Category Archives: Modernism

Collapse of Irish Catholicism: A Self-Induced Crisis?

My sincere thanks to Peadar Laighléis, President of the Latin Mass Society of Ireland, for kindly allowing me to repost his excellent article, appended below, concerning the crisis in the Irish Catholic Church. It was first published in the Sunday Business Post in 2001.  He also sent me this helpful bit of background to the article:

I wrote this piece nearly ten years ago and at the time, I was annoyed I left one major source of discontent out.  In the mid-1990s, the Bishops of Ireland transferred the feasts of Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi to the nearest Sunday.  This was calculated to please the laity and was greeted by the greatest outpouring of lay anger than anyone could anticipate which resulted in the dropping of the second phase of the programme fast (ie the transferance of the obligation to hear Mass on feasts falling on a Saturday or Monday to the Sunday – a ‘two for the price of one’ arrangement).

The bishops were surprised as they were led to believe that that was what the faithful expected.  This was done through a process of consultation enthrusted to the clergy.  The respondents were specially selected and they gave the correct responses.  The problem was that these responses were totally unrepresentative.  This attracted more correspondence to the Irish Catholic than any other single issue in David Quinn’s editorship.

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Leading Maynooth Theologian Decries Disintegration of Maynooth and the Irish Church (1978)


Monsignor Patrick Francis Cremin, Professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, gave a four-part interview to the Irish Independent in November, 1978, denouncing the doctrinal turmoil in the Irish Church and the pastoral negligence of the Irish hierarchy. A theological conservative, Mgr Cremin grew increasingly disillusioned with the liberal drift of the Irish Church in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. The first, second and fourth parts can be read in full here. Posted below is the third-part of the interview, which concerns Maynooth seminary, where he was chair of both Moral Theology and Canon Law from 1949 until 1980.

Mgr Cremin had been appointed by Pope John XXIII as an expert to prepare for the Second Vatican Council and served on three of the Council’s commissions. He served as a peritus to Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and as an expert to the Irish bishops throughout the Council (as he did at the 1956 Maynooth Plenary Council) and was charged by the papal nuncio with giving the press conference on Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae to an unreceptive Irish media, following its release in 1968. He would later become involved in drafting the new Code of Canon Law.

Mgr Cremin was an instinctively obedient churchman but felt compelled to speak out as a result of concern expressed by laity and fellow-clergy and because he felt the situation in the Irish Church had deteriorated to the point of desperation: “It should go without saying that for one in my position it is quite distasteful to make a contribution that is necessarily critical of the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs by bishops, who, in communion and subject to the Supreme Pontiff, occupy the sacred office of rulers in the Church of Christ. But I am moved to make it because of the great seriousness of the matter in question.”

There is, first, the fact that the Irish Bishops as a body, and especially some of them individually, have not taken the necessary steps to protect our Catholic Faith and Teaching, by ensuring that, in Ireland, professional theologians and pseudo-theologians (and priests influenced by them) were not permitted to propagate with impunity doctrinal and moral teaching that was misleading or unsound.

(i) But they have been permitted, and at a time when our faithful people have become particularly vulnerable to the effects of wrong or confused teaching, since the valuable, indeed the indispensable, programme of catechetical instruction, that had to be covered, in a two or three-year cycle, by priests in their sermons at Sunday Masses, has largely been abandoned.

Moreover, this has happened at a time when such systematic instruction has become particularly necessary for the reassurance of the faithful, who are disposed to think right but are bewildered because of the absence of confirmation of their religious views.

The result is that nowadays our people receive little solid instruction and rarely hear of the commandments of God, or of sin and repentance, or purgatory and hell, or of some of the great Christian truths and devotional practices, such as the sacrifice of the Mass or the value of devotion to Our Lady, especially in the Rosary.

In addition the faithful, and particularly parents of school-going children, have the further anxiety of having to try to cope with the “new catechetics”, and its delayed presentation or dilution (or worse) of the truths to be believed or of the moral principles to be followed by those who are members of the Catholic Church.

(ii) There is, secondly, the fact that the Irish Bishops have not taken the necessary measures, over the past several years, to save our national seminary at Maynooth from progressive deterioration and, as I believe, in certain respects near disintegration in vital areas of the life of the seminary and of the formation of the young men being trained in it for the priesthood.

