a ‘sole body’ that is spoken for by its bishops. His response, as I recall had to do with the time-honoured convention of identifying churches with their accredited and historic leadership structures, and the difficulty of justifying any other convention.

    “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me…” said Jesus (John 10:14). Knowing well now that there is no such thing as an incorrupt ecclesiastical institution, and that Christianity was never a ‘seamless robe’, we would do well to remember that Jesus’s own sense of his Gospel mission was to gather the lost sheep and that the Trinity are therefore busy doing that now also.

    The term ‘Catholic diaspora’ embraces almost all of the Christian traditions. To be conscious of belonging to it – and ready to recognise Jesus in all people of ‘good will’ – is identity enough for me for now.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Sean, “‘Sissi’, Empress of Austria – currently a fascinating focus of streaming media and the history of anorexia – was foxhunting in Ireland in 1888)”. The dates were 1879 and 1880. There is a fascinating book on this, The Sporting Empress. https://books.google.co.jp/books/about/The_Sporting_Empress.html?id=UZq0AAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y She burst into Maynooth chasing a stag when the wall had been breached to allow work on the new College Chapel. Invited to the refectory by the staff, she returned for High Mass the following Sunday, and again a year later. Acclaimed in Ireland as a Catholic Queen, she was resented by Queen Victoria who told Franz Joseph to recall her to Vienna. He did what he had never done — commanded — and she did what she had never done — obeyed — so that was the end of her love affair with Ireland. Her gifts to the College are in the College Museum (a statue of St George, which was a gaffe, and three chasubles bought to make up).

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Oh Sean, I fear your education on Austro-Hibernian Catholic Christendom has been sadly neglected, but I see Joe has got in there before me to mend the gap. “Erin cordially welcomes the Empress” may help. https://www.historyireland.com/erin-cordially-welcomes-the-empresselizbeth-of-austria-hungary-in-ireland-1879-and-1880/
    Any empress who gets Maynooth students two free days (Professor Corish says it was three days) surely deserves to have her statue in the middle of Joe’s Square.

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