The Bad Old Days….

Recently His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin gave us a salutary reminder of just how awful and repressive those days before Vatican II really were, you know, the days when priestly vocations were essentially non-existent and Mass attendance was plummeting. As the good Archbishop points out, all that feigned piety wasn’t ‘really’ Catholic, those few backward peasants who actually went to the bother of attending Mass did so out of fear and compulsion, rather than any sense of genuine religious conviction. Thankfully, under Archbishop Martin’s more enlightened pastoral leadership, things today couldn’t be better and the Church in Dublin is now thriving.

To illustrate his point, here are some photos of young Irish Catholics greeting Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, the papal legate, as he arrives in Dún Laoghaire harbour for the 1932 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

As is evident from their grim facial expressions, the poor little darlings, locked as they are in the iron grip of a backward and quasi-totalitarian Catholic theocracy, are in a state of unrelieved anguish, no doubt in mortal terror that they’ll incur eternal damnation if they fail to exhibit proper decorum.

Don’t they just look so oppressed?

More photos and videos here.


Posted on December 17, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Vey well said… You wonder if they will EVER wake up to the disaster The lovers of V2 are responsible for. Our greatest all had a certain amount of Holy fear. So much better than the currently popular “Presumptions”

  2. Yes, western Europe has come a long way in the last 50 years.

    In the central European country where I have lived for the past 6 years, such pre-consiliar Catholicism still prevails, to the extent that the police block traffic fo as much as an hour in towns so that Corpus Christi and other processions can take place, as they do on a regular basis. People of all social classes stood in the snow at -30 celsius, praying for hours for the Beatification of Pope John-Paul II.

    Folk Catholicism, I believe that great beacon of truth, the Tablet, called it. The Archbishop should send missionaries to Poland, Luthania, and Russia, even, to enlighten their backward folk as to the benefits of enlightened Catholic Christianity.

    Left-footer Blogspot

  3. That’s a fascinating point, Left-Footer. Would those who decry 1950s Irish Catholicism as vulgar and theologically unsophisticated etc. (ie. not conforming to modern middle-class sensibilities) do the same with quite comparable expressions of the Christian religion in eastern Europe? It shows up their narrow-mindedness, I think.

  4. When Archbishop Martin speaks about the dire situation of the Church in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, he is speaking about reality. He is probably the only bishop in Ireland who is reminding us of the actual situation. I don’t think that he has anywhere dismissed the faith of people of former generations.

    The photos from 1932 that you posted are similar to photos published during the Patrician Congress in 1961 and during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Archbishop Martin and I were members of the Congress Volunteer Corps set up by Archbishop McQuaid for the Patrician Congress.

    There was undoubtedly a vigorous faith in Ireland before Vatican II. But those who were in charge after the Council were people of the pre-Vatican Ii generation. In his Cambridge talk last February Archbishop Martin spoke of the ‘many vestiges of popular mass Catholic culture’. He referred specifically to Knock and to Croagh Patrick. There was no note of disparagement here.

    But the question has to be asked, as John Waters has done, if there was a rot in the Church in Ireland before Vatican II? There was a rigidity, at least in some aspects. When I was already in the seminary – I entered in 1961 – the then Bishop of Clogher declared it a mortal sin to dance after midnight on Saturday.

    At a different level, it was absolutely forbidden to attend any kind of Protestant service, even a funeral. Many religious sisters were not allowed to visit their own homes, though they could meet their families in a neighbour’s house, or speak to their parents through a window of their own house. Even then adults of real faith just wondered what this was about.

    Those who drew up catechetical programmes in the English-speaking world after the Council were all products of the pre-Vatican II Church. The priests who experimented at Mass in the years immediately after the Council were all products of the pre-Council Church. I cannot deny that I was affected by that to some degree though i was shocked at some of the stories I heard.

    Yes, there definitely was a vigorous faith in Ireland. I have mentioned in comments here the reality of full churches on weekdays in Lent in Dublin in the 1950s. There was no rigidity about this as people, young and old, chose to go to Mass.

    In the summer of 1968 the Columbans held a five-day conference for the Golden Jubilee of our founding. One of the speakers was the late Seán Mac Réamoinn. I asked him from the floor about the level of practice of the faith among the ‘intelligentsia’, for want of a better, word, those in the media, writers, etc, especially in Dublin. He said about fifty per cent. This to me was a straw in the wind.

    I don’t think it’s as easy as ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’, ‘after the fact therefore because of the fact’. Why did so many priest ordained before the Council leave the priesthood? Many more ordained after it also left. Some are still leaving. Marriage has collapsed in Ireland.

    I don’t know all the reasons for what has happened. There are many. I don’t see Archbishop Martin as disparaging the faith of those in earlier generations or of practices from the past that many still observe. I see him as speaking the sober truth.

    Happy Christmas!

