Too bad for you if you’re Irish and you want to leave the Catholic church – the church is so dominant in public life that you can’t leave without making life difficult for yourself. Sor-reeeeee.
[T]he church is so deeply woven into the fabric of Irish life, it is difficult for many ordinary Irish people to distance themselves from it. The church is involved in education and health care, and its imprint on the Irish national identity is deep…Ninety-two percent of primary schools are still run by the Catholic Church and most of the best schools are Catholic.
So parents who want to leave are screwed. But hey, the remaining fans of the church are having a hard time too.
“It’s a very difficult time to be a committed Roman Catholic in Ireland,” says Breda O’Brien, who teaches religious education at a Roman Catholic school in central Dublin, and also writes a column for The Irish Times on religion. “There has been scandal after scandal, compounded by mismanagement within the church,” O’Brien says. “The church has not covered itself in glory…No one can deny the problems the church has had, but that does not make everything the church does wrong,” she says.
No, it doesn’t (though that certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that everything the church does is wrong), but what it does do is drive a hole the size of a tank through the church’s claim to moral superiority and insight and scrupulosity. What it does do is make a laughing stock of the idea that Catholic clergy have some sort of extra-highly-developed moral awareness. What it does do is make a mockery of the church’s ostentatious concern for foetuses and for suffering people who want to escape their suffering in the only way left to them, given that the church has made it so blindingly obvious that it does not care in the slightest about the minimal well-being and safety of actual living conscious feeling children in their care who have been raped or enslaved or savagely punished or systematically deprived or all those, for year after year, decade after decade. What it does do is show up the Catholic clergy as a benighted self-protecting insular pack of men with all the moral sensitivity of a rock. Given what the church claims to be, that showing up is fatal to its pretensions. This isn’t Wal-Mart, or a bank, or an accounting firm, or a hamburger chain. This is a different kind of enterprise altogether, and now that it has become abundantly, lavishly clear that its first concern is always for itself and never for helpless victims in its power, how can it possibly continue to pretend to be better than everyone else?
I don’t think there’s a good answer to that, but I also expect that it will nevertheless go on pretending. Fewer people will buy the pretense, but some still will.