One factor that has largely contributed to this has been the ill-conceived decision taken by the Bishops in 1966 to open our national seminary, in the way it was actually opened, to non-clerical students, including male and female lay students and nuns, without any proper planning or direction then or since, as far as protecting some seminary way of life and the proper formation of its resident clerical students was concerned.

I am not directly concerned here with the National University side of Maynooth College. As regards the seminary proper, things were just allowed to happen and happen, to the detriment of the seminary itself and therefore of the Irish Church, of which this national seminary had been the nerve-centre for more than a century and a half.

And the glory that once was Maynooth, especially in the English-speaking ecclesiastical world and in missionary lands, has vanished, perhaps never to return.

There has been no evidence of order in this seminary for many years, and I am not speaking here of order based on an application of the old strict Maynooth discipline. Moreover, there has been much evidence of disorder, and of lack of due respect for the standards of community living. In fact, when the infection discernible early on in our seminary was not dealt with, it inevitably spread to the point where disorder has gradually come to be taken for granted, and accepted by many as the “order” of the day.

Not only that, but there has been what rather incredibly appears to be a permitted policy of drift and of anarchy or absence of rule. And I am not speaking of authoritarian rule, but of the exercise of that rule which, as the Second Vatican Council emphasised, consists in service that consults the best interests of the individual and of the community.

These unwelcome facts — referred to only very briefly here — concerning our national seminary cannot be discounted by the whitewashing or window-dressing that has gone on, for a number of years now, on the part of some of those who, at the different level of administration and government, have had responsibility for the situation which the facts represent.

From time to time, in publicity exercises in the press or elsewhere, the public have been given to understand by some of them that “All, or nearly all is fair in the garden,” when in actual fact there is no longer any garden but something of a wilderness.

In a situation of this kind, no ordinary business concern could survive, not to speak of an institution comparable to Maynooth College, which is not just any institution but Ireland’s national seminary for the training of young men for the priesthood. But of course the question must be asked: Has our national seminary really survived, if survival is understood to involve the preservation of essential values and standards without which it is no longer what it was?

A tragic aspect of this situation is that those seminarians, who are seriously aspiring to the priesthood, are not receiving the full essential formation for which they came to Maynooth College, even though they are not only willing but anxious to receive it. Naturally they themselves or at least many of them do not even know what they are being deprived of, since they are not aware of what their formation should be. The students themselves, therefore, are the losers and the victims of the situation in the seminary, even without their knowing it.

After all, they did expect some challenge when they came to Maynooth College to be trained for the priesthood. But for that training the only real challenge ultimately is the practice of self-denial and the cultivation of the spiritual life. As a means to that end, some silence, some spirit of contemplation, some curtailment of liberty must be insisted upon, and must be accepted by those who are aspiring to become the official representatives of Christ, who appeals even to any ordinary follower of His to deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him.

It is not really too surprising then, if, not finding the challenge they expected in some form of curtailment of liberty and self-denial, some clerical students who did appear to have a genuine vocation to the priesthood, have left the seminary in their early years through disillusionment. Neither is it very surprising if, by reason of the confusion to which they have been exposed in some of their theological formation, other clerical students have left the seminary only at a very late stage in their course — perhaps, unfortunately, too few such students.

How many, notwithstanding some theological confusion, have been accepted by their Bishops for priesthood without their complete theological formation being assured, only to add to the confusion of bewildered members of their flock?

Even if our national seminary were to be recreated tomorrow in some appropriate, sensible form, and enabled to rise phoenix-like from its ashes; the question would still have to be asked — how badly served some Irish priests have been who were resident seminarians at Maynooth College during the past ten years. Only the passing of time in their ministry can answer that question for them or for those to whom they will have ministered.

At this stage, the reader must be asking a question he may well have asked for the first time many years ago: What ever went wrong with Maynooth College? Since this question can be answered definitely only by the Bishops responsible for governing the College, and perhaps only by those of them with first-hand knowledge of its government since it was opened to non-clerical students in 1966, one can only speculate on the answer to it.

Is it, perhaps, that the Bishops who did perceive the early ailments and the progressive sickness of our seminary, and who had the will and the courage to try to remedy them, were just not able to prevail against those, maybe only one or two, who gave a bad lead and were supported by others? Certainly, in the recent abnormal and critical years, as never before in the life of Maynooth College, a lead was needed which would be courageous as well as enlightened and wise; or was this too much to hope for in the disordered state of the Catholic Church? The lack of such a lead has cost our national seminary dearly, and therefore also the Irish Church.

For how long more, under Providence, must Maynooth College, and those who are attached to it or concerned about it, suffer in this way?

Read this for an insight into a very different Maynooth (and a very different Ireland). Mgr Cremin is actually mentioned on page 91.

See also: The Scandal of Maynooth (1973) and Anonymous Seminarians Criticise Maynooth

The Liturgical Revolution

The Most Rev. Joseph Walsh, Archbishop of Tuam, concelebrating Mass on the 8th September, 1966, at Ballintubber Abbey, on the occasion of the Abbey’s 750th anniversary. 

Statement of the Standing Committee of the Irish Hierarchy on the Vernacular (1964)

The Standing Committee of the Irish Hierarchy at its meeting at Maynooth today had under consideration the implementation in Ireland of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, in accordance with the result of the Motu Proprio of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, of January 25, 1964.

A report from the Liturgical Commission appointed by the Irish Hierarchy last December and reports from different dioceses were before the meeting. Several degrees and methods of utilising the vernacular Irish and English, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were formulated, and these will be submitted for decision to the plenary meeting of the Irish Hierarchy in June. The final approval of these decisions rests with the Holy See.

The Standing Committee also considered the application of the new liturgical laws of the Divine Office and the Ritual for the Administration of the Sacraments and the funeral service. It will be recalled that the Ritual which was introduced in Ireland by the Hierarchy in 1958 with the approval of the Holy See, already anticipated many of the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council with regard to the use of the vernacular.

Given at Maynooth on 7th April, 1964.

Signed on behalf of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland.


Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.


Bishop of Achonry.

A Convert in a Changing Church (1969)

Iota Unum Now Online

Angelus Press have made several chapters of Romano Amerio’s Iota Unum freely available online. (hat/tip to the ever knowledgeable Mundabor)

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Redemption: Proof of the Doctrine

Statement of the Hierarchy of England and Wales on ‘Humanae Vitae’

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales released the following statement on the 17th September, 1968, after a seven-hour emergency session held to discuss the fallout from the release of Humanae Vitae:

1. When Pope Paul issued the Encyclical “Humanae Vitae” he asked the bishops to see that his teaching was presented in its true light “that is, to show its positive and beneficent aspect.”

The Encyclical, nevertheless, concerning as it does the source of human life, was bound to arouse strong feelings. Whatever decision the Holy Father made was bound to be a test of faith. Some Catholics were convinced that a change in the moral teaching and practice of the Church was inevitable. Others were just as strongly convinced that any change would be a betrayal of the faith.

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The Inspiration of the Bible

Archbishop John Charles McQuaid: “No change will worry the tranquility of your Christian lives”

The following sermon (posted below) was given by the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, at thanksgiving devotions in the Dublin Pro-Cathedral on the 9th December, 1965. Following the devotions — which had been organized in response to the specific requests of Pope Paul VI — the Archbishop imparted Benediction, at which the Te Deum was sung.

The sentence quoted in the title is often represented by Establishment commenters (whether media, academic, or ecclesiastical) as epitomical of Archbishop McQuaid’s reactionary attitude towards change in the Church.

During the first session of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop McQuaid distinguished himself as the only member of the Irish hierarchy to make a contribution — and did so from a predictably conservative standpoint. As a lover of Latin language and culture, he viewed proposals for an all-vernacular liturgy as tantamount to vandalism. He also expressed his opposition towards suggestions that competence over the local liturgy be transferred from individual bishops to national episcopal conferences.  Xavier Rynne (the chronicler of the Council) records that “Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin came out once more against any thought of change”. Sensing the progressive trajectory of the Council (as well as the lack of receptivity towards his conservative positions) he remained aloof from the next three sessions.

Archbishop McQuaid took a low view of ‘aggiornamento’ and found it very hard to adapt to the rapidly changing Church of the 1960s. Indeed, he has been demonized ever since as an obscurantist authoritarian. His implementation of the liturgical reforms was very conservative, and frustrated more radical, younger clergy (some of whom would later defend his legacy against lazy liberal caricatures).

