Blog 3

16 Oct

One thing I expected upon coming to Ireland was that the country would be very devoutly Catholic. Certainly, some aspects of Catholic culture still very much influence society, especially in the realm of politics (i.e. limits on abortion, delays in divorce and gay marriage legislation, questions about contraceptives, etcetera). However, I have really found the culture to be much more secularized than I had thought. Many Irish natives have told me of the recent changes, how Irish churches used to be full every Sabbath-day where now they struggle to entertain fifty heads. I was really curious about this, and so have asked several different people of several different religious backgrounds about why and how this happened. Surprisingly, their answers were pretty similar, though with more or less bias.

 

The Catholic Church and the Irish government were very much intertwined throughout most of the modern era, and in many ways the constituents of that government held fast to its religion. (Though what constitutes “held fast” varies according to who gives the story.) Many parents sent children to Catholic schools, and many people still devoted themselves to monastic life. However, in the early 1990s, stories began to leak out about corruptions within the Catholic order. It was discovered and relayed that many priests molested and abused children, and that the Church chose to cover up the scandals rather than chastise those involved (Huffington Post). The news article states it succinctly: “A string of scandals and revelations since 1994 has decimated the church’s reputation and standing in this once-devoutly Catholic nation” (Pogatchnik, Shawn. “Irish Catholic Abuse Scandal: Government to Release New Report.” Huffington Post. 13 July 2011. Web.). Indeed, many Irish people who were Catholic have now left the Church entirely and have become agnostics directly because of this corruption.

 

I have asked one such person: “Is it fair to judge a religion by those that fail to follow its tenets?” Yet the issue goes deeper than that, and I am beginning to see the underlying pain in the decision to become more secular. My study abroad advisor explained that the Irish people trusted the Church with everything: with their lives and eternities, with their government and society, with their children and families. When the corruption was revealed, it was like the worst betrayal imaginable. The Church did not just fail them but hurt them, made them look foolish for believing in it, in its religion. And truly to the majority, you judge a religion by those who claim to follow it: If people are kind and good, the religion must be grand; but if the people are corrupt, then the religion must have failed.

 

I myself am a Christian, and I want to be able to present a positive image of Christianity to a country that has been so broken by those who failed to follow my religion. But to do that I want to understand more about how the Church has failed them so that I can begin to show them Christ, just as a doctor needs to understand a disease before taking action to heal it. Ireland has been a representative and hold for Christianity since the early ages, and I hope and pray it will return to it despite the corruptions evident in the last few decades.

 

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