Forbidden Fruit: Life and Catholicism in Contemporary Ireland

Forbidden Fruit
Life and Catholicism in Contemporary Ireland
By Declan Henry.
Published by The London Press. 2020.

This book is angry. It screams. It is volcanic. The lava spills over and burns everything in its wake. It is highly explosive. It is riddled with hyperbole.  It is excessive. It exaggerates.  And then it subsides.  There is a whimper and a cry. There is a hankering for something.  Then there is a gentleness and a softness.  It craves the God who too often was hidden in the institution.

I was surprised that Peter McVerry and his work didn’t really appear. I was surprised that Merchants Quay didn’t surface. I was surprised that Brother Kevin, in Church Street, wasn’t portrayed. I was surprised that Sr Consilio was absent.  I was surprised that the whole history of education; social work and care for the poor – was neglected.  But I could understand.  Hurt and anger clouds everything.

The core issue was sexual misadventure. The misunderstanding of sexuality in the Church, was very wrong.  The reduction of sexuality to sin or procreation, was a  painful rejection of the incarnation.  The treatment of homosexuality as disorderly was/is – disgraceful. The cult of celibacy, is a rejection of humanity and indeed of Christ.     Declan covers all of this very well.

Declan’s treatment of paedophilia generally and clerical abuse in particular, is quite brilliant. It is clear and calmly expressed.  Many could learn from him.  His wishes and hope for a new Church are heart-felt. Many of us would join in the chorus and harmonise with his song.

Last word.  Declan Henry has written fluently with a hurting heart but with an ache for the beauty of faith.  Some of us would stand with him and say Yes.
At times, I didn’t recognise the Ireland Declan described.
At times I recognised, too sadly, the Church he painted on the pages.
There is an honest anger throughout.  His scream will go on until more of us, take up the cudgels and fight to let the real Christ be revealed in our Church.  Thank you Declan Henry.

Seamus Ahearne osa

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One Comment

  1. Jo O'Sullivan says:

    After reading Seamus Ahearne’s review of Forbidden Fruit by Declan Henry, I set to ordering it online immediately. His review led me to believe that what Declan had to say would resonate with me.
    I wasn’t disappointed. Had I Declan’s skill, talent and background, I feel I could have written it myself. Apart from feeling a few little niggles where proof reading missed errors (Paul IV, Fears Report and calling the person who goes to confession the ‘Confessor’) I found myself saying an internal “Yes!” to what Declan was claiming. The Ireland he describes is very familiar to me. And the church he describes is the one I see too.
    Of course, I’m not a gay man who engages with Church Liturgies occasionally. I’m a middle-aged woman who is very involved in my local church community. I sit at my keyboard every Sunday morning and accompany the congregational singing, for God’s sake! But I would like to think I am among those who
    “take up the cudgels and fight to let the real Christ be revealed in our Church”.
    And it IS a fight. ‘Attacks’ come from all sides. Attack comes from the sincere people on the outside who can’t understand why I should stay involved with an Institution which is misogynistic and homophobic. Attack comes from the sincere people on the inside who believe I shouldn’t be part of the Institution because I don’t accept its treatment of the laity in general and women in particular and its treatment of the LGBT+ community. But the attack I find hardest to take is the attack by people who agree that reform is needed, but feel that it should be left to others – that I should not be rocking the boat in our local community. It’s very draining to feel under attack from all sides. And I’m not made of such strong stuff that I can hold on to the belief that I’m on the right path no matter what accusations are levelled against me. I constantly doubt myself.
    So reading Declan’s book gave me a much needed boost. It is a picture of the reality that is experienced by many people. It is not everyone’s reality, and I feel Declan is very honest about that. He shows us in a very honest, objective, non-judgemental way the reality of the priests he has spoken with.
    But for that very reason, I feel that it is a book that should be read by anybody who is troubled by the state of Catholicism in Ireland now. There are many, many good and genuine priests and practicing Catholics who are deeply hurting by the apparent loss of faith and anti-Catholic bias in the Ireland of the 21st Century.
    As long as we surround ourselves with people who see the world as we do, we just reinforce our views that we are the holders of the real truth and others are simply wrong/misguided/stupid/evil. If the only reason we engage with such people at all, is simply to let them know that they are wrong and we are right, then we become more polarised.
    I would ask that, if you feel reluctant to engage with this book, you read it. Don’t approach it in order to condemn it out of hand. It might hurt, anger, shock, disgust you, but try looking at it through the eyes of someone who has had Declan’s life experience. His reality doesn’t have to be your reality. But, if you can, accept that it IS his, and a lot of it is mine too.
    In return, I have to see that from your life experience, reality is a very different country. And, ultimately, we both have to acknowledge that neither of us sees a complete picture.
    If you stand in Declan’s shoes for a while, can you see why we desperately want things to be different in the Catholic Church?

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