Excellent news: the tide is rising against the Vatican in Ireland. More people are speaking out, the newspapers are publishing pictures of the pope labeled “persona non grata”, there’s a simmering resentment everywhere. It’s leading to comments like this one, which sees a secular Ireland coexisting with religious sentiment, but no longer with the long arm of the Vatican meddling with the state.
Such sweeping changes could occur in what was once Catholic Ireland: the state could become as secularist as France, with all allusion to the Almighty officially excised. Yet even in France, the holy days continue, with Pentecost and Ascension and All Saints, and Lourdes attracting millions.
The Church in Ireland will never be what it was, but the faith, at grassroots level, will not disappear. The people will climb the holy mountain of St Patrick, and come in their thousands to the shrine of Our Lady at Knock, and beggar themselves to provide children with first communion regalia; and when there is a tragedy in a small town, the church and parish priest will still be at the centre of the community, offering age-old comforts, not of the Vatican, but of the faith.
I could live with that kind of arrangement. I detest faith and think it’s a poison of the mind, but I’m not going to march into people’s homes and tell them what they must believe. Atheist resentment is over the fact that in countries like mine, religion motivates bad policy and excessive meddling in people’s private lives.
The Vatican is not happy with Ireland, which is also cool. The pope’s ambassador to Ireland has been withdrawn — which probably causes about as much regret and despair to the Republic as when the English left.