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The reproach which is brought upon Irish Christianity mainly by the
extravagances of a section of my co-religionists, to which I have been
obliged to refer, came home to me not long ago in a very forcible way. I
happened to remark to a friend that it was a disgrace to Christianity
that Mussulman soldiery were employed at the Holy Sepulchre to keep the
peace between the Latin and Greek Christians. He reminded me that the
prosperous and progressive municipality of Belfast, with a population
eminently industrious, and predominantly Protestant, has to be policed
by an Imperial force in order to restrain two sections of Irish
Christians from assaulting each other in the name of religion.
'_Pro salute animae meae_' was, I am reminded, the consideration
usually expressed in the old charters of manumission.
One of the unfortunate effects of this passion for building costly
churches is the importation of quantities of foreign art-work in the
shape of woodcarvings, stained glass, mosaics, and metal work. To good
foreign art, indeed, one could not, within certain limits, object. It
might prove a valuable example and stimulus. But the articles which have
actually been imported, in the impulse to get everything finished as
soon as possible, generally consist of the stock pieces produced in a
spirit of mere commercialism in the workshops of Continental firms which
make it their business to cater for a public who do not know the
difference between good art and bad. Much of the decoration of
ecclesiastical buildings, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, might
fittingly be postponed until religion in Ireland has got into closer
relation with the native artistic sense and industrial spirit now
beginning to seek creative expression.
The following extract from a statement of the Most Rev. Dr. O'Dea,
the newly elected Bishop of Clonfert, is pertinent:--'There is another
cause also--i.e. in addition to the absence of university education for
Roman Catholic laymen--which has hindered the employment of the laity in
the past. Till very recently, the secondary Catholic schools received no
assistance whatever from the State, and their endowment from private
sources was utterly inadequate to supply suitable remuneration for lay
teachers. It is evident that a celibate clergy can live on a lower
wage than the laity, and they are now charged with having monopolized
the schools, because they chose to work for a minimum allowance rather
than suffer the country to remain without any secondary education
whatever. Two causes, then, operated in the past, and in a large measure
still operate, to exclude the laity from the secondary schools,--first,
these schools were so poverty-stricken that they could not afford to pay
lay teachers at such a rate as would attract them to the teaching
profession, and, next, the Catholic laity as a body were uneducated,
and, therefore, unfit to teach in the schools.'--_Maynooth and the
University Question_, p. 109 (footnote).
See, inter alia, an article "Ireland and America," by Rev. Mr.
Shinnors, O.M., in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, February, 1902.
'Has the Church,' asks Father Shinnors, 'increased her membership in the
ratio that the population of the United States has increased? No. There
are many converts, but there are many more apostates. Large numbers
lapse into indifferentism and irreligion. There should be in America
about 20,000,000 Catholics; there are scarcely 10,000,000. There are
reasons to fear that the great majority of the apostates are of Irish
extraction, and not a few of them of Irish birth.'
This view seems to be taken by the most influential spokesmen of
the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. See Evidence, _Royal Commission on
University Education in Ireland_, vol. iii., p. 238, Questions 8702-6.
I may mention that of the co-operative societies organised by the
Irish Agricultural Organisation Society there are no fewer than 331
societies of which the local priests are the Chairmen, while to my own
knowledge during the summer and autumn of 1902, as many as 50,000
persons from all parts of Ireland were personally conducted over the
exhibit of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction at
the Cork Exhibition by their local clergy. The educational purpose of
these visits is explained in Chap. x. Again, in a great number of cases
the village libraries which have been recently started in Ireland with
the assistance of the Department (the books consisting largely of
industrial, economic, and technical works on agriculture), have been
organised and assisted by the Roman Catholic clergy.
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