Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why do traditionally Catholic people, like the Irish, abandon their religion?

The underground sleuth we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir -- Private Eye, recently sent me another carrier pigeon message calling my attention the the following comment by Savonarola attached to a post (also good) entitled, "On Saints and Scholars" (That the bones you have crushed may thrill, May 21, 2015). The discussion is about, among other things, the recent moral and spiritual collapse of Ireland and, more generally, why traditionally Catholic cultures are abandoning their religious commitments so suddenly. Has an archeological dig confirmed the bones of Jesus in a grave in the Holy Land? Has some new scientific discovery invalidated the historical claims of the Faith? Is it something in the cool aid? Of course not.

This is a very uncomfortable subject for many Catholics, but one they need to examine. Here's what Savanorola says. Think about it. I'm not saying that he's right about everything, but he raises some terrific questions. They should provoke some deep thought.
Rather than seeking scapegoats to blame, one might perhaps try to understand in a more realistic way why Catholicism in Ireland has collapsed so quickly. How deeply rooted was the Catholic culture really in days gone by? What was there about it which made it into a house of cards which one gentle push would topple over?

Similar questions arise over the well established Catholic culture of Poland. As soon as they started to receive the benefits of Western consumerism, their Catholic culture was the first thing many Polish people jettisoned. Why? And the benefits were not even things worth having. Unless we make a serious attempt to understand why people abandon their religion, we can only expect the decline to continue, but I think people in the Church are reluctant to question too far or deeply because they fear what it may show up - not about people, but the about the Church. One thing we might consider is whether or not the Church over the centuries has placed most of its emphasis on the externals of religion - doctrines, rituals, moral codes, practices which create a tribal identity - rather than on the simple knowing of God which should be the heart of religion. And this is not to blame anyone, but to acknowledge honestly what has happened in order to move on.


William C. said...

If you look at the Old Testament, God actually warns the Children of Israel before they enter the Promised Land that they will inherit rich blessings in Canaan that will lead them to forget their God.

Here is what Moses tells the Israelites in the Msgr. Ronald Knox translation of Deuteronomy 8:11-14:

"Thou wilt be in danger, then, of forgetting the Lord thy God, of neglecting the laws and decrees and observances thou hast learned this day. Thou wilt eat thy fill, thou wilt build thyself fair houses to dwell in, thou wilt have herds and flocks, gold and silver and all good things shall be thine; oh beware lest thy heart should swell with pride, and forget the Lord thy God!"

One answer, then, as to why the Irish and Polish (not to speak of the French, Italians, and Spanish) have forgotten God is prosperity. Persecution and martyrdom, then, may be the means by which God brings his people back to the faith and to his Church.

Anonymous said...

Saying that the rituals surrounding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, devotions and other practices are the cause of spectacular apostasies doesn't make sense. I think it far more likely that original and actual sin flourish where there is poor catechesis. Wealth is only wealth. It was no hindrance to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Thomas Aquinas and many more. Does anyone doubt that if all of the bishops in Ireland, France, Italy, and Germany were like St. Patrick, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, St. Robert Bellarmine and other great bishops who actually taught the faith in its' fullness that all of Europe, not to mention the US, would still be devout?

Ghost of Tyburn said...

"Sentimentality is the acid of religion." - Newman

Fr Richard Cipolla goes into more detail here:

Newman identified two strains of Enlightenment error that threatened the faith even back in his century:

(1) Sentimentality

(2) Excessive comfort in this world

John L said...

The past Catholic culture was very deeply rooted, as was the case in Quebec. This culture was abandoned because the clergy lost their faith and worked to destroy the faith of the laity. It's as simple as that.

Hrodgar said...

Grouping doctrines and morals with externals does seem to be a part of the problem.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Since the so-called enlightenment, Catholic countries - Throne and Altar - have been under a sustained attack and while every Tom and Dick Verbo trad know about the so-called holocaust, nine have even heard of Ann Gorta Mor and why ought they have, given the Magisterium is forever apologising for our putative collective complicit guilt in the war crimes of Germany.

The next time you hear a Cardinal or Bishop speak in memory of my ancestors being subjected to genocide will be the first

The decline is only becoming more visible but it has been underway for a long time

and if you can imagine a more absurd situation than a Messias-Denier electing a new people in Ireland, let Raider Fan know.

Raider Fan is an Irish-Algonuin whose ancestors came here from County Cork (we Corkies are radical) and our one claim to infamy is our family was such a collection of trouble makers that we were kicked out of Limerick.

Raider Fan was, for a time, an official of the AOH in So. Florida but he quit in a snit and now he just moves slowly toward his place in the real sod, but not n the ol' sod for the faith there is dead.

O, and maybe it was not such a good idea that Mass in Latin was imposed upon the Irish; maybe it would have been wiser to let them continue Mass in Gaelic and then all of the Parish life could have also been conducted in Gaelic, with its poetry, song, stories; maybe Latin was not so good for the population at large.

Deprive a local population of their language and poerty and songs and stories and you will kill them by making them "citizens" of the world; that is a population of homeless men.

Who knows, but this topic pierces the soul of Raider Fan and the pain is nearly too much to bear.

Pertinacious Papist said...


Thank you heartily for these links. When Pertinacious Papist became a Catholic, he knew little about how Catholics have been persecuted historically and much about how they persecuted others; at least that was the claim.

He has learned much since; and this will help.

RFGA, Ph.D. said... No RF; the Irish LOVED the LM.

Charles said...

SOME of the Irish still love the L.M. Most have lost the faith.