For five long years the bishops of the world have been sustained by your constant prayers. In the very laborious session of the Council we have felt the power of your prayers, and if the Council was concluded in a spirit of peace and unanimity we owe that grace to God the Holy Ghost and to the intercessions of Our Blessed Lady.

On Wednesday, 2,300 fathers parted. It was a sad moment, for we shall never again see one another in this life. Drawn from every corner of the world, the Bishops had prayed and worked together for a long time.

Now is our work completed: in union with the Pope, our decrees were drafted, voted on and preached. One could not but feel that God the Holy Ghost had guided our deliberations and gently brought them to a firm conclusion. You may, in the last four years, have been disturbed by reports about the Council. May I, who have assisted at every meeting of the Council, assure you that the Council was a wondrous example of dignity, seriousness and courtesy.

You may have been worried by talk of changes to come. Allow me to reassure you. No change will worry the tranquility of your Christian lives. For, time after time, Pope John XXIII and our present Holy Father have insisted — but the point has been sadly missed — that our deliberations in the Council had only one purpose: to search the deposit of the Faith, to look more deeply into the teaching of the Church.

The Council has one meaning only for us — in all its constitutions and decrees: how can each one of us in his personal and family and social life be faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, as the Church makes known that teaching in the Vatican Council.

As the months will pass, the Holy Father will instruct us gradually how to put into effect the enactments of the Council. With complete loyalty, as children of the one, true Church, we fully accept each and every decree of the Vatican Council.

Statement of the Hierarchy of England and Wales on Contraception, May 7th, 1964

Debates at the Vatican Council are no longer secret, but discussions in the Conciliar Commissions remain confidential. It is not yet possible, therefore, to disclose full details of the agenda for the session due to commence in September. But speeches of the Pope and some of the cardinals in Rome make it fairly clear that certain subjects are bound to be debated. It seems likely, for example, that the Council will issue a statement on religious liberty and on the Jews. Decrees on Christian unity will be promulgated. These are eagerly awaited in this country, since they will enable the Hierarchy to draw up rules for the guidance of clergy and laity in ecumenical work.
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The Revolution Triumphant: Cardinal William Conway says Vatican II Invalidates Old Paternalism

The following speech was given by Cardinal William Conway, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, at the annual prize-giving in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth on the 19th June, 1966:

Today and for a long to come much of the life of the Church will be dominated by the teaching and decisions of the great Vatican Council which has just been concluded.

It is often said that the Council was the Church adapting herself to the conditions of a changing world.

I believe that the changes which have taken place in the world in recent years, dramatic though they be, are but a foretaste of a profound transformation of human society and human thought which has only just begun and which may take anything up to a hundred years to work itself out.
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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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The Revolution Triumphant: Irish Hierarchy’s June Meeting, 1965

The following press release was issued by the Irish hierarchy following their meeting at St. Patrick’s Maynooth on the 22nd-23rd June, 1965:

Among the matters discussed were:


In addition to proposals for more extensive use of the vernacular, draft texts of the “Prayer of the Faithful” and of the funeral service also were considered, and were referred to the Episcopal Liturgical Commission for revision.

A number of decisions also were taken to ensure the proper formation of the students of Maynooth in the doctrine and principles of the Constitution on the Liturgy. A Professor of Sacred Liturgy has been appointed and will pursue special studies at a liturgical institute before taking up his duties.

Liturgical actions in the college are to be carried out in conformity with the new liturgical norms. One of the oratories in the college is to be remodelled with an altar facing the congregation in order to familiarise the students with the new structure of the ceremonies.
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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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Vatican II and the Crisis of Confusion in American Catholicism

Donald J. Thorman: “It seems to me that if labels are useful, the one I’d have to pin on today’s laity: The Uncertain Catholic. The characteristic note of today’s American Catholic is confusion, indecision; we are treading water, waiting, wondering what is going to happen next. This is the age of the question mark. We no longer feel certain we have all the answers to all of men’s problems. We are no longer certain if we know all the right questions.” (America, Jan. 14, 1967, p.39)

Celledoor Miscellany has reposted these historic articles from back issues of Life magazine, which I highly commend to your attention. They give a vivid insight into the collapse of the ecclesiastical ancien régime following the Second Vatican Council and the internal turmoil facing the Church in the United States. Overall they make for very depressing reading.

