No doubt there are many strong responses to a title such as this, both agreeing and disagreeing and honestly I think that may be the best way to have it. For where there is reasoned respectful opposition to thoughts and ideas, there is often a greater growth in mutual understanding....but I'm getting ahead of myself aren't I.
Lets take a step back to explore some of my personal history and generate some context shall we? Cue Flash back sequence, and, Go!
'1980's Ireland was a much different spiritual landscape. Still thronging with the visit of Pope J.P. II in 1979 This small Ireland was one of the staunchest Catholic countries in Europe. Given that back in the 1950s and 60s more than 94 percent of people designated Catholicism as their religion, there was no needs for concern from the Vatican. Maybe that glut of power and position is what made the state of affairs so bad? Or maybe there was always a rotten apple at the core of the whole program, but wait, I said my personal history didn't I? Lets get to that so.
Raised in Finglas, in the Suburbs of north Dublin, my parents raised me and my siblings in the faith they were brought up in and as a child it was a easy follow along. Prayers before meals, before bed, and Sunday mass were a stable routine. handy for us the mass was held just around the corner from home in St Finian's School. I even made quite the preteen stance about joining the choir there as my sisters were involved and why should I not be doing what they get to do? Thankfully puberty freed me from that in the end, but I still remember what it was like to be surrounded in choral song. Not a bad memory that.
Next came the, then, Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI) and its mass parades. In my time with that organization I was delighted to participate in the removal of the 'B' so that it was no longer gendered, and it has since removed the 'C' to become Scouting Ireland, but again, I do have fond memories of participating in the regular Sunday rituals up at 'the Big Church' in Finglas and standing holding the unit flag during the ceremony, lowering it in 'genuflection' whenever the bells were rung.
Having participated in all of the coming of age rituals for a catholic child I was informed once I made my Confirmation I would then have the choice of pursuing my faith in my own way, but until then my mother took her role as spiritual steward pretty seriously. I have to thank her for that, as you will find out later. My father turned up for the 'Big Services', Christmas and Easter, but beyond that I never saw him really pray. Finding out later that he was a student of a 'Christian Brother' school and had received many instances of corporal punishment there, well I cant blame him really.
At this time though, things began to change in the island and I remember a confused conversation with my parents regarding Fr Michael Cleary, and then later Bishop Eamon Casey when it came to light that both had children, some of which were of an age with me. To my child mind I couldn't understand the scandal of it all nor the need for enforced celibacy. I knew a few priests and they always seemed like descent caring individuals so surely things weren't all bad?
There was even the priest who performed the marriage ceremony for me and my then partner as I ticked another check box on the 'You're and Adult now!' bingo card. It was now 2007 and at this point I considered myself a lapsed catholic because I no longer attended mass, well except the Big ones, just like my dad I guess. The thing was, my understanding of religion and its rituals had brought me to a place of Faith. It was that faith that preserved me and helped keep me sound (if a little cracked) during what I now refer to as 'The Dark Times' when estranged from friends, family and wife, I found myself alone with just my dog.
In my solitude I grew to a personal understanding of deity and its role in my life. I felt grateful to my mother for having been a Light on the path and indeed to some of the clergy I had met in my time, including two very sound Franciscan's from my school days, DanJoe and Brian. At this point I would refer to myself as Christian in the hopes of distancing myself from the growing awareness of corruption and abuse in the Catholic Church. In my opinion it seemed like the same stuff when you got to the core of all this monotheistic lark, Catholic, Protestant, Presbyterian, Lutheran, feck it may be blasphemous to some but even Judaism and Islam are all variations on a theme, a tale told from a different perspective. The thing is, from where I sit, these tales all provide a path way for folk to find some form of spiritual element to their life, to in some manner engage that aspect of their being and grow more complete by it.
As we unlock the truths of the organizations action's surrounding matters of clerical sex abuse, female incarceration and labour locations such as the Magdalen Laundries, the trafficking in babies or the horror of their secret disposal, its a vast sprawl of systemic corruption, which extends worldwide, not just in the small island of Ireland. This is factually true and cannot be disputed. I am horrified, shocked and disgusted by the whole thing and can no longer hold to any personal fallacy that it's somehow an isolated incident, or the actions of one or two individuals. When the organization as a whole adopts a position that they are above the laws of the people, because they answer only to their deity and the organizations own interpretation of that deities will set out in their 'canon Laws' there is a problem. How can there be any claim that the actions of the group serves the people when there is no accountability to those same people?
I don't have the answer to that one and I don't know if there is one, other than ' There cant be! '
The thing is, I wouldn't be who I am or even wouldn't be here today (maybe literally) if not for my Faith, and I cant deny that the manner in which I came by it is linked to this organization in many ways, as I hope I have shown. So how do I reconcile this conflicted stance? True my spiritual growth has taken me out of the monotheistic landscape and set me off in the wilds of my pagan pursuit of ancient Irish spirituality, but No descent story ignores its past now does it, that which formed us to be who we are in this moment.
Realization strikes as ever, at the end of the thread of thoughts. I didn't set out to reach this point when I started this post, but like any good train of thought, the journey oft takes us to the destination we need to be at irrespective of the initial intent. Does Catholicism need to die? My answer is Yes, but not only because of the crimes and corruption, but also because of the closed divisive nature of its doctrine.
Has Ireland lost its Faith? My answer is No. There is a broader spiritual landscape for a soul to journey through and be enriched by. Now not every spiritual trek needs to take you hacking through the brush on a solo venture ("though I'm doing the best I can for that Dagda, honest!"), sometimes its grand to follow the well walked path, as long as you are fully aware of the impact of that path on the world irregardless of its claimed intent.
Will I deny my involvement in the catholic rituals and doctrine of my early years? No, but I will clearly state that I do not hold with the organization and it's actions nor do I feel that represents me nor the best interests of my people.
So there we have it, this train of thought has reached its stop. Please be sure to check for your seat for any stray thoughts you may have had and turn anything else over to 'Lost and found' in the comments if you like or over on the Facebook group The Dagda's Hearth (why is there always an umbrella in the lost and found?).
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An Scéalaí Beag
We all have thoughts and perspectives and opinions. Its simply part of the human condition as a socialized species. So In the interest of insight, this is where I will share my perspective and opinions.