Irish Catholic Mothers: Sean O Conaill
What has been the impact of the past two decades upon the faith and attitudes of Irish Catholic mothers?
I am thinking especially of mothers who had sharply contrasting experiences:
First, mothers whose sons or daughters were abused by clergy, and who then suffered from the culture of secrecy admitted to by the Irish Catholic bishops’ conference in December 2009.
Second, mothers whose sons became priests prior to 1994, when the abuse revelations began. What has been the impact upon them of two decades of scandal? In particular, what has been the impact of this year’s events, including the silencing of some Irish priests?
I suspect that the suffering of the Irish church has been at its deepest for such women in this era, and that the future of the Irish church will depend heavily on the lasting impact of this crisis on the faith and attitudes of Irish women generally. Is that already visible in the very low rate of vocations to the priesthood and religious life – remembering the influence of Irish Catholic mothers on their children’s choice of career in the past?
Surely this should be systematically researched and documented – to inform, for example, the expressed optimism of the papal nuncio? Could the ACP sponsor such research?
“Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17)
It’s strange the effect reading the term “Irish Catholic mothers” had on me. Immediate negativity. Unfair too but there have been some terrible Irish Catholic mothers. The mother in Gerald O’Donovan’s 1913 novel, “Father Ralph” being one such example, a woman formed by a narrow minded, misogynistic Catholic upbringing who destroyed her son by forcing her ambitions onto him. To think of so many lives ruined by such mothers but they were products of their time and there was no healthy outlet for their own intelligence and their own ambitions.
As against that I know at least two mothers whose sons were abused by clergy and they are shining examples of not letting anything come between them and the love of God. They might have lost faith in the servants but not in God’s goodness. Women can be amazingly resilient and no matter what some weak men do they will continue to love and to give unselfishly of themselves. We can be the best and the worst of humanity and a great sadness is that many of us are too hard on our own sex. Remember the vitriol poured out against Annie Murphy when Bishop Casey was discovered to have fathered her son. Seems so innocent now, doesn’t it.
Yes, a study would be interesting- Irish Catholic Mothers- perhaps the full story needs to be told.
BTW mothers do not have the monopoly on parental love and there are many types of mothers, some better than others.
I remember a late PP telling me that if he heard another young priest eulogising his b****y mother that he would fire something at him. Sometimes the relationship could be too intense and too unhealthy altogether.