Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Lions' Den

Perhaps it serves me right for not doing my research properly but I found myself in a situation last week that highlights what we are up against.  Quite innocently Mrs P and I accepted an invitation to attend a gig with friends in a suburban West End club. The singer was a moderately well known Irish woman. The crowd were identifiably West End folk: lawyers, doctors, teachers, civil servants, academics, middle managers. The set was folky with an identifiably left-wing slant (thanks for that Woody Guthrie) with a side order of feminism. There was a cheery song about anorexia. There was a song about how only women can feel low ( I  was tempted to heckle with the figures for male suicide, but resisted) Then the singer introduced a song by saying she wanted to dedicate it to "The Vatican" (What? The WHOLE of The Vatican? The CDF? The Congregation for Oriental Churches? The CDW?) It was ostensibly about child abuse and the Irish hierarchy's mishandling of it. In truth  it was a rant about Catholicism  - how we pray, what we teach. How did they get conflated ? Does the Catholic Church teach the rape of children is ok? It most certainly does not. The song used the vehicle of righteous anger at the disgusting way child abuse was handled to reject Catholic teaching and practice. So far, so predictable. In these circles it is accepted truth that all Catholic priests are predatory pederasts - just look at any blog post on Catholicism and I'd reckon it takes about 20 replies on average until clerical child abuse is brought up, whatever the theme of the post. Needless to say the song was greeted with warm applause, the warmest of the night. This was 'speaking the truth to Power', man, and the bien pensent Westenders loved it. For all their radical chic, the vibe wouldn't have been out of place in an Orange Lodge (F*** The Pope!). Many of the audience are policy makers across the public and private sectors in Scotland. I'm beginning to find the Irish difficult. I am of Irish stock ( a couple of generations back) and have always had a natural empathy. But the hostility to Catholicism I have experienced from Irish people has been at times irrational and vehement. A colleague described Holy Mass as 'mass delusion', a junior described himself as a 'recovering Catholic'. The Irish people I meet these days - once cheerful, unselfconscious Catholics - now seem indifferent at best and poisonously hostile to Catholicism at worst.  I am to blame for being naive. I grew up in an environment where the Church was weaved into life, where prayer was normal and the teaching of the Church respected (though not unquestioningly). There were hints of hostility- the verses of 'Faith Of Our Fathers' and the Feast of the Forty Marytrs hinted at something dark. But surely truth would conquer? Those abbeys and minsters and cathedrals would one day reverberate to plainchant and the Mass. Rubbish. Nonsense. The world hates us, as it always has and always will. We are now no longer odd, but grossly offensive to many people. I expect this to get worse.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, that does not sound a nice evening...It would be useful to know who the singer was. I think the main issue is, with regard to your comments about the audience, as with all these things, about 'fitting in' etc etc. Most people's educated views are simply mindless repetition of what a comedian said on TV or radio, or what a columnist has said - which is what you expect of teenagers but a lot of us grownups do it as well!

I'm wondering the same about the current fusses about Ms Beattie and the Marriage Care issue. My partial take on this is that people who have certain public positions and public responsibilities appaear to be less concerned about public witness and more concerned about fitting in to the wider circles they are in,whether those be of academia or of the voluntary/charity sector - which is a world of big money and influence all of its own. Same with the Labour's quite difficult not to be a 'professional lapsed Catholic' in many arenas.

I'm calling it the 'Iron Law of Dinner Parties and Career Prospects'....A more charitable view might be that people in influential public positions sincerely believe in some policy of accommodation with the majority culture. It's called entryism in its most extreme forms and it doesn't work.

Thanks for the post - don't let it get you down.

Yours - 8th generation!


12:26 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

That's a really thoughtful response. Thank you.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Simon Platt said...

I suppose we have to do what we can to provide a witness to the Truth. And pray.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Martin said...


You are not to blame for how you feel. Being married to one of them, my experience of dealing with the modern Irish is quite extensive, and does not appear to differ from yours in any significant way.

