There are some lessons for Catholics in the unionist tradition

The time  is overdue to review the historic reputation of opposition to Home Rule as Rome Rule in the light of the latest report on the Catholic Church’s continuing saga of abuse, on events in the diocese of Cloyne.  Can we admit to the uncomfortable thought that some of what the early Paisley said was true?  Yet it would be good if we could use the lessons of Cloyne and the previous reports for better than a few rounds of sectarian wrangling, like achieving greater mutual sympathy and respect.

While it still remains a mystery to me how the powerful northern protestant tradition was for so long underrated during the great Home Rule controversy,  human rights had not developed as a significant force in the Westminster tradition. Nationalism/imperialism became more dominant even as the franchise expanded. On one side, the Church was the people’s institution; on the other, freedom was Protestant and imperial.

It has taken the best part of a century for unionism to accept the limitations of their tradition of freedom. Over the same period, nationalism with a good deal of conviction was able to  present itself as a liberation force. But times have changed. Is nationalism north and south about to make a similar transition and allow a mixture of individual rights and the democratic State finally to take over social provision from an institution which has proved that its priorities finally lie elsewhere? As for the Church itself, it could do worse than rebuild its secular reputation on a basis of human rights.

 

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  • Into the west

    It is high-time Brian,
    a human rights agenda will expose all the bigotry on either side.
    it is fair to say resistors of individual liberty come in all shades and colours

  • ulsterobserver

    Well said Brian.

  • andnowwhat

    The common internet term for things such as this “blog” is a “troll thread”.

    Something Mr Walker has been doing a lot of late.

    This sort of opportunistic digging is something one would expect from a PIL troll on an internet forum, not a blogger on Slugger O’ Toole

  • SK

    With respect to the Home Rule crisis, it’s a mistake to conflate Ulster Protestant intransigence with notions of freedom. Had human rights developed as a significant force in Westminster, then the unionist disregard for democracy would have been given short shrift.

    On the social provision front, it’s evident that nobody does cognitive dissonance quite like an Irish Catholic. Even in the midst of our own mini-reformation, we’re still meekly asking the church if it feels like ceding control of a couple of schools any time soon.

    Time to kick Bishop Brennan up the arse methinks.

  • Toastedpuffin

    “Can we admit to the uncomfortable thought that some of what the early Paisley said was true?”

    Right but Repulsive?

    “nationalism with a good deal of conviction was able to present itself as a liberation force”

    Wrong but Wromantic?

  • Into the west

    andnowwhat
    SK didn’t seem to have a problem with the argument.
    What are you struggling with?
    perhaps you could attempt to rebalance the equation
    that has put you all out of sorts?
    Isn’t that what slugger is about? and not your
    “fair-gaming on Brian Walker”.. which is a yellow card !

  • Nunoftheabove

    SK

    Quite so; time to tell, rather than ask, the Bish to touch his toes and chew on his belt. Given the choice, the edge of the Cliffs of Dooneen would work for me.

    It’s way, way past time for them to be banished from the public square with as little ceremony as possible and as much permanence as can reasonably be guaranteed. Time was when anyone who considered themselves – or wanted to be considered as – even mildly progressive in Irish politics had plenty to say about the malevolent position of the church. the economic position of the republic in effect requires the reinvention of the model of government and a serious questioning of all institutions of/within the state. Kicking the clerics out will be one essential foundation of a new republic, an essential if insufficient condition for building a truly democratic pluralist state.

  • “Is nationalism north and south about to make a similar transition and allow a mixture of individual rights and the democratic State finally to take over social provision from an institution which has proved that its priorities finally lie elsewhere?”

    I am not exactly sure what “social provision” you are talking about. Surely this is not about education? (the only really significant activity that the church is involved in outside religious worship).

    I am wondering how you join up the paedophile priest scandals with the “Home rule is Rome Rule” slogan of the 19th century. The Paedophile priest scandal is a symptom of exactly what?

  • aquifer

    “Can we admit to the uncomfortable thought that some of what the early Paisley said was true?”

    What was that now Brian? That croppies should just lie down?

    Ulster protestants destablilised the state by trying to deny catholic citizens their full british rights and freedoms. And the UVF and their Orange brothers are still at it!

    When does slow learning graduate to become terminal stupidity?.

    Rescuing irish national separatism and the roman church from political oblivion is a loyalist party trick, to be rehashed and repeated complete with dropped body parts and a new uninvited audience..

    Do lounge barr bigots imagine the Brits will risk another explosion in the City to keep McLawyer and O’Newmoney out of the Belmont suburbs?

    There are lessons for Ulster Protestants in modern Britain, but they should not have to emigrate before learning them.