I recently happened upon a succinct but comprehensive little booklet, concerning the same theme, entitled Keeping Your Balance in the Modern Church by Fr. Hugh J. O’Connell, C.SS.R., PhD. It was published in 1968 by Liguorian Pamphlets and bears the imprimatur of the Archbishop of St Louis, John J. Carberry. (Interestingly my pamphlet is also signed in pen by the conservative Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin.) It is a must read for any Catholic who has ever asked himself: ‘How did everything that was so good get so bad?’ While Fr. O’Connell’s pamphlet is largely specific to the American situation, it seems to me that strong parallels existed between all the churches of the English-speaking countries. All these local churches were dominated by Irish immigrants or their descendants in countries which had remained unconquered by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and where there existed no serious prospect of a communist takeover. None of these characteristics hold true for the countries of the Rhine basin, whose prelates led the push for change in the Church at the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore all the English-speaking local churches were known to have exhibited comparatively less enthusiasm for the pre-conciliar ressourcement and liturgical movements while (or perhaps because) they were still able to boast of high levels of Mass attendance, vocations, popular catechetical knowledge and devotional practice.

Fr. O’Connell contends that the American Catholic Church was caught off guard by the Second Vatican Council:

The Church in North America — laity, priests, nuns and even bishops — was almost completely unprepared for the way things turned out at Vatican Council II. This was the result of a number of factors.

1) Americans had remained relatively untouched by World War II. They experienced little of the ferment and unrest, the need to reassert the value of the individual person, which in Europe flowed from the struggle against Nazism and Fascism.

2) Americans, including theologians and bishops, had little or no acquaintance with the new personalist and existentialist philosophy. This had been developed in Europe, chiefly outside the church. Introduced by certain European theologians, this philosophy exerted a powerful influence on the deliberations of Vatican II and on Catholic life and teaching since the Council.

3) American Catholics were for the most part unaware of the writings of Protestant theologians, both orthodox and liberal. The ecumenical temper of the times brought these ideas to the attention of Catholic theologians, particularly in Germany, France and Holland.

Fr. O’Connell believes that the breakdown of theological censorship has facilitated doctrinal dissent and spread confusion among ordinary lay Catholics:

A good many of the religious problems of the average Catholic laymen, priests and nuns, who make no claim to be specialists or scholars, stem from the new air of freedom of theological thought and discussion resulting from Vatican II.

[…] The great danger, as every reasonable man must recognize, is that freedom brings with it the possibility that it will be abused. In the days before Vatican II, there was actually a very considerable amount of theological speculation and innovation; there were battles quite as heated as those going on today. The only difference was that such ideas were quietly presented in theological journals, and were subjected by experts to analysis and investigation, to weighing of reasons pro and con, to a more or less general acceptance or rejection by qualified theologians before they ever came to public attention.

Moreover, among Catholics the shock of new religious ideas on the minds of those who were not experts was cushioned by the censorship of books and articles and by the index of prohibited books. Before a book treating on religion could be published by a Catholic, it had to be submitted for censorship in order to obtain an imprimatur. If the book was considered to contain opinions contrary to Catholic doctrine, to the decrees of the Holy See, or even too wild and revolutionary, permission to print would be denied. To the liberal, who claimed the right to make up his own mind about religious truth, such censorship was intolerable. To the person who felt no competence to judge between truth and error in complex religious questions, it was a comfort.

Fr. O’Connell is convinced that the actual documents of the Second Vatican Council are capable of an orthodox interpretation, though a tinge of regret for their formulation is easily discernible. He likens the conciliar Fathers’ critical adoption of personalism to St. Augustine’s critical use of Plato or St. Thomas Aquinas’ blending of Aristotelian philosophy with Christian revelation.

Then came Vatican II. We have described how the North European group of bishops, headed by Germany and France, exerted a dominant influence in the Council. Moreover, their theologians wrote the revised versions of the more important schemas which served as basis of discussion in the Council. As a result, these schemas reflected a strong tone of personalism.

Of course, as was mentioned before, these documents were debated by bishops of every caste of mind. Some of the schemas were sent back for correction four or five times. The final version blended both the new personalism and the traditional acceptance of objective truth.

