July 05, 2015

The Protestantisation of Southern Ireland

COI Dean Victor Griffin who opposed the Protestant ascendency in the North and the Catholic ascendancy in the South, was the first public representative of new-look Protestantism in Ireland said Roy Foster
Ian D'Alton wrote that the Irish Free State "was rescued by Catholics becoming Protestants." This was a formulation most prominently articulated by the recently deceased Eddie Holt - The Protestantisation of the South's middle class. Coincidentally I wrote in 2015 that 'The Calvinist Ulsterman is more of a Catholic Irishman than is commonly realised.' The religious proclivities of the North and the South have inverted.


Eddie Holt's article was published on November 18 2000 in the Irish Times. He wrote about culturally Protestantised Catholics in Ireland, ‘Swapping Religions for Riches’:
"The point in relation to cultural Protestantism in the Republic is that it is essentially not a spiritual migration but a social one."
He also wrote:
"The cultural Protestantisation of a section of the Irish Catholic middleclass, which sends its children to Protestant schools, agrees much more often with Church of Ireland positions on moral issues such as contraception, abortion and divorce and aspires to "genteel” lifestyles. Some of the reasons for cultural Protestantism are obvious. As in all migrations, these include push and pull factors."
He also wrote:
"It’s a subject which seldom receives an airing. The conflict in the North has maintained the words "Catholic” and “Protestant” as almost indecently sensitive, and hey, well, once you get the executive job and the BMW, you’re much too sophisticated for that primitive, sectarian nonsense, aren’t you? You live in post-religious Ireland where, as an exemplar of homo consumerensis, you can pick 'n’ mix to complement your status and aims. That, at any rate, often appears to be the defining mentality of many economically successful, culturally Protestantised Catholics."
And added:
"De Valera’s dream of frugality (at least for the mass of us) was in the Augustinian tradition. Theologically, Protestantism is more suited to the Celtic Tiger and its deification of the entrepreneurial urge. In the vacuum left by the collapse of pious old certainties, cultural Protestantism has offered some people a role model.”
And more:
"Cultural Protestantism is primarily, though not exclusively, a Dublin - most notably a south Dublin - thing. In smaller communities, traditional ties and loyalties naturally remain more robust. In the capital, however, the perceived cachet of such former bastions of Protestant culture as "Royal”-retaining institutions (Royal Dublin Society, Royal Irish Academy, Royal College of Surgeons, Royal Institute of Irish Architects) and of Trinity College and The Irish Times exemplifies the symbolic persistence of these institutions as defining of social status.“
And this was a nice note:
"As the faultline in Irish society shifts to race (natives v immigrants), older fault-lines (Catholics v Protestants) can fuse unpredictably."
He said that for protestants there is a different perception of "a Catholic middle-class, increasingly secular and even Protestantising in culture, and a more fundamental Catholic strain which supports the greener pastures of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein."

Interestingly in 2015, ahead of the referendum of same-sex marriage, an influential priest advised Catholic parishioners to follow Protestant teaching. Co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) Fr Brendan Hoban said, "come [Referendum day], there’s no middle ground between Yes and No. ‘Maybe’ isn’t on the ballot paper. Perhaps the best guide is the advice given by the Church of Ireland to its members – vote, using your conscience."