  5. Father, merry Christmas and happy new year.

    I agree that the post-conciliar crisis has pre-conciliar origins, but I think we need to keep in mind the self-consciously revolutionary mindset of those who implemented the Council’s decrees. They were brought up in the old order but they had little respect for it and believed it needed to be drastically changed. We can now see that they were wrong: what they gave us is not better than what we had (for all its flaws).

    Seán Mac Réamoinn’s comments are interesting, however the 1960s was surely a decade of considerable liberalisation, and the Council’s decrees had been solidly implemented. I wonder what the practice rate would have been 10 years earlier. Much higher I suspect.

    “At a different level, it was absolutely forbidden to attend any kind of Protestant service, even a funeral.”

    But surely not in all circumstances? One could surely get a dispensation in case of necessity? According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1258, §2): “Tolerari potest praesentia passiva seu mere materialis, civilis officii vel honoris causa, ob gravem rationem ab Episcopo in casu dubii probandam, in acatholicorum funeribus, nuptiis similibusque sollemniis, dummodo perversionis et scandali periculum absit.”

  6. While it is true that most of the people who implemented the council were educated and formed and ordained before the council, it is also true that these same people were not as open about their dislikes as they were once the council gave them a good excuse to do so.

    The best proof of the illogical way of doing thing by those at the very top is that the theologians who had been reprimanded or condemned by Pius XII or John XXIII were later on brought back (rehabilitated) by Paul VI. Not only that, by the people with the most liberal ideas were the ones who were given the best jobs and the most authority to guide the changes.

    Additionally, most priests were bullied into what was not allowed anymore. Dioceses and Conferences of Bishops let Priests know what they could not do anymore and what was not permissible. With a mindset like this one, of course even those formed before the council will feel that they have to go along. The traditional Mass was practically forbidden! Priests who continued to say it got into a lot of trouble. People had no choice because all they could really attend was the New Order and they had no decision when it came to innovations. They got what was given to them whether they asked for it or not.

    While the council might not have been the cause of all the problems, it did cause numerous ones and gave free reins to the ones that had been contained to some extent.

    The reason why Latin was done away with was not because the vernacular was used. It was because the Pope himself (Paul VI) stopped using Latin whenever he said Mass. He was the first one to say Mass completely in Italian … and if the Pope was doing it, why shouldn’t everybody else? The reason why the traditional Vestments were dispensed with was also because the Pope himself did the same.

    There is nothing beneficial about attending non-Catholic services. However, as Sean shows, there were exceptions. As long as scandal and support or agreement with the non-Catholic religion was avoided, a Catholic was allowed to attend them cautiously. One was also allowed to attend non-Catholic marriages or funerals of relatives, etc.

  7. A Happy Christmas to you, too, Shane!

    I wasn’t aware of the canon you quoted. But at the funeral of Douglas Hyde in 1949, according to the Wikipedia entry on the former president, Dr Noel Browne was the only minister to attend the service in St Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, other dignitaries staying outside. Austin Clarke, raised as a Catholic and a former student of Hyde, wrote a poem about the funeral in which he said that the only Catholics present were the French ambassador and himself. On his inauguration day in 1938 Hyde attended a service in St Patrick’s while the government went to a special Mass in the Pro-Cathedral. It would seem that the canon wasn’t interpreted very liberally.

    During or shortly after the Council a young Protestant woman who had been our next door neighbour was killed in a car crash. For the first time in my life I attended a service in a church of the Church of Ireland. (In those days Irish Anglicans called themselves ‘Protestants’). It meant so much to her parents that I, a clerical student, was present. I am glad that that particular rigidity is a thing of the past.

    I remember too back in the 1950s when no one in our part of Dublin had a phone, one of our neighbours got very sick in the middle of the night. A Church of Ireland neighbour went on foot for the priest, who lived the best part of a kilometre away. Sadly, the church that our Protestant neighbours went to is not used as a church anymore.

    Many post-Conciliar documents ignored what was in the Council documents, eg, by dropping Latin altogether. The Council had never suggested that in any way.

  8. Very interesting Father. I wonder if the ban on attending Protestant services is a tradition which goes back further, back to the ‘New Reformation’ of the 19th century, when Protestant proselytism in Ireland became very aggressive and increasingly desperate. In such circumstances it would really be no wonder why Catholic bishops would frown upon any attendance at a Protestant church. (Members of the Orange Order are still banned from attending a Catholic Mass, even for funerals.)

  9. A lot of people, no matter how irreligious or unlearned, seem disappointed when they find out that Catholics ‘don’t do that any more’.

    Weren’t there good reasons for these rigid restrictions, the relaxation of which have given us much to lament?

  10. Vekron, I completely agree. As the Church bent over backwards to appease modern society, that same society rejected anything to do with her. It confirms the saying that ‘Whoever marries the spirit of the age will find himself a widower in the next.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: