This probably seems like a real minor story, but it is sad none-the-less, to see Catholicism in Ireland dying by a thousand little cuts. The worse part of it all is that the Irish were subjected to some of the most fiendish attempts to stomp out the faith, and stayed strong. I guess a few years of economic prosperity are accomplishing what Oliver Cromwell and his thugs never could. H/T CWN... No skipping school for altar boys, Irish officials say Dublin, Apr. 27, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Irish education officials have called for an end to school policies allowing altar boys to leave school in order to serve at Mass, the Irish Independent reports. Several schools were reportedly told that they should not allow students to miss classes in order to serve at funerals. The policy change was ordered, the Independent said, because students were missing classes, and were not under the direct supervision of school personnel while they were serving at Mass. Irish school officials said that the practice of allowing altar boys to leave school had once been commonplace, and is now disappearing. Liam Neeson, who is a great actor, though his relationship with Catholicism is on-and-off with the same reliability as a junior-high relationship, once recounted how the most peaceful moments of his life were as a young boy, ridding his bicycle in the freezing pre-dawn darkness to serve as an altar boy at the daily Masses at his little parish church. A beautiful sentiment. Too bad the school system is ensuring that this venerable tradition becomes a relic of the past. We all know that vocations are born at the foot of the altar so this may be another nail in the coffin for Irish Catholicism. This article does raise a few questions though. I was under the impression that most schools in Ireland were run by the Church, so is this really going to affect a lot of altar boys? Also, does this mean that they don't have girl altar servers in Ireland? I would be kind of shocked if they didn't, but at the same time, I guess I hold a glimmer of hope that they haven't adopted that practice. Now in contrast to my dour tone, I will say, there is always room for some hope. I have faith in the good people of Ireland. Mass attendance and birthrates in Ireland are still the highest in Western Europe, also pro-life laws have survived many attacks and statistics show the great bulk of people believe in protecting the unborn. I think this is a case of Dublin vs. the rural areas. Dublin is increasingly becoming a clone of any other western European city, but I hear reports that in the countryside the Catholic Culture is still in-tact. Anyway one may wonder, what is happening to Ireland? Why is the great bastion of Catholicism losing the faith? Well I have five reasons... 1-Elite Eurocrats: The folks who are embarrassed by the fact that their nation is lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in pace of secularism, abortion on demand, and gay-marriage. 2-The Church: Yep, sorry to say, but not for being "too authoritarian" in the orthodox sense, or whatever liberals will say. The Church dropped the ball with some major scandals, and then folded. You may recall a few years ago some Irish seminarians were kicked out of seminary for kneeling during communion! Way to pre-empt men who were much needed as priests. Right now the Irish church has the same issue that many dioceses in the US have, wishy-washy old bishops and clergy clashing with the more orthodox and zealous JP-II generation priests. The good news is the young guys will be able to wait them out. 3-Money: Sure it may be unfair to blame the Irish for losing so much of their faith as soon as some prosperity comes their way, as no nation seems immune to this, so I'm just saying. 4-Americans: Yep, a lot of Americans have screwed up. It's not just the fact that the ranks of Irish-Catholics in America are dominated by names like John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and George Carlin, though that is a major problem. It is American tourists who basically turned holy St. Patrick's Day into a twisted version of it's real self. The St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Dublin are "Americanized" to the core. Also I just want to take a dig here at Irish-Americans who in the name of "rediscovering their heritage," developed some sort of neo-pagan, new age, concept of Irish culture, people who on their most Christian day love flaunting thier Celtic cross necklace, but would never pray the Rosary. 5-Socialists: I love the Irish Pub music, why is it that so many of these guys are socialists? I guess once again I am meaning Americans here. There are some great Irish bands, but there are way too many with some sort of Che T-Shirt spirit Socialism that is not really part of the Irish tradition. Maybe this portion of my complaints should have been filed under number 4. Anyway I think that maybe they are trying to be more "authentic," but these are usually the same bands that wear suspenders and old time newsy caps, thus telling me that all their concepts of Ireland are based on stereotypes and a few clips from Titanic. Yes, some of the big names of the 1916 rebellion were socialists, but maybe that's why they failed? Anyway this brings me to insert name of other radically anti-British groups and such that are Catholic in name only. Now believe me, I am the first person to bash on what the English did to Ireland. However many (by no means all) people marching against the English today give me the Al Sharpton v. Don Immus vibe. That is to say, these folks are perpetuating a movement, just so it still exists, though it has no real purpose or roots (as it may have had, had it stayed truly Catholic). Look, if there was some sort of real oppression of Irish Catholics on religious grounds, I would be backing these people to the bitter end, however, of what I've seen of such rallies, there is a strong anti-clerical bend and an eerie sort of secularism. Sorry Irish Socialist radical types who are the ultimate Catholics in name only. If I saw you people leading the charge in some kind of Catholic revival in Ireland the check would be in the mail tomorrow, if you are just essentially clinging to the Catholic identity so you can play the victim game you have lost my respect. Consider this gem from Sinn Féin the "Catholic" and "Nationalist," party of Ireland... IRA Party Sinn Fein Passes Pro-Abortion Motion "At its weekend conference, the Irish Republican Army associated Sinn Fein Party has passed a motion calling on a change to the Southern Constitution to permit "a woman's right to choose". Sinn Fein also gave support to the Irish Family Planning Association's campaign for free abortion both North and South of the Border." Hey guys, I understand your rage when rocks and insults get thrown at Catholic girls on the way to school, thank God we don't have those problems in America, and if we did I'd be more than willing to put myself between the rocks and the children... but take your faith up a notch and be just as adamant about defending your own unborn, and your culture in general. The less Catholic Ireland becomes, the more it looks to me like Wales or Scotland, areas which have some unique history of their own but when it's all said and done, put the U in U.K. Also, worth asking, who knows, maybe the whole "sectarian" conflict in Ireland would have been over-by now by virtue of demographics if so many people weren't flaunting Church teaching these past thirty years? I mean in the US Episcopalian leaders not to have children, and the Anglican church was the first to green-light contraception, they've had a demographic handicap for like 70 years! You were probably one generation away from making Irish Anglicans as much of a factor of influence as Sikhs in Idaho. Rest assured I will be keeping a close eye on events in Ireland and blogging on the state of the nation much more in the future.
It is indeed disheartening to see historically faithful lands such as Ireland give way to moral bankruptcy. I would be interested to know how other historically Catholic countries such as Poland are faring in the EU.
By the way, source studies by a few modern Irish scholars are leading many to see that Cromwell's atrocities have been greatly overblown. For example, the killings at Drogheda, while perhaps vicious even in a military context, were not perpetrated against defenseless Catholic women and children, but against armed Royalist armies which were actually largely Protestant. This does not absolve Cromwell for his actual sins or his admitted hatred for Catholicism, which was fanned by similarly overblown Protestant rhetoric about supposed Catholic atrocities.
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