Comment & Analysis

Church-bashing is the new Brit-bashing
Expect the Government’s Church-bashing to continue for some time, writes David Quinn

Unless there is a pushback from unexpected quarters, last Friday was the last Good Friday when pubs across the nation will close. It appears the vintners have had their way because the Government has cleared the path to the pubs opening each Good Friday from now on. That will leave Christmas Day as the one day of the year when the pubs close. Can it be far behind?

The Government says its aim is to curb our drinking habits. Opening the pubs on Good Friday seems a strange way to do that. It is very hard to avoid the impression that this is simply one more kick at Catholic Ireland and all it stands for.

What might stop the Good Friday drinking restrictions being removed? Well, Senator David Norris coming out against removing the restrictions was a start. That was unexpected. Fine Gael Senators, Michelle Mulherin and Joe O’Reilly did the same. Might a few more in Fine Gael push back? What about in Fianna Fáil?

Will leading figures in the Church of Ireland say anything? What about campaigners against excessive alcohol consumption, apart from the obvious candidates like the Pioneers?

Maybe if these all pushed back there might be some hope of defeating the vintners and the inveterate Church-bashers in the Oireachtas.

I’ve written before that Church-bashing is the new Brit-bashing. In the past, politicians lined up to show how anti-British they were. Today, many politicians do the same when it comes to the Church. The hard left never stop. Hardly a week passes by when the likes of Ruth Coppinger or Paul Murphy have a go.

But Enda Kenny seems to like nothing better than reading out in the Dáil one of his thundering denunciations of old, Catholic Ireland. He did it when the Cloyne Report came out (and closed the embassy to the Holy See into the bargain).

He did it when a report into the Magdalene homes came out, even though the report did not paint as dark a picture by any means of those institutions as the movie (which Irish broadcasters show non-stop), The Magdalene Sisters, did.

He also did it more recently when speaking about the Tuam mother and baby home. 

In fact, I’m not sure I can think of a single time during his six years as Taoiseach when Enda Kenny has had a good word to say about the Catholic Church or of Ireland’s Christian heritage.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister, Theresa May (a vicar’s daughter), regularly praises Britain’s Christian heritage. 

In her Easter message last weekend, she said, “We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.”

She added: “We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country.” She also highlighted the persecution of Christians overseas. 

Terrified

I cannot imagine any senior Irish politician in the present climate emulating Theresa May, least of all Enda Kenny. 

For a very long time Irish politicians were terrified of saying anything good about Britain in case they were called ‘West Brits’ and worse. If a politician today said anything good about Ireland’s Christian heritage they would quickly be accused of being ‘subservient’ to the Church and so on. 

It will be said, of course, that Christianity in Ireland, and the Catholic Church in particular, has little to be proud about. The mother and baby homes will be referred to, as will the Magdalene homes, the child abuse scandals and so on.

These chapters are deeply shameful and speak of an unaccountable Church that allowed itself to fall into the grip of a very authoritarian version of Christianity far removed from Christ’s injunction to ‘cast no stones’.

But name an organisation, a religion, a nation, a society, an idea or a civilisation with a long history that does not have dark chapters in that history.

Many of the Church’s critics are on the political left. The political left first emerged in history as a serious force with the French Revolution. It immediately set about killing people and murdered untold numbers in the 20th Century. 

Britain obviously has many dark chapters in its history but does this mean it is set upon removing from public view all of its national symbols, every trace of its national identity? 

Of course not, because it has a sense of proportion about itself and it knows it also has proud moments in its history, for example, standing alone for a time against Hitler, and its model of parliamentary democracy which has been copied in all the English-speaking world and elsewhere, including in this country.

So, why the continuous negativity about the Catholic Church? Why are we presented only with its misdeeds while the good it has done over the long centuries is kept hidden from our view? 

The reason is because that makes it all the easier to whip up public support for removing all significant public traces of it from national law and life.

This is being done in the small things (Good Friday drinking laws) and the much bigger things (our pro-life law). If the public can be made to think that Catholic Ireland was a terrible place, and nothing else, then we will be all the more determined to replace Catholicism and Christianity tout court with ‘secular modernity’.

Business sector

This Government is certainly determined to do that. It has been one of the few consistent things it has done in its six years in power. It is easy to push around the Catholic Church. 

It’s hard to push around the public sector unions, the business sector, or the myriad media-supported left-wing NGOs which seem to drive the Government’s social agenda.

Therefore we can expect more Church-bashing for the foreseeable future. The day when an Irish Prime Minister copies Theresa May, and praises our Christian heritage, is still years away, it would seem.