The Lost Piety of Catholic Ireland

The Lost Piety of Catholic Ireland

O Ireland, what has happened to you?

Pentecost Sunday is meant to be amongst the most joyous of the year, long held as the feast, which marks the birth of Holy Church. Because fifty days after our Lord’s Resurrection, the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, enkindling their hearts with the fire of His love. Enkindled with that fire, they found the wherewithal to go and spread the faith to all nations.

I am sad to say that I found it difficult to be joyous this last Pentecost Sunday. For only the day before did we definitively learn that Ireland voted ‘Yes’ to same sex ‘marriage’, so called.

It is a tragedy, that modern Ireland has further signed away her incredible faith in the truth of God’s law.

The ‘Yes’ vote at the referendum seemed inevitable. Huge governmental resources and finances were employed in all their might. So, too, was the power of the media – a media which is already awash in the programming of the Anglo-American world.

Moreover, millions of euros were pumped in from liberal American ‘charities’ abroad.

Yet whilst all this was distressing  enough, it was the response to the ‘Yes’ campaign by the Irish Catholic Church that was most disheartening.

Recently, Roger (my husband and co-blogger at this site) and I took a long trip through the country. We saw the full strength of the ‘Yes’ campaign.

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In one diocese, we witnessed firsthand a bishop give a homily about the  referendum, which seemed utterly feeble to me. We were likewise alarmed by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s lack of solid Catholic counsel to voters, speaking on a news broadcast. Our own bishop in the northwest made a blunder – I hope – for he seemed to suggest it was fine Catholics vote ‘Yes’.

And as far as I can see, there were few exceptions to this dismal pattern of episcopal guidance.

Only one constituency in the whole country voted ‘No’! In that diocese the bishop was apparently very outspoken against the proposal.  No wonder the rest of the country voted ‘Yes’, if this is the guidance from the shepherds. It really seems a sham.

As I say, it was greatly disheartening.

When Roger and I returned to Ireland, just over two years ago now, I was struck by two things.

One was the strength of the faith I still encountered in Ireland, particularly after living in parts of Europe where the faith is almost extinguished.

But paradoxically, the second is something quite the opposite, for which I will give an image.

I am a regular walker. The weather has to be extremely severe to stop me going out, early in the morning with my dog and my Rosary. I find it incredibly special to walk and pray in the early hours of the morning.

So doing, when first back in Ireland, I discovered a derelict house. One of many I see around our small village. It is easy to peer into the windows of this house, and I noticed many things that touched me.

In every room there are religious images, the Sacred Heart, the Divine Infant of Prague, the Holy Father of that time (now Pope St. John XXIII).

And in one room, there is a chair pulled up before a fireplace, facing a Crucifix, with a small bottle of Holy Water and a set of Rosary beads next to it.

When I discovered this house and saw all these images within it, I felt deep, deep sadness. For, whilst I was experiencing the continued strength of faith here in Ireland, this house symbolised the very opposite. It represents all that has been lost. An old, simple, humble, piety, which used to fill Ireland. The country was imbued with a spirit of grace, bestowed through such acts of piety.

What saddened me was not simply the fact that this type of piety is being lost. But rather, it is left to rot. For it is no longer valued.

This house is one of many in our area, filled with such religious images, once highly valued, for the graces they brought upon households and the members therein. And now they are simply left in these old houses, to rot with the memory of the time they evoke. For they evoke a time where Irish people placed our Lord and His Blessed Mother at the centre of their lives.

A few days ago, Roger and I assisted at a small Latin Mass for Pentecost Monday.

It was celebrated by an old priest, in a humble makeshift chapel (as the main chapel is being renovated).

We were both deeply moved by the simplicity and piety of this priest and the Mass he celebrated. In fact, we felt in some way transported to an Ireland that hardly exists anymore. Or rather, is ever more fading into oblivion.

It was as though we were taken to the time, evoked by the house I described above. An Ireland that was simple and pious and knew the faith. An Ireland that knew how living the faith was not only crucial, but central to human life.

The same day, I spoke to an English friend, who, if able, would have voted ‘Yes’. My friend was curious why I am so opposed. So, I began talking about the terrible implications I envisage coming from this referendum.

After explaining my position on marriage, between one man and one woman, I spoke of the fact that only a woman and a man together, can conceive a child. I spoke about the horror of the child production industry, of sperm banks and the freezing of human eggs. I spoke of how science is proceeding with what it calls, three-parent embryo research, where scientists are splicing DNA, so that a child can be conceived from three parents.

In the meantime, the human beings they create and are unwanted are simply discarded, like any other waste.

Science is playing with human life in a way that is absolutely grotesque. It is horrific and totally unnatural.

My friend listened and said, ‘I have never looked at it like that.’

How many people who voted ‘Yes’ have never looked at it like that – have never thought of the implications of what they have voted for?

In the attempt to end discrimination towards homosexual people, Ireland has paved a way towards a society that is becoming monstrous – the creation and marketing of human beings in a way that resembles Doctor Frankenstein.