Liturgical Reform in Ireland

Many thanks to Jaykay for recounting his experiences of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms:

The new version came in from the first Sunday in January 1970 – at least in Armagh Archdiocese. That would have been Sunday 4th January. I clearly remember that the church was packed. We kids had got our new books just after Christmas (probably again in Woolworths!) and I recall that it was quite confusing as we hadn’t done any of the preparatory stuff in school before Christmas. Even the priests made loads of “mistakes” (and at that time it was still common for older priests to lapse into Latin if they got distracted e.g. to say “Dominus vobis… erm, eh… The Lord be with you…”). Nobody laughed in those days, of course! We had to learn the new versions of the confiteor and Domine non sum dignus (we were still told to strike the breast at the correct places – something me and some people of my generation still do) but otherwise the Ordinary was unchanged – until 1975.

Cardinal Conway was in charge and was quite conservative, so there was very little, if any, “creativity” on the part of priests.  Most of the older priests were also quite conservative so we still had loads of Latin Benedictions, 40 hours, confraternities etc. It really didn’t change until the 80s. It’s still not too bad in my neck of the woods, but the banality is everywhere  e.g. no incense at the main Mass on Easter Sunday and the usual flat, boring “let’s get it over with” attitude. No wonder the average age is about 50+!

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The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in Ireland

The following is an editorial from Church and State magazine (the organ of the old Campaign to Seperate Church and State), January, 2010:

The Age Of My Craven Deference Is Finally Over.” That was the headline on Professor Ronan Fanning’s article on the Murphy Report (Sun. Independent, 6 Dec.). Well, it was almost the headline. Fanning used the collective “our” rather than the personal “my”. But in the case of the Professor of Modern History at the chief College of the National University the personal and the collective merge. The Professor (singular) determines in great part what characterised the plurality of those who went through the educational system to its highest level.

It became well known to us long ago that the paid intelligentsia of the state were craven in their attitude towards the Church. They were sceptics in private but were cynically respectful in public, because they were craven.
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Anonymous Seminarians Criticise Maynooth

click above to expand and read in full (pdf)

The above article was published in the current Catholic Voice weekly newspaper. I have tippexed out some names.

The Roots of Liberal Theology

This essay was written by Rev. Thomas Slater, S.J. and published in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, January, 1907.

One who has been brought up in the old system of theology, and whose reading has for the most part been confined to its accredited exponents, is puzzled and distressed when he opens a volume of the new liberal theology. He had been taught that theology is a deductive science, and that in the drawing out of theological conclusions from the divinely revealed premises, great weight must be given to the authority of the Church, to whose safe keeping the deposit of religious truth was entrusted by God.

The new liberal theology shows scant courtesy to tradition, it criticises the teaching Church, and it appeals for its warrant in so doing to scientific convictions, to religious consciousness, and religious experience. It proclaims aloud that the human mind is necessarily progressive, that to live is to move, while the theologians stagnate in the ever recurring round of barren logical deductions from the same worn out formulas. Those formulas did well enough for the time when they were framed, they satisfied a want of the human mind, but a new age like ours must re-interpret for itself in language that it can understand the ever-living truths of religion. The old apologetic, with its elaborate proofs from miracles and prophecies, was framed on wrong lines, more calculated to produce a religious sceptic than a believing Christian. Religion is not so much a matter of the intellect, nor is it susceptible of demonstration, it belongs rather to the affective part of our nature, to the feelings and to the will. Hence the new interest in mysticism which we see manifested on all sides.

These are some of the characteristics of the new liberal theology, whose main object is to re-interpret Christian truth in the light and for the needs of the present day. In the books and magazine articles where liberal Catholics give expression to these views there is no attempt made to establish them, or even to indicate clearly the grounds on which they rest. The effect produced on the reader is one of uneasiness and bewilderment. The truth is, that the hidden principles on which those views rest are antagonistic to Catholic truth. They are drawn directly or indirectly from a new science which in its principles and in their application is subversive of Catholic doctrine. This new science has received various names, but in England it is commonly called the Science of Religion or Religions.

I propose in this paper to sketch in outline the main features of this new science, and then we shall be better able to form a correct estimate of Catholic liberal theology. We shall be able to view it in its native surroundings, in its environment, and thus we shall be able to form a better judgment concerning its nature and tendencies.
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