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Growing up in a small town in the west of Ireland the church was the pillar of our community.
The kindergarten was run by nuns. Church patronage governed both my national and high school. I was an alter girl. I sang in the school choir and then once I was old enough, I sang with the adult choir. I said readings at mass. I climbed Craogh Patrick during the annual pilgrimage.
Clergymen were actively involved in the community. The director of the annual pantomime, a priest. My career counselor, who offered me valuable life advice, a priest. My English teacher, whose profound words and teachings remain with me today, a priest.
Was this insular? Was it damaging? I certainly don’t think so. It was normal. But I can guarantee the church’s influence on my nieces and nephew’s upbringing will not be comparable.
At home last fall, my friend who works as a school teacher got a phone call with a job offer. I was surprised to hear it was the local priest, who had been on the interview panel that had called to offer her the job. He had an important influence in the selection process she informed me. Something which Ireland’s current Minister for Education is eager to dismantle.
Read More: Catholic Church to lose stronghold on Irish education system
When the Ferns Report (one of Ireland's first clerical abuse inquires in the Wexford diocese) was published in 2005. I interviewed one of Ireland’s most well respected religious correspondents.
He told me that the damning report of that day would be completely overshadowed by the future revelations into clerical abuse within the Irish Catholic Church. I always recall him quoting Lord Acton “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Nobody questioned their authority or actions. The church was answerable to no-one. A disastrous partnership.
Read More: Wexford cleric denies historic child abuse allegation
Speaking in Time Magazine this week, Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic Newspaper said we should now expect to see Catholics in Ireland “privatize” their faith. He said people will not look to the: “the hierarchy as previous generations did”. This is already apparent, as declining church attendance and an aging population of clergymen suggests we began this process some time ago.
Losing our religion, Ireland is a country tortured by economic woes and clamoring for a new identity it seems. It looks set to be a messy divorce.
Read More: Irish Prime Minister slams Vatican over Irish sex abuse stance