To add to this, is the equally horrific attempt to neutralise the respected traditional and beautiful titles used for parents. For it has been suggested that ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ be replaced by ‘Parent 1’ and ‘Parent 2’. No doubt, laying the foundations for Parent 3 and then, who knows what?

How abstract and mechanised can we become? As Roger said in his latest post, ‘Welcome to the machine’.

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Only a man and a woman can conceive a child, in the manner God intended.

Anything other than most blessed union and vocation steps outside of God’s holy law, into the human world of desire alone.

And last Friday, Ireland became the first nation to vote ‘Yes’ to all of this.

O Ireland what has become of you?

In these last days within the octave of Pentecost, let us pray to the Holy Ghost to re-kindle Ireland with the fire of His love.

Holy Ghost, have mercy on Ireland.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for Ireland.

Ss Patrick, Brigid and Columba, pray for Ireland.

All Saints of Ireland, pray for Ireland.

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17 responses to “The Lost Piety of Catholic Ireland”

  1. aged parent Avatar

    A sad and beautiful post. Thank you for these thoughts.

    1. kim Avatar

      Yes, aged parent, it is oh so sad. Thank you for taking the time to read my words and to write your own. It is moving for me to be understood.

  2. Eileen Colby Avatar
    Eileen Colby

    Is so sad. It seems as if nobody cares, not even Pope Francis. Where is the pride un being a member of The Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    1. kim Avatar


      I have a tendency to fall into a lack of hope, because of the very things you write here – that nobody seems to care.

      My priest counsel’s me to read our Lord’s words in Scripture.

      I also need to remind myself that nearly 40% of the Irish people did vote for God’s law. That is not nobody, even though it sometimes seems that way.

      1. A Avatar


        This is a beautiful and poignant piece. Thank you for writing it.

        Over the last week I have been trying to track down as many Irish Catholic bloggers as I can find to try to get a sense of what others are thinking. I have been asking myself, how deeply was Catholicism rooted in the Irish nation over the centuries? To what degree was it merely a social convention?

        Another blogger mentioned the vibrant Catholic subculture that exists in places like France, so lacking in Ireland. In France, the faith was persecuted brutally from within and by a vicious anti-Christian secularism, which is a different type of persecution than that which happened here under foreign occupation. Could this, along with the de facto merger of Church and State after independence, account at least in part for the difference?

        The only alternative to despair is to rebuild. The All-Ireland Rally for Life will take place on Saturday 4th July at 2.00 p.m. at the Garden of Remembrance. For those in Dublin, St Kevin’s has a Corpus Christi procession on Sunday (details on their website).

        1. kim Avatar

          Dear A,

          Thank you for your kind words. It touches me to know that my writing is moving for people such as yourself.

          You have touched on so much here – into worlds that Roger, my husband and co-blogger, have been thinking about for years.

          When, just over two years ago, we moved back to Ireland from England and being an Englishwoman, I was deeply struck by an experience of Christianity in Ireland, as though it was part of the land itself. And, as such, I understood how the Irish people simply ‘got’ Christianity. They didn’t need to understand it, it was somehow integral to their very nature. This can make the recent referendum and general trend away from the faith more difficult to understand.

          This leads to your second point.

          Unlike France and much of Catholic Europe, Ireland is almost entirely English speaking. Therefore she is far more influenced by the Anglo-American world.

          My husband Roger and I spent much time travelling and living in France. We therefore have some understanding of the French Church and the ‘vibrant Catholic subculture’ you mention. The Latin Mass movement, for example, is very strong in France. And strikingly the Novus Ordo Church is visibly shrinking away.

          You ponder about the difference between France and Ireland. I realise this is a broader question than what you address to me. But, I do have something to say to this.

          The Irish temperament is very different to the French.

          Being a foreigner to both cultures, I see how the French are bolshy and even rude. They have no concern about saying what they think. They will protest if they believe something is wrong.

          Whereas the Irish temperament is very different. Whilst there can be strong passions, I find the Irish people the loveliest and sweetest people I have ever met. Yet, perhaps that means they can be more easily cajoled.

          Roger has a book soon to be published where he explores in depth this very question. In doing so, he focuses on the difference between the Anglo-American world and Catholic Europe.

          Something Roger argues in his upcoming book is that Catholic Europe really does not have the same kind of natural affinity/linkageto the banking and capitalist system, as the Anglo-American world. Ireland is caught in the middle, for she is very much part of Catholic Europe, but has a particular relationship with the Anglo-American world, through language in infiltration from those nations.

          Sadly, after fighting, literally to the death to keep the faith, she has now gone under through letting them in, in force. What happened in France over centuries, seems to have happened in Ireland in just a few decades.

          Roger appreciated your comment very much and I know would like to respond, but he is a bit ill …

  3. Aidan Avatar

    Thank you for this post. I am an Irish priest. This morning I preached about marriage as an icon of the Holy Trinity. I said that it’s as if the Irish people voted that God’s plan is insufficient. I said I thought it was a terrible mistake and a sad day. A young woman with children walked out. What can you do? Say nothing and they’ll nod politely. Try and preach the truth, they walk out, perhaps never to return.

