Thoughts on the Catholic Church in reply to Carlos was RE: Replying toNestor and =?UNKNOWN?Q?Jos=E9=2E?=

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Mon Dec 13 22:46:30 MST 1999

Hi Carlos,

Your remarks on Fr. Peyton were very interesting.  I have never read
anything on him.  He seems to have been the Catholic Church's response to
Billy Graham.  This was a very early flirtation with evangelism. My
impression is that the Catholic Church is very reluctant to go the
evangelical road.  Basically I suppose because it is fundamentally still a
feudal Church of the Peasantry. In the 18th Brumaire I think Marx says of
the peasants that they are like potatoes in a sack.  They do not make up a
community.  I have often thought that  this described my own experience of
Catholicism in Ireland.  Unlike the Protestant Pastors our priests would
never go to the door of the Church to greet or farewell the congregation.

I should point out though that Northern Irish Catholics did form a
community but by and large this was due to their shared experience of
poverty and oppression. The Church had very little to do with this.  My
memory is still strong about how at meal time in our estate, children would
call in at our house with a cup and say "ma, says could you give her some
sugar cos she's run out'.

Opposite the house where I lived there was the Parochial House where the pi
rests lived in splendor next to the Convent run by the Loretto nuns. There
was a complex where the Christian Brothers presided over a campaign of
terror against the working class.   for years I have told my students here
in Australia when we come to do the TV minis series "The Brides of Christ"
a story about the nuns and my family.  We used to get from the nuns a great
parcel of what we called 'dripping'.  This was the fat that fell from the
meat.  My mother would heat up this dripping and we would dip bread in it
and that was often our only meal.

Here in Australia I would tell this to my classes and I would to rant to
them about the hypocrisy of the nuns.  They got the meat and we lived off
their charity and got the fat.  You see it was my belief that they sent the
'dripping' down to us because we were poor.

Last April I told this story at home and my eldest sister piped up with the
information that the fat was not free, but that the bloody nuns actually
used to sell it to us. I was dumbfounded as I often am when the enemy turn
out to be as bad as I say they are. But that anecdote sums up for me pretty
much the exploitative nature of the relationship between the Roman Catholic
church and the people.  The kind of community sharing, that grew up
independent of the Church, enabled the Catholic community to resist the
brutalities of the British State during the Long War of 1968-98.

There are two factors that account for the character of Irish
Catholicism.  The fear put into the people by the Famine of
1846-9  produced the incredible devotionalism that used to mark out Irish
Catholicism. Secondly the Church was able to exploit the memory of being
banned to establish their credentials as the protector of the people.  In
truth the Church collaborated with Britain but always maneuvered skillfully
between the republicans and the British. A number of priests were allowed
to get close to Irish republicans to ensure their loyalty to the Church,
while others attacked Republicanism.

But all has changed.  Ireland's long postponed rendezvous with modernity is
taking place.  There are no nuns or Christian Brothers any more in my home
town. The priests too are in sharp decline. All this fills me with a great
hope that we may yet live to see the end of the Church of Rome.



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