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Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Parish Priest Has No More Power In Ireland

Talking with local Irish men and women, I discovered that as late as forty years ago, the priest's word was respected, was “law” in the countryside of Eire. If two lads were in a fight, the threat of someone getting the local priest involved was enough to stop the fight. If there were domestic problems, the priest was called in and both husband and wife would listen to his advice. If the problems were financial, or job related, the priest was consulted.

The priest was the local police and advisor all rolled into one. He was respected and looked up to, almost to a point where the adult population responded in humility like children. In some cases, this could be a bad thing, but the culture demanded a local guru, and the village or town parish priest fulfilled that role.

Now, those Catholics who are honest, will tell you that this respect fell away before the sex scandals. The less than honest ones will blame everything on the scandals, like the media does here, almost like a blood sport.

But, the lessening of the power of the local priest happened much earlier than the knowledge of those priests who not only sinned against God, but against children.

Respect for the priest faded away with the love affair of the Irish with material wealth and ostentatious show of money. Those older ones in the villages have memories of an Ireland in the fifties and sixties which proved that Ireland, even as late as 1962 has the standard of living of a third world country. Young people were immigrating to America, Australia, and Canada, like some are today, for the good life. Those who stayed behind waited, being, perhaps, less adventurous, or more careful of the old ways. As one of the men I met recently in the “sticks” said to me, “The best men went to America, the worst to England, and those who could not make up their minds, stayed here.”

Two things changed the role of the priest in the villages as far as I can glean from the locals. First, was the growing desire for material welfare, the hearkening of the siren song of the EU for a higher standard of living and a lifestyle more in keeping with the more materialistic nations of the world. In other words, America's worst sin, that of greed and gross materialism, entered the Irish imagination. Connected to the pursuit of wealth was the lower class desire for showy wealth. One of my friends here said that if one could buy a Mercedes and live in a cheesy flat, the Irish would chose the flashy car. The copycat idea of everyone owing their own house became an obsession. Unlike the people on the continent, the Irish must own a house and a little land. It seems to be in the blood. Whereas I have had friends in Paris or Rome content with fantastic flats in the center of the cities, here, the desire for the land reminds me very much of the words of Katie Scarlett O'Hara's father in Gone With the Wind. “Land is the only thing that matters.” And, indeed, this desire seems to have destroyed a simplicity of life.

With the preoccupation with the material life comes a lessening of the pursuit of sacrifice and the spiritual life. And, as Americans know first-hand, once the treasure of the heart becomes material comfort, the spirit begins to die. The priest, therefore, is seen as the enemy of progress, of personal wealth, an extension of the hated old ways of doing things. His power bleeds away from lack of attention.

Secondly, the priest lost power when social and Marxism became the real religion of so many Catholics here. I see over and over again that many Catholics in Eire have no idea of the Church's teachings from the last one-hundred and fifty years against socialism and communism. It is as if the
“errors of Russia” have totally replaced the loyalty to Rome.

Socialism seems to be an acceptable replacement for democracy, or indeed, charity. That the Catholics have fallen into the false ideals of the socialist definitions of the individual and individual responsibility is one of the saddest phenomenonI have seen here. The replacement of the Catholic Faith for the idolatry of the State is almost complete here. In fact, I would venture to state that Ireland can be seen as a bad example of the total secularization and paganism of the real socialist doctrines of the idolization of political power and the State. How Ireland goes will go all of Europe.

The priest is no longer important as the State answers all the problems with this social service and that. Who needs to bring the PP into an argument or domestic violence when there is a governmental service to deal with such problems? Who needs the priest for advice on a job or vocation, when the government has places which will answer such pertinent questions.

As to daily Mass or even Sunday Mass, the country churches, barring one or two very small Latin Mass communities, are devoid of youth and young families. The youth have given their loyalties to the State, and the State has taken away their freedom of thought and initiative. As one man told me a few days ago, the young have no motivation. “Where is their motivation?” He asked me, a stranger. The youth are in the pubs, late and in the entertainment centers, but not in Church. The priest has no influence over the vast majority.

The population of Ireland is very small. God has blessed the countryside with incredible, quiet beauty, but the old ways are gone. The priest has been replaced by the cold, central government. And, the fighting Irish are dead.