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The City, The Country, and the Church (cont.)






Mega Fix


TWA Flight 800






Today, the Catholic Church continues to influence the life of its people, more so than any Church in the industrial world. There is, in fact, no real attempt to separate church and state. 93% of the population claims affiliation. More than 60% attend Mass weekly. The Church oversees the great majority of "public schools," and prayer is a staple even in those it does not.

The church hierarchy also takes an active interest in national affairs. Partly as a result, divorce is not merely illegal; it's unconstitutional. Abortion is not merely unconstitutional; it's unthinkable. "Choice" here means that women should have the option to leave the country for an abortion.

"Ho, ho,ho, ho," chanted a small, fringe group at a rally in Galway before a national referndum on divorce, "women have the right to go." In the referendum, they won this right for the first time, although some of the rural counties voted heavily against it.

Although nearly as strong as ever in rural areas, the Church, like all Irish cultural institutions, must find its place in an increasingly cosmopolitan world. The siren call of secularization fills the airwaves from both Europe and America and has found a rapt audience particularly among urbanites, intellectuals and the young. The signs are everywhere. Whereas contraceptives were illegal as late as the 70's, Dublin now has a public "condomerie." Divorce laws are circumvented. Young women and men routinely live together unmarried. One out of every six Irish children is born out of wedlock. And when one of those children is sired by a Bishop--as was played out tabloid-style recently in a huge international scandal--the Church accelerates its own decline.

In Northern Ireland, the young and the intellectual continue to find their identity in Catholicism. They don't have much choice. But in the South, in the Irish Republic, few pay much heed to the sectarian troubles of the North. And so here a new--and paradoxical--division seems to be emerging. On the one side is an activist urban elite which seeks its identity in Irish language and culture but which has little use for the church: consider, for instance, Sinead O'Connor's shredding of the Pope's picture on Saturday Night Live. On the other side is the stoic yeomanry which clings to the traditional church while slowly losing the language it kept alive for the urban elite. If this is not challenge enough for any culture, all of Ireland's citizens must contend with one other great and growing cultural force-- America.

Stay tuned.



Posted: 1993
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