  • Reader

    Seymour Major: I am wondering how you join up the paedophile priest scandals with the “Home rule is Rome Rule” slogan of the 19th century. The Paedophile priest scandal is a symptom of exactly what?
    A state within a state? The presumption of moral authority? An organisation that was allowed to be its own judge? Unaccountable power?
    Stormont got things wrong too. It devolved quite a bit of internal autonomy to exactly the wrong people. Isn’t OFMDFM also likely to kick off an inquiry into the local abuse scandals. Just as soon as it gets cover from the nationalist parties, of course.

  • An Sionnach Fionn

    ‘There are some lessons for Catholics in the unionist tradition’

    Interesting headline. Can one not be a Catholic and a Unionist? It would seem that the natural assumption is that Unionism is an exclusively Protestant tradition.

    As headlines go, taken with the body of the article itself, I would have to say that it reflects poorly on the author’s own opinions and beliefs.

  • Alias

    The various reports show that there is some truth to the ‘state within a state’ theme since the Catholic church in Ireland cited Canon law and even diplomatic protocols whenever the state made a token attempt to hold it to account for its actions in this jurisdiction. In addition, the protagonists of that organisation placed loyalty to the Vatican above their duty of loyality to the state and its citizens. So there was a culture there were Rome was allowed to rule within this state, and we the citizens now suffer the consequences of yet another (de facto) derogation of sovereignty by the Irish state.

  • Brian Walker

    I think the questions raised earlier have been answered later in the thread. The state within a state theme appeared to work well enough for an overwhelming Catholic majority, despite concerns like the Mother and Child controversy which was suppressed half a century ago. The abuse scandals have transformed opinion.The criticlal analysis was endorsed by Garret FitzGerald for example shortly before his death and the Labour politician Ruari Quinn during the election campaign. The wider pastoral role of the Church can of course continue but under much greater public accountability and transparency. 19th century French-style secularism probably goes too far. People seem to want diverses systems of education and health that offer them some genuine choice, under overall democratic control

  • Nunoftheabove

    Seymour Major

    “I’m am wondering how you join up the paedophile priest scandals with the “Home rule is Rome Rule” slogan of the 19th century. The Paedophile priest scandal is a symptom of exactly what?”

    Rome rule of course…or are you being ironic ? Brian can explain why he chose Paisley rather than, say, Carson, whose position on the separatism of the southern states was effectively that partition was the least worst option available to loyal protestants in the north – he said that they (unionists) did not want to rule Catholics, but rather they wanted to be ruled by (the British) parliament.
    Nationalists need to face into the fact that the Home/Rome slogan had an essential, if exaggerated, truth about it. As the recent / current events show. Anyone who doesn’t view Cloynes and its predecessor reports in their proper context – the obvious and proven collusion within the church and the relationship between the church and the state since the inception of the state simply isn’t paying attention. Or they’re stupid. Or they’re lying. Or they’re indifferent to the profound evil manifest in the church’s management of these matters.

    The misuse of that fear for entirely demagogic and opportunistic reasons in the north by the orange state itself and more latterly by Paisleysism, is of course to be considered and placed in the debit column of the same ledger. As is the cosey relationship between the catholic church and the northern state itself and of coure between unionism and orangeism.

    There are lessons for unionism as well as for nationalism in this. It’s a disgrace as well as a pity that there is such a lamentable absence of adult debate going on in relation to it.

  • I admit that when I posed the question “The Paedophile priest scandal is a symptom of exactly what?” it was left there as a sort of tease. The answers are interesting.

    However, the picture is still incomplete. Why was the Republic of Ireland a state within a state? I say “was” because Ireland has changed remarkably since the formation of the Progressive Democrats 25 years ago.

    Putting this another way, why were other Catholic countries not also “states within a state.” For example France (90% Catholic) is anything but that.

    The holy Roman empire has long gone but there was a lagging view amongst Protestants (not just in Northern Ireland) that a Catholic head of state was somehow beholden to the Pope in Rome. That suggestion was used against John F Kennedy. He chewed up that argument and spat it out.

    Why, then, did Ireland take much longer to break free from the Influence of Rome?

    Historically, the Catholic Church has tended to be at its most influential during times of oppression. I would suggest that the memory sectarian conflict in Ireland, including the era of the penal laws, is a very big reason why that influence took so long to break.

    I think we need to be careful when we try to compare Unionism with Nationalism and Protestantism with Catholicism, as if one has a greater virtue than the other.

    I prefer just to make two observations about all religions. One is that the leaders of all those religions think that their way is the most superior path to truth, light and salvation. The other is that they all have their fair share of dark history.

  • FuturePhysicist

    An Sionnach Fionn, I have to agree Catholic Unionists and Catholic Nationalists have the same church at the end of the day, if they want reform they don’t have to resort to the constitutional question but rather be lay activists for it.

    Also it’s a bit naive to say that human rights grant freedom, people do that and they must have faith in people to ensure that the spirt of human rights are maintained. Sometimes Human Rights activists are modern day Pharisees too eager to preach about this law and that law but would not surrender one penny or even a hello to a poor person.

