Revolution and Evolution
The book also examines change in the culture of the island of Ireland, from the development of the Irish historical novel in the nineteenth century, to ecology in contemporary Irish women’s poetry, to the present state of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Contemporary Irish authors examined include Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor and Martin McDonagh.
Contemporary Irish Catholicism: Revolution or Evolution? EAMON MAHER 211
Contemporary Irish Catholicism: Revolution or Evolution? Eamon Maher One of the greatest changes of recent decades in Irish society has been the inexorable decline of religious practice. This is clearly due to a multiplicity of factors, most notably the revelations of clerical sex abuse in the 1990s, increased prosperity, greater mobility and disillusionment in relation to the former pillars of Irish society, Church and State. There are occasions, of course, when religious fervour still makes itself felt. For example, in the summer of 2001 the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux (affectionately known as ‘The Little Flower’) did a tour of Ireland and were visited, some main- tained, by an estimated 75 per cent of the population. Similarly, pilgrim- ages to Knock, Croagh Patrick and Lough Derg still hold an attraction for a significant number of Irish people. In addition, the percentage of the population who attend Mass and the Sacraments is relatively high by continental standards. My thesis in this chapter will be that there has been a type of revolution or evolution in Irish Catholicism, one that has led to significantly changed attitudes to the concept of organised religion and the role that it plays in people’s lives. Certain key events serve as signposts or symbols that prefigure change. One of these occurred on 31 January 1984 when a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl died after giving birth to a stillborn son. Ann Lovett was not in hospital when she gave birth; she was in a grotto within the...
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