Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to presidential hopeful Kevin Sharkey about the problems this island faces now and in the future. Unfortunately, due to having to keep the article to a readable length, a whole range of topics had to be left on the cutting room floor.
Religion was one of these topics. It came up well into our conversation when I asked the following:

“Are you religious?”

I didn’t expect a positive response. I was wrong.

Well, not totally, but I was mostly wrong. Sharkey made it very clear from the outset that he had no attachment to any particular dogma. The way he put it was that, if he was in a plane plummeting to its doom, the first thing he would do would be to say a Hail Mary. However, the next thing he said he would do would be to say a Buddhist prayer and so on and so forth.

This response, although not exactly what I’d expected, was well within the margin of error, but we didn’t stop there. We moved on to talking about the Catholic Church as an entity, and how it is currently at a tipping point, something he expressed sincere worry about. According to him, Ireland needs the Church, whether we admit it or not.

Many of this publication’s supporters will appreciate that point of view, while many of its critics will deride it as nonsense. This is because many of these critics are adherents to what I like to call the cult of C’, or to give it its full title: The Cult of Catholicism-Complement. As the mathematical notation suggests, the cult’s beliefs are the exact opposite of what the Catholic Church believes. If the Church says left, they’ll say right. If the Church says yes, they’ll say no, and if the Church says something is immoral, this cult will hold it up as a virtue.

Knowing how this cult operates, it is no surprise that its advocates are keen to dismiss God and encourage religious immorality as a sort of religious anti-ritual. If Ireland under the Church was ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars,’ then what this cult desires is ‘The Land of Sin and Cynicism.’

Before this cult existed, the people of this island had a fascination with two things: knowledge and the divine. Nowadays, this cult does its utmost to crush these fascinations. It will happily admit to its hatred of divinity.

For the C’ cultist, if God isn’t dead already, and end should be put to him for being a racist, misogynist homophobe. Racist for making the Jews his chosen people, misogynist for not letting women be priests, and homophobic for saying that sodomy is an intrinsically disordered act. Not only would the cultists be out for blood, but they would also make the claim that only when God is dead will scholars finally be free from dogmatism.

But how will they be free? The dogma of C’ is simultaneously too broad for morality and too limiting for scholarly pursuits, especially when compared to its predecessor. Within the cult’s realm of civil discussion, any belief goes, however, everything outside this realm is heresy punishable by social execution.

Compare this to the Church of old, which had far more guiding principles for morality, as well as much more room for major disagreement both physical and metaphysical. For anyone looking to brand all Catholics as brainwashed sheep, you need look no further than Aer Lingus Flight 164. This flight was rather famously hijacked by a Catholic in an attempt to force the Pope to reveal the Third Secret of Fatima, a secret which was meant to be revealed more than twenty years before.

Many C’ adherents would say this man was driven mad by his Catholic beliefs, but one has to remember that despite being a Catholic, the hijacker positioned himself against the Church and in alignment with (according to church doctrine) the will of the Virgin Mary herself. Although this particular man’s actions were extreme, there are many others like him today who feel that the current version of the Church is acting against the will of God, and as such oppose it. This is not the view that a sheep holds. These are the views of people who actively think about what they believe in.

With this being established it is clear that C’, unlike its predecessor, is extremely limited in all of its functions as a religion. It offers very little moral guidance, other than ‘don’t be Catholic’. It offers very little opportunity in gaining knowledge in regards to the metaphysical and offers no comfort to its adherents, except in the form of antidepressant pills.

As such, this new Ireland of sin and cynicism is rendered completely inferior to the land which lived before, not that that’s saying much. The only redress one of these cultists have when faced with these facts is to say that the Catholic Church, on a fundamental level, was and is wrong as wrong as they themselves are.
I won’t argue against this. I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe in that God. Not in that way anyway.

However, the Catholic Church served a purpose that this current cult fails to fulfil. Ireland is today a land that embraces moral sin and metaphysical cynicism, and C’ offers no means of rectifying this existence.

Perhaps this state of existence is in part the fault of the Catholic Church. After all, it was the institution that went mad with power. It was the institution chiefly responsible for what happened at the Magdalene laundries, at Tuam, and in the Christian Brothers’ schools. It was the institution that when faced with accusations of wrongdoing, decided to not to seek out the truth and see that justice was done, but to instead to ignore the problem and sweep it under the rug. This ultimately gave way to the emergence of the cult that hates it, and all of old Ireland by extension.

Many say that the Church right now needs to get its act together. It needs to apologise for its wrongdoings and attempt to move forward. I think its too little too late for that. The Catholic Church has been unforgivingly rejected by this island, and once something is expelled from this land, it rarely ever comes back.

Ireland doesn’t need the Church. What Ireland needs is a faith. The reason why the Cult of anti-Catholicism is going to fail is not because it fights against a religion with divine authority, but because it fights against nothing at all, it does not fill the spiritual void left by the Church and will never be able to. So let me rephrase my revelation: Ireland needs a church, but not the Church.

It’s a truth that neither the majority of progressives or conservatives in this country are going to like, but must be acknowledged, lest we live in a world caught between the vice of nihilism and a dead religion.

Peter Caddle

Posted by Peter Caddle

Peter is the Burkean's resident expert on all things popular and cultural.