Roy Foster wrote in ‘Luck of the Irish’ (2007) page 37:
"In the widest sense the transformation of attitudes to authority [in Ireland]… Suggests a reassertion of attitudes in some areas of life in the Republic that are - with a lower-case p at least - protestant."
He wrote on page 52:
"A liberal form of Protestantism in the Republic achieved respectability, and even fashionability."
He wrote on page 56:
"Protestantism has become more "Irish” now, converging with the new-look liberal Catholicism of the Irish middle-classes. The latter looks more and more like Irish Protestantism without the name. What else, after all, is “pro-religious anti-clericalism?"
He quoted Hubert Butler on the same page, who wrote in 1970:
"I am beginning to believe that we are more likely to see what used to be considered the Protestant virtues in the growing number of liberal Catholics than among our own people."
On page 57 Foster also quoted Tom Inglis, explaining that there’s a point at which a la carte Catholicism becomes a kind of Protestantism:
"Irish Catholics are not only becoming more Protestant - that is, devising their own spiritual and moral path to salvation - they are also becoming more secular."
Foster wrote on page 58:
"Church of Ireland Dean Victor Griffen of St Patrick’s Cathedral was the first public representative of new-look Protestantism in the Republic. By the end of his ministry Protestantism was almost fashionable again; it was certainly distinctively Irish."
Foster cited Enda Longley who said:
"The Northern Catholic Church, still locked into a nineteenth-century relationship with nationalism, is also pursuing its own interests, in that Northern Catholics can be kept thirty years less liberal than their Southern counterparts."
Roy Foster wrote on page. 59:
"A Church never noted for its fashionability is now adopted by the style icons of alternative Ireland: the singer Gavin Friday, asked in 2003 to list the greatest influences on his artistic development, put as third on the list 'Protestants’, and the importance of Protestant evangelical culture for his fellow musicians U2 is a matter of record. Protestantism within the Republic has also received a numerical boost from certain sectors of recent immigration. Garret Fitzgerald, sharp for his purposes, has pointed out that 'one of the most remarkable, although in general unremarked, features of the Irish state has been the disappearance of Protestant Unionism from most of the republic.’ 'What now differentiates Protestants politically from Catholics’, he added, 'is only the fact that they do not share the Anglophobia that is still to be found in some sections of the Catholic population. The integration of Protestants into the life of the Republic has been much assisted by the questioning of those thorny issues of Catholic social law from about 1970, largely provoked by the women’s movement. A cynic might add that this integration is also eased by the major role that the community played for much of the last century in business and commercial life; by some computations, their influence actually increased disproportionately between 1926 and 1992."
Read about Gavin Friday here. Foster cited Labour politician Ruairi Quinn who said in 1996 Ireland is a "post-Catholic, pluralist Ireland." Roy Foster finished, writing on page 66:
"If one looks at the Republic of Ireland over the last thirty years in religious terms, it is hard not to think of that standard exam question for students of Irish history: 'Why did the Reformation not succeed in Ireland?’ And answer: 'It did, but it took four hundred and fifty years’."
David McWilliams wrote in 2005,‘Protestant schools are bursting at the seams’:
"Economics can explain the trend of non-Protestants sending their children to Protestant schools. But there is something else happening that goes beyond the rational idea of parents wanting to get the ‘best’ for their children. 
It has less to do with economics than anthropology, and is infinitely funnier. In the age of abundance that Ireland is experiencing, money alone no longer marks people out. More elusive factors, such as taste, appreciation and uniqueness, come into play. 
Wealthy people are trying to find ways to distinguish themselves from their counterparts. The wealthy want to be posh, rather than merely rich. No matter how you look at it, southern Protestants were always posh. They are the ecumenical equivalent of bouillabaisse. As a consequence, rich Catholic parents are trying to mark out the distinctiveness of their children by not sending them to the local Catholic school, but to the more rarefied Protestant school. 
However, this takes a bit of work. The wealthy might, in the extreme, have to swap sides or, at the very least, nod in that general direction. People who haven’t been to Mass for years suddenly turn up in Protestant churches. 
They are the ones who mime the hymns and use the word ‘Vespers’ inappropriately. They also commandeer a stall at the summer fete or take the Brownies enthusiastically up the Sugarloaf. With the zeal of converts, they out-Protestant the Protestants. 
This creates a problem for the rector. He has to decide who is sufficiently Protestant and who is not, and who gets into the national school. Does he reject the children of the newly observant wannabe Protestants in favour of those of the totally atheist ‘ethnic’ Protestants? 
Does he dare to second-guess motives and distinguish between the anthropologically-driven snobs and the economically-savvy new realists? He needs the wisdom of Solomon. 
Then again, Protestants were always partial to the Old Testament."
Mary Kenny wrote:
"In his wonderful series of essays about modern Ireland, Luck and the Irish, Professor Roy Foster suggested that socially, Catholic Ireland had already become more Protestant: that is, more a la carte about matters of worship, more individualistic, more guided by personal conscience than by a Vatican Magisterium."
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra wrote:
"Under Pope Francis’ leadership, the Catholic Church is looking more, well, Protestant."
Patricia Miller wrote:
"Conservative Catholics have become more “evangelical” in their emphasis on living and proclaiming a “gospel-centered” pro-life identity as central to their Catholicism versus more traditional notions of Catholicism that focused on private religious practice and charitable works. (One Christianity Today writer recently argued that Catholics are even becoming more “Protestant” in their relationship to the Bible—at the behest of Pope Francis, no less.)"
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