Category Archives: Ecumenism

Father John Sullivan, S.J.


Multiculturalism and Disbelief

by Brendan Clifford,
Labour & Trade Union Review, No. 11

If Britain had, like the United States, citizenship tests for immigrants, the basic test as to whether an immigrant had caught the British spirit should be the answer to the question: Do you accept that the right to blaspheme is an inalienable human right?

Societies flourish in connection with their communal piety. Britain is the first society which has flourished through impiety.
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Prayers of an Irish Mother


I’m indebted to jaykay for kindly sending these extracts from Prayers of an Irish Mother, which give a splendid insight into Irish popular piety in pre-conciliar times.

The Eucharist

The Inspiration of the Bible

The Revolution Triumphant: Irish Hierarchy’s June Meeting, 1966

The following press release was issued by the Irish hierarchy following their meeting at St. Patrick’s Maynooth on the 21st-22nd June, 1966:


The Second Vatican Council has called for the development of Catholic University facilities, especially in the sphere of philosophy and theology, in order to show the harmony of Christian teaching with true human culture and scientific development, and to provide all priests, religious and laity with the fullest opportunity of Christian formation.

The Irish bishops at their June meeting have had under consideration how this development could be secured in this country, and propose to develop Maynooth as an open centre of higher studies, and to extend its facilities and courses so as to meet the requirements, not merely of priests, diocesan and regular, but also of brothers, nuns and laity.
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Animosities In A Vacuum

by Brendan Clifford,
Church and State; Third Quarter, 2008

Oxford University was appealed to by Raymond Crotty (founder of the Irish Sovereignty Movement) to take Ireland in hand intellectually, because the Irish were unable to think for themselves. It has now published a volume on Ireland as part of its Oxford History Of Modern Europe. But, alas, it farmed out the work of writing it to a Stickie academic, who was a political adviser to David Trimble during the years when Trimble was leading the Ulster Unionist Party to disaster, and who has now joined his leader in the House of Lords.
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Letter of Cardinal Cullen to the Catholic Clergy, Secular and Regular, of the Diocese of Dublin

6th November, 1873

Very Rev. and Dear Sir,

Within the present week an important circular regarding the Catholic University will be addressed to you by the Rector, the Very Rev. Monsignor Woodlock.

I beg of you to read that document for your faithful flocks, and at the same time to impress upon them the necessity of upholding the cause of religious education, and providing the youth of the country with the means of acquiring not only all useful scientific knowledge, but also solid instruction in the practices and doctrines of the one, holy, Catholic Church, out of which there is no salvation. If this be not done, and if children be not brought up in the fear and love of God, and inspired with a spirit of respect and obedience for the laws of God and the Church, they will forget the interests of their immortal souls, and their eternal salvation will be exposed to the greatest danger. For, according to the Scripture, if a young man gets into a wrong path, even when he grows old, he will not retire from it.
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1641: Some Context


by Pat Muldowney,
Church and State; First Quarter, 2011

Historic massacres have been in the news recently. Large numbers of British Protestant settlers were killed in horrific circumstances by hordes of rebellious natives in a frenzy of religious hatred. This despite the fact that the settlers, whatever their faults, were bringing civic values, industry, modernity and progress to an antiquated country mired in backwardness and superstition.

In the ensuing chaos, order was finally restored by a determined military campaign in which the Irish Brigadier- General John Nicholson played a leading part, but at the cost of his own life.
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1641: The Massacre Propaganda

by Brendan Clifford,
Church and State; First Quarter, 2011

Almost fifty years ago I spent a month in isolation in a remote and English part of England, called Winchester, with nothing to do and nothing to read except a volume of Edmund Spenser’s Poems that somehow came to hand. I read it because it was there, and nothing else was there. And so I read about the Fairy Queen, who never actually appears in that never-ending poem with her name to it as far as I recall, and about Knights and Ladies and Chivalry and the Blatant Beast and other strange creatures that lurk in the undergrowth of the English mind. And I got to know about Colin Clout’s Homecoming to Buttevant, which had been cleared of the Irish so that Greek Nymphs and Shepherds might play in it, and Greek goddesses along with them, but no gods that I recall. And then I was released from captivity and promptly forgot about Spenser, except to wonder occasionally how that bizarre poem, afflicted with uncoordinated gigantism, remained in print.

