Thursday, 18 March 2010
Kicking the bishops
Does the media onslaught directed at Catholic Church leaders like Cardinal Sean Brady and now Bishop Seamus Hegarty constitute a witch-hunt? Well no, in that we don’t believe in witches today, so all literal witch-hunting was against imaginary evil. The evil of child abuse within the Catholic Church in Ireland appears to have been sadly real down the years. But insofar as a witch-hunt is defined as ‘a campaign directed against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular views’, then what we’re seeing these days is indeed a witch-hunt. The Catholic Church is deeply unpopular with a range of people: those who’ve been abused by members of the clergy, those like Wallace Thompson of the Evangelical Protestant Society who regards the pope as the Anti-Christ and want him arrested as soon as he sets foot in Britain, and those in the Irish media who were raised as Catholics but who now make their living in part by attacking the Church’s various institutions. To say that the Catholic Church holds unorthodox views seems absurd until you remember that religious belief and particularly Catholic religious belief is now seen by many in this country as old-fashioned, backward-looking, material for stand-up comics. As a practicing if undevout Catholic I could feel gloomy about the kicking my Church is receiving and the hounding of its leaders from office. But then I remember how Irish nationalism was considered in the early 1960s: old-fashioned, backward-looking, material for stand-up comics. Until suddenly with miraculous vigour, it re-emerged and shaped the last thirty years in this country. As the late Monsignor Faul once pointed out to me, only when Catholicism is to some degree suffering persecution does the faith of the faithful flourish and grow.
By the way, you have noticed how the same people who are anti-Catholic Church are very often also anti-nationalism?