Many modern Irish suffer from a gross over-confidence in themselves and their abilities which stems from being products of an education rooted in nationalism - They Are Of The Nation, and you are not. This over-confidence degenerates into arrogance with depressing frequency. In 'Among The Believers', VS Naipaul made a similar observation regarding some Pakistanis - in your line of work, consider the wording of the GMC's findings on Freddy Patel; unless my memory is playing me false, there's a reference to over-confidence in there somewhere.

While sometimes making some modern Irish very difficult to deal with, invincibly fixated as they are on where they have come from as opposed to where they are, never mind where they are going (although the one destination such Irish can be guaranteed to consider themselves set for is the top of the tree), this situation offers a profound lesson to the rest of us on allowing nationalists to dominate the education system - although in Scotland that's probably a lost battle already.

When one speaks with such modern Irish, one finds that they are almost invariably and inveterately hostile to the faith of their fathers, and that the degree of hostility they exhibit towards it is usually inversely proportional to their knowledge of its basics. The one thing about their faith that such Irish do know is that they're Irish, and that makes them quids in with God. If you don't believe me, I was in Cork less than two months ago, and if you think the new translation is bad enough here you should try it with Mass sheets which do not contain the words 'I Confess'. No 'Confiteor'. If it was a joke I have to say I didn't get it, just as I didn't get the whole Mass being in English except the 'Our Father', which was spoken in Irish. Now, a disinterested observer might describe the saying of that prayer in that language as being a political act, but whatever the nature of the celebrant's intentions it was certainly a turn off.

Don't get me started on this, I could go on and on and on. Glad to see you back safe and well.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Independent said...

It is interesting that so many of the priests accused of child abuse have Irish names. This phenomenon holds for the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Martin said...


Apart from the unspeakable anguish and harm that abusive priests in Ireland caused their victims, the abuse that went on in that country, in some cases for decades, did not ever seem to be noticed by any member of the Dail, nor by any member of the Seanad, nor by any judge of the High Court, nor by any Executive Editor of RTE, nor by any editor of the 'Irish Times', nor, and most morally atrociously of all, by any Commissioner or any other senior officer of An Garda Siochana. Nobody knew anything. Fancy that.

Your comment about the priests having Irish names may have its roots in the extreme lack of economic opportunities that Ireland hid for decades by pumping out religious. Without being glib, it might have been their way of dealing with 'concealed unemployment'. While the country has produced very many dedicated and holy religious, it also produced some who weren't; in that respect Ireland is by no means unique.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Veritas said...

They used to say "Scratch a Catholic and you find an Irishman".

Now you can say "Scratch a lapsed Irish Catholic and you find a bigot."

According to the Daily Telegraph of 27 Sep 2012:
"Vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, were systematically targeted for sexual abuse but then ignored when it was brought to the attention of multiple agencies which believed that they were "making their own choices".

The child sexual exploitation review was ordered in the aftermath of a trial in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, which saw nine Asian men aged between 22 and 69 jailed for grooming young white girls for sex."

Is Richard Dawkins now planning a petition to arrest the Queen for the failure of her agents to carry out their duties?


Are there any folk singers out there planning to launch attacks on the Pakistani community at large?

Thought not.

Compare and contrast the Roman Polanski case.

On 26 September 2009, Roman Polanski was arrested while in Switzerland at the request of U.S. authorities. Polanski was defended by many prominent individuals, including Hollywood celebrities and European artists and politicians, who called for his release.

What a surprise.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Sigbjørn Olsen Sønnesyn said...

That does it – you're absolutely right. I have, in my cowardice, squirmed silently as colleagues and friends have vented their prejudices and contempt towards my Church and Faith, rather than taking a stand, telling them about my conversion and my love of Christ. That won't stop the bigots, of course, but I'd rather be insulted to my face than hiding my faith in public any longer. I'm not sure I want an academic career all that much, anyway.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely
Sigbjørn Sønnesyn

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No-one should have to conceal their Faith in fear of the reactions of their surroundings. However, the true display of Faith is not to be found in any public proclamation of Faith or conversion, but in the interaction with others with love and respect.

10:47 PM  

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