For remain in print it did. And Senator Harris has fallen down on the task he has set himself, because I have not heard yet that he has hailed it as the great Irish poem to whose influence we should all submit ourselves in order to be re-created and saved.
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The Catholic Church and the Gospels

Cardinal Bourne on Ecumenism

The following is the Lenten pastoral letter of Francis Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster from 1924.

The discussions which have taken place since the beginning of this year on the question of the union of Christendom, so long broken by heresy and schism, have been of special interest to those who as members of the Catholic Church see clearly how such union can be accomplished. They have noted with thanksgiving to God that on all sides there is a renewed and intensified longing for such union, and a keen realisation that disunion is evidently contrary to the declared will of Our Lord and Saviour and the cause of untold harm to men.

At the same time it is clear that on the part of our fellow-countrymen who do not accept the authority of the Holy See there is almost complete misapprehension of the sole basis of union which is in conformity with the will of Christ — namely, the frank and complete acceptance of divinely revealed truth.

In the letter issued from Lambeth in 1920 the following words occur, taken from a report of 1908, and they are quoted also in the recent letter of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury: —

“There can be no fulfillment of the divine purpose in any scheme of re-union which does not ultimately include the great Latin Church of the West, with which our history has been so closely associated in the past, and to which we are still bound by many ties of common faith and tradition.”

It is fitting, therefore, that we who today in England represent that Latin Church, which was from the early preaching of Christianity until the 16th century the only Church known to and accepted by the English people — to which we alone now stand in a relation of unbroken continuity — should make quite plain our attitude towards the desires and suggestions for reunion which meet us on every side.

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An Introductory Talk on the Catholic Religion

By Whose Authority?

Questions Posed by Belfast Protestants at Clonard Missions (1949-’59)

The Messenger Question Box (No. 1 and 2)

The Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart, a monthly Jesuit devotional magazine, has been an integral part of the Irish religious landscape since its foundation by Fr Paul Cullen, S.J., in 1888. The magazine cultivated an intense devotional life and penetrated every parish on the island, reaching a peasantry that was both desperately poor and devoutly Catholic by means of an elaborate voluntary distribution system. Up until a few decades ago, it was not uncommon for the sole reading material in many rural households to be the monthly Sacred Heart Messenger.

One noteable feature of the publication was the ‘Messenger Box’ column, where readers would ask questions about various aspects of the Catholic faith, and have those questions answered by Jesuit priests. The column gives an insight into the internal temper of a popular religious culture that was then flourishing but rapidly disintegrated after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Some of the questions in the pamphlets are quite amusing in their innocence and piety:

Q. – May a person who inadvertently tastes milk, but does not swallow it before going to Mass, receive Holy Communion that Morning?
A. – Yes.

Q. – Is it permissible to wash teeth just before going out to receive Holy Communion?
A. – It is permissible and advisable to wash teeth before receiving Holy Communion.

Q. – My teeth get easily discoloured and sometimes I cannot remove this discolouration before going to Holy Communion. May I go to Holy Communion with my teeth in that state?
A. – Yes.

Q. – Is it sinful to inhale the smoke of cigarettes before going to Holy Communion?
A. – No, though out of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament a person is advised to refrain from so doing.

Q. – Are bad thoughts, which come into a person’s mind against his will just before Communion and at other times, sinful and should such thoughts be confessed?
A. – Provided a person does his best to resist such thoughts, they are not sinful and need not be confessed.

Published in 1935 and 1938, these special pamphlets reproduce questions featured in the Sacred Heart Messenger in the previous few years. In those days the Messenger was the most widely read publication in Ireland. Despite the secularization of Irish society since the 1960s, the Messenger retains a readership of over 300,000, making it the second most popular publication in the country (after the RTÉ TV Guide).

Click on covers to read

The Title “Catholic” and the Roman Church

A Priest and Protestants

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