    1. kim Avatar

      Fr. Aidan,

      Thank you so much for what you have said here. Our parish priest often delivers homilies that parishioners do not like. They don’t leave, but they surely do grumble. Yet, like you, he speaks the truth. It is often so hard in this modern world to be truly Catholic. In fact, it is beginning to feel very scary to be Christian at all. But, how can we not be, when that is where our hearts lie?

    2. Joanne Avatar

      Don’t worry, Father, you did the right thing talking about this. If she walked out because of what you said, then pray for her that God opens her eyes one day, but the truth cannot be covered up with a bushel basket. God desires for you to speak the truth and to stand up for what is right. God destroyed cities for this kind of corruption and if this continues, a great catastrophe is awaiting the world as this kind of perversion is spreading throughout the world like wildfire. Just preach the Rosary because that is the weapon Our Lady gave us. Not enough are saying it. We must spread this devotion because she promised when enough rosaries will be said, she will be an instrument in converting the world.

  4. James Avatar


    The destruction of the Church in Ireland saddens me, as well. Born in NY, I’m 100% Irish “genealogically”. Lucky to have been raised with a sense of the culture or Ireland. The Catholic Culture. I can at least do my best to pass it down to my four children.

    We must never forget St. Patrick converted the entire island in less than 100 years, with the same issues at the time. Nothing’s impossible. Missionaries need to begin work in Ireland. Each and every practicing, obedient, orthodox Catholic is called to this, in times like these…

    Servant of God Frank Duff, Pray For Us.



    1. kim Avatar


      Thank you so much for your words of hope, strength and courage. You are so right – nothing is impossible for God. We must all pray very hard for Ireland’s return to the faith.

      Next Tuesday, 9th June, is the feast of St. Columba (Columcille) one of Ireland’s three Patrons. It is nine days from today. Therefore I implore whoever reads this to begin a novena today, to St. Columba.

      Ss Patrick, Brigid and Columba, pray for Ireland.

      And as you rightly add, Servant of God Frank Duff, pray for Ireland.

  5. DJL Avatar

    I just found this post and your blog and am so grateful! I have thought for awhile of moving to Ireland from the US but I’ve watched with great sadness these past few days as it seems that the Ireland I have been thinking of isn’t the Ireland that is. I appreciate your posts and will keep reading.
    God bless you.

    1. kim Avatar


      Thank you for reading me.

      Recently I spoke with a newly ordained priest from the USA, living now in Ireland. He has been shocked by the lack of faith here. Because the picture he has always held, from afar, has been of a nation deeply devout. And this was so true.

      And I think it still is, but needs something to bring it forth again.

  6. MaryS Avatar

    I agree its so sad. I know of many churchgoers who voted ‘yes’ because they saw it as being compassionate to a group of people who feel outside of mainstream. I think that this yes vote is a reflection on the total lack of leadership and the lack of teaching from the church for the past 30 years.

    Some of the bishops in this country should be sacked. They might as well not be there. Dissenting priests are tolerated by them and no censure is ever carried out and they can say what they like. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speaks from both sides of his mouth. He seems more interested in playing to the media than preaching to the flock in a direct manner.

    Fr Aidan I commend any priest who has the courage to preach the truth with love. From what I can see priests who do so are more likely to get into trouble that ones who preach heresy. I feel devestated but I have to believe that many people have turned to prayer and Our Lady has not forgotten us. She is our only hope. Keep praying

    1. kim Avatar


      Thank you.

      There seems to be a malaise in our Church, not just in Ireland. It is as though many of the clergy, perhaps even the majority have become indifferent. They have endured such bad press, from the abuse scandals and appear frightened to step out from the crowd and speak about the faith truthfully, honestly and boldly. Those who do, have rocks thrown at them.

      But the Church is so divided herself, between those who stand for tradition and those who prefer to follow the world. This division affects all Catholics, even at the core of our worship – Holy Mass.

      I do wonder if the problem is far more liturgical than is generally believed.

  7. maryrose49 Avatar

    Kim, I’m not sure if it’s liturgical. I believe that it’s very difficult to roll back the tide of 30 years. This upcoming synod will tell a story. If humane vitae is confirmed then we will see a split that is currently under the surface. The non acceptance of Humane Vitae by many of the clergy and the laity is at the root of the falling away and of the liberal agenda in the church. I pray that the Pope will reiterate church teaching on sexual morality and I do think he is trying to bring all of this into the open and out from the shadows.

    1. kim Avatar

      Mary, thank you.

      What you say of Humanae Vitae seems very true to me. However, as I have struggled with these questions over many years, I have increasingly found myself coming back to things that would seem very subtle and unimportant to many people – and are, I know, controversial.

      I have just published a blog about these subtle and controversial things here …

      I am not sure what else to say. I agree with you and yet I see this liturgical level beneath the surface of things.
      It is difficult, I know, to roll back thirty years and I agree we can never fully return to what was.

      At the same time, as I feel isolated in many of my perceptions, I cannot help but take comfort from BXVI who wrote:

      I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the co!apse of the liturgy

      Again, thank you, Mary. Even if we disagree in certain ways, I am sure we agree on much else and I am very grateful for your comments.