Friday, June 26, 2015

The snakes return to Ireland. . .

Long after Patrick sent them packing the snakes have returned to Ireland.  Where there was once a country in which divorce was illegal, where mass attendance was among the highest in Europe, and the Irish were traditional in most ways, now we have the first democratic vote to reject marriage between a man and a woman and to define it as a relationship without distinction as to sex.

How did this happen?

Some will say money helped -- the money from the left leaning agencies especially across the Atlantic.  Yes, I suppose that did help.  Some will say lack of any political will or opposition helped -- the politicians certainly abandoned traditional marriage from the Prime Minister all the way on down with but a few lone voices to reject the change.

But how could a country with so many people raised Roman Catholic, catechized in the faith and more practicing that faith than other nations of Europe, suddenly vote by more than 60% to reject church teaching?  There can be only one answer.  Catechesis was not effective, the faith was not really taught, and the people were left without much of a moral compass either by the teachers of the faith or by the leaders of the church in Ireland.

This is a warning shot across the bow of those who would teach the faith to children.  You cannot half-halfheartedly teach the faith, allow "conscience" to trump the Word of God, and leave it up to the people to figure out on their own what is right and wrong and then end up with any semblance of orthodoxy.  Teaching the faith means teaching the faith.  Teaching the faith means addressing Scripture as the highest truth that not even conscience can deny or dispute.  Teaching the faith means insisting that conscience calls us to affirm the Word of the Lord and not deny its teaching.

Wherever you find people falling away, you can almost always find a failure of teaching.  Whether you call it catechesis or not, whether it happens in the home or in the church, without faithful teaching the faith will not be faithful.  We do not do anyone much service by teaching them our own doubts or struggles as a substitute for Thus saith the Lord.  Nor do we provide any benefit to the student by suggesting that what we believe, confess, and teach is anything less most certainly true.

For too long we have been more interested in whether people liked us than they believed in the unchanging truth of God's Word faithfully confessed in every generation.  And what we ended up with is a cultural Christianity which finds little contradiction between voting for marriage without distinction as to sex and thinking themselves faithful Christian folk.

Better a smaller church in which people know and believe and confess the yesterday, today, and forever faith than a bigger church in which we pick and choose what we will believe as if doctrine were a smorgasbord and the biggest factor was personal preference.

The snakes have returned to Ireland and they will not be far behind in other places unless we teach our children well. . .


John Joseph Flanagan said...

Indeed, you have put your finger on the issue. The failure to teach the word of God to children and reaffirm it with adults in the local church has marginalized the faith as irrelevant to millions. The vacuum was filled gladly by the culture's progressive and secular humanist education system. We did not arrive where we are now overnight, and neither did formerly religious Ireland and much of the West come to the place of unbelief without decades of neglect by the church. I believe the church in the future will be much smaller, greatly purged, but stronger. Be content and grateful to Our Lord to be part of the remnant.

Anonymous said...

How many Irish people really long for the old days when women could not divorce an abusive husband or obtain access to contraception, when children were molested by priests and no one dared talk about it, when young women who were pregnant out of wedlock or were perhaps just being a little too disobedient were shipped off to Magdalene laundries? This is why there are so many people of Irish descent living outside of Ireland, huge numbers of young people would emigrate due to the lack of economic opportunities and to escape the oppressive control by the church. Maybe old men long for those days, but they sound pretty dreary to me. The Roman church in Ireland drove people away with its abusive practices and its going to be hard to get them back.

Unknown said...


The RC church was not the abuser in Ireland that sent people out in the 1800s; it was an economic issue due to agricultural blight. The huge numbers of folk of Irish descent (of which I am one) are mostly out of the land because of economic issues even today. Abusive husbands are the problem in marriage, not the Church. Even at that, the Church is composed of humans, each of which is a sinner as well as a saint.

I do not doubt most people do not pine for the "good old days." It is not age, but heart related. We do not, by nature like to hear the hard voice of the Law. We want to make our own way and ignore he Truth of the Gospel, which tells us Christ made the way and paid the price for sinners (including abusive husbands, corrupt church officials, and myself).

Unfortunately, it looks as if some of the "snakes" escaped from Ireland, and swam the pond to our shores. The Supreme Court has opened the gate (to mix meaphors), and as the other poster has said, the Church of the future looks to be much smaller. Fortunately, those left will certainly be confessing Christians, but likely persecuted. They will all still be sinners, however.

James Kellerman said...

Was it bad teaching that is at fault--or the refusal of people to embrace that teaching? By all accounts, the clergy in Ireland are far more conservative than elsewhere in Europe and also less inclined to trim their teaching to please their audience. Nonetheless, they have been unable to stop the large-scale secularization from happening in Ireland. And it has been a largely secularized Ireland--where 70% of self-professing Roman Catholics can't be bothered to show up for mass--that has changed the country's direction on the hot-button social issues mentioned in the original post.

But why the secularization? Morticia mentions some scandals, which certainly haven't helped the church. But scandals by themselves do not compel people toward secularization. Ask yourself, for example, how many Republicans have become Democrats or vice versa because of a scandal. At most scandals may serve as a catalyst for a change already underway. A better explanation is to be found in Quebec's Quiet Revolution in the 1960's. In both Ireland and Quebec the church had not only been a religious body, but a cultural mainstay against the English, indeed, the only institution strong enough to guarantee Celtic and Francophone culture. But as the government's power grew, the state became strong enough to fend off the nasty British and Anglophone Canadians. Both the Irish and Quebec governments took over heath and educational institutions that had previously belonged to the church, thus reinforcing the idea that the secular state was the only entity worth reckoning with. And it then became apparent that most people in Ireland and Quebec had participated in the church less because they believed its teachings than because it seemed to be a convenient way to fight the English. Once they were more secure, the value of the church receded.

This is not a phenomenon found only on distant shores. In our own country many joined the church in the 1950's because they saw it as a bulwark against an advancing Communism. Now that the Cold War has ended, many people see no need to continue to participate in the life of the church. Sound teaching might help retain some of those people, if they come to understand for the first time in their lives what Christianity is really about and then embrace it. But some never were interested and can't be bothered now to learn.

Alec said...

Dear Pastor Peters,

Your thoughts continue to hold forth a sane and timeless Christianity which seems surprisingly rare.

This post, and Hurt crimes? were featured on today's Eyes and Ears. Hope many new people find Pastoral Meanderings.

With kind thoughts,
Alec Satin