  • FuturePhysicist

    One correction, clerical activists could be included alongside lay ones.

  • FuturePhysicist

    It’s a bold assumption that “Rome Rule” plays on any unionist’s mind these days, Catholic or Protestant.

  • Reader

    Brian Walker: The abuse scandals have transformed opinion.
    Only in part. I started to learn some of what had been going on as soon as I started to move in mixed company. But the abuse scandals didn’t reach the news rooms until the Church had already lost much of its authority – over more mainstream issues like contraception and divorce.
    I suppose that means that, in a very small way, I was complicit in the silence. But would anyone have listened seriously to hearsay evidence from a mere Prod anyway.
    But what about the press?

  • Nunoftheabove

    “People seem to want diverses systems of education and health that offer them some genuine choice”

    It’s not the business of a modern republican state to facilitate – or to pay for – choices when it comes to the religious instruction of young citizens. Its obligation is to provide equal access to an education system in which its children can be educated – rather than stultified – and to be allowed and encouraged to recognize and later realize their human potential in later life irrespective of their background and without any regard for – or without any interest in – any religious beliefs, preferences etc which the child’s parents might have.

  • Damian O’Loan

    The relation of the Catholic Church to human rights was made reasonably clear during the debate around the Equality Act at Westminster recently. Human rights are to be supported when they are in line with Catholic doctrine, opposed when they contradict it. There is no question as to which is subservient.

    There would be much to learn from the opposition shown to Catholicism by Paisley, had he not spoiled his position by being openly sectarian and confusing doctrine with an entire population. As one who also claimed to bear the only path to morality, his ideology is no better base for democratic ideals than Catholicism. Both are entirely unsuitable.

    There is no reason why secularism should not be thoroughly embraced. It offers equality to all faiths and preference to evidence-based belief. Constitutional change to remove references to a Holy Trinity, people under God, etc. in the South would be a useful step towards integrating people in a united, secular republic – a more advanced form of democracy than that on offer in the UK.

    It’s very helpful to have respected commentators such as Brian Walker point to the contradiction between Catholicism and nationalism or republicanism. The former, like any religion claiming exclusive universal truth, will always be an obstacle to a coherent social contract.

  • sparrow

    @SK

    With respect to the Home Rule crisis, it’s a mistake to conflate Ulster Protestant intransigence with notions of freedom. Had human rights developed as a significant force in Westminster, then the unionist disregard for democracy would have been given short shrift.

    But it was all about freedom, freedom from being subsumed into an all Ireland democratic unit, even one still within the UK. You may think that an inappropriate concern but it’s churlish not to recognise it as a matter of fact. I certainly recognise that Irish Republicanism was a movement for freedom from being subsumed into an all archipelago democratic unit despite being a unionist.

    Such concerns are in practice orthogonal to human rights concerns or anything you’ll find in human rights declarations. You can read the European Convention on Human Rights or the UN Declaration from cover to cover and you’ll be absolutely none the wiser as to whether Cyprus should be one state or two, whether Kososvo is Serbia or not, whether there ought to be a Basque state, what should be done with South Ossetia, or indeed whether there should be a united Ireland or partition.

    Respect for every generally recognised human right is compatible with both of the basic republican or Ulster unionist principles. e.g.

    A) That the nationalist people of Ireland had a right to self determination to secede from the UK but that the unionist population for some reason or other did not have a right of self determination to secede from Ireland.
    B) That the nationalist people of Ireland had a right to self determination to secede from the UK and that the unionist population had an equivalent and equal right of self determination to secede from Ireland which then required a utilitarian compromise.

    In fact complete respect for human rights is even compatible with the position that the Republic of Ireland never had the right to secede and is still part of the British nation (official BNP policy IIRC).

  • Taoiseach

    Why would we want to give more power to the State. This would be the State in whose care 200 children have died during the last ten years. This would be the State which criticises the Holy See for pointing out the obvious, that the Irish bishops framework document did not have the force of law, while the State’s own parallel document Children First didn’t have the force of law, that criticises the Holy See for noticing that there was no mandatory reporting requirement in Irish law. The State is doing every thing it can to point the finger at everyone but the State.

  • Eglise en bois

    Brian, I think someone may have made this point before, but not to much aclaim!

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/letters/ireland-worse-off-with-rome-rule-after-all-14580755.html

    However it is worth pointing out that Paisley isn’t the best exemplar of the genuine concern, the concerns of misuse of power by the CC was real and some may siggest non sectarain back at the beginning of the 20th century and maybe this all proves these concerns to be right

  • Nunoftheabove

    Taoiseach

    “Why would we want to give more power to the State”

    – because it’s more democratic (in a genuine republic) and it would need bolstering to face down the profound immorality of the catholic church.

    Almost all of the criticism you level at the state relate to its over-regard for and accommodation with the role of the CC within the life of the state. That needs permanently eliminated so that there’s no structural relationship between the two any longer of any description.