The Priestly Sex Abuse Scandal: the Biggest Factor in Ireland’s Rejection of Romanism
Without any doubt whatsoever, the single most significant factor in the rapid and very sharp decline in the number of practicing Irish Roman Catholics has been the shocking, scandalous, widespread and very numerous sexual abuse cases, committed by Romish priests against children, which have rocked Ireland (and so many parts of the world) in the past few decades, as I have written about elsewhere. These bachelor priests of Rome, who swear to an unnatural vow of celibacy, being forbidden to marry contrary to the law of God (1 Tim. 4:1-3), succumb to temptation placed before them by the unnatural, sinful and unscriptural practice of auricular confession – and a huge percentage of these priests are homosexuals, as I have shown in another article. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has done more to damage the reputation of these men than the fact that so many tens of thousands of them have sexually abused children.
Gladys Ganiel, a political sociologist at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said that economic changes in Ireland, combined with the loosening of the laws on the sale of contraceptives, undermined the alliance that had existed between Roman Catholic priests and Irish mothers, which had been central in maintaining conservative Irish Roman Catholicism. But she pointed to the most important cause when she added: “This begins in the 1960s, but somebody stood on the accelerator in the 1990s when things started coming out about Church abuse. The 1990s are also when Ireland becomes economically prosperous for the first time. It’s a perfect storm. Religious [i.e. Roman Catholic] authority declines in Ireland from a much higher peak than the rest of the world. It’s quite dramatic, but with hindsight, it’s not as unexpected.”
This analysis is correct. For centuries Ireland was intensely, fanatically Papist, one of the most Papist countries on earth. It was a land where Rome’s bachelor priests ruled with an iron fist. Their word was law. The false “Church” of Rome “sat” upon this nation and kept it down (Rev. 17:1). It was backward; superstitious; often fanatically violent; and its people would do almost anything for their priests.
But then the scandal of thousands of priests sexually abusing children broke – and that fact, combined with Ireland’s desire to keep up with the rest of the immoral West, rapidly turned its people against their priests. In the words of an Irish retiree, after the priestly sex abuse scandals broke, “instead of people bowing their heads whenever a priest passed by, they could actually stand up and say, ‘Hang on, Father, what happened back then?’” For the first time ever, Ireland’s priests were no longer respected, no longer deferred to in everything, no longer held in awe, no longer even trusted. In fact, things had reached such a head in Ireland by the time of the referendum campaign on whether or not to legalise abortion, that the Roman Catholic institution was largely absent; and when some priests threatened their congregations that they would not be permitted to participate in the mass if they voted in favour of abortion, the Association of Catholic Priests even urged its members not to preach about this issue from the pulpit! This was a very far cry from Rome’s much-vaunted, very public official policy against abortion the world over, and it was a very far cry from the days, not so long ago at all, when the threat of being banned from participating in the mass would be sufficient to cow Irish Papists into submission, afraid for their eternal salvation.
But not only was the Romish “Church” largely absent from the massive clash in the public arena on the subject, anti-abortion campaigners even actively discouraged the Romish “Church’s” participation on their side, for they were so concerned that if they were seen to be siding with the “Church”, voters would tarnish them with the same brush!
Other Contributing Factors
The priestly sex scandals were the major contributor to the Irish rejection of Rome and its teachings in this vote. But there was more: “Ireland’s practice of placing thousands of unwed mothers into servitude in so-called Magdalene laundries… did not end until the mid-1990s. And in a case that traumatized the nation, the remains of nearly 800 children born out of wedlock were found in 2014 in a Catholic-run home for mothers and their children in Tuam.” I wrote about this scandal at the time, in an article.
At the same time, Ireland’s youth were no longer as uneducated as their parents and grandparents had been; and, also at the same time, the country experienced massive economic growth. It became known as the “Celtic Tiger”, living standards greatly improved, the country was flooded with multinationals, and Irish expats returned home after imbibing the liberal and secular humanist “values” of much of the West. They simply were no longer conservatively Roman Catholic.
All of these factors, taken together, contributed to the people of Ireland moving away – for the first time since Rome came to dominate their land – from the religion of their fathers and grandfathers, the religion they had been raised in, the religion which controlled every aspect of Irish life. They began to reject the teachings of their “Church” on such matters as contraception, divorce (in 1995), homosexuality (in 2015) – and now, abortion.
In just a generation, Ireland changed profoundly.
Gail McElroy, professor of politics at Trinity College, Dublin, correctly summed it up when she said: “This is devastating for the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is the final nail in the coffin for them. They’re no longer the pillar of society, and their hopes of re-establishing themselves are gone.”