Credit: Gript

The broken myth of tolerant Ireland

Ireland is, famously, a tolerant, diverse, multicultural, pluralistic, open, compassionate, decent, liberal society.

We know that this is true because we never stop congratulating ourselves about it. How welcoming we are. How kind. How inclusive. Congratulating ourselves on this is basically the whole point of one of RTE’s most popular shows: Reeling in the Years. The whole point of that programme is look at how far we’ve come. 

All of which makes it both very hard, and very easy, to explain the current reaction to a Priest giving a sermon in a church.

It’s only hard to explain, though, if you believe, for one second, the bullshit about how tolerant Ireland is. Nobody sane could listen to the hysteria about a Priest giving a sermon, this week, and conclude that this is a tolerant country. A mad country, maybe. But not a tolerant one.

Some religions – most religions, actually – teach some form of sexual morality. The Catholic Church, as we know, has its own doctrines and dogmas and rules. Priests must be entirely celibate. Sex before marriage is considered sinful. Gay sex, in the words of Pope Benedict, is considered “intrinsically disordered”.

The good thing, if one passionately disagrees with those views, is that there is no requirement for anybody to be a Catholic, or to attend a Catholic church, or to take religious education classes – even in Catholic Schools. All of it, every word of it, is optional, at every stage. From baptism to first communion, to what kind of funeral you have. It is perfectly possible to live in Ireland your whole life and never set foot in a Catholic Church. Many Protestants have managed it for a century.


In the words of the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday, an apology from the Priest is called for. He was not the only one to call for an apology: Liveline yesterday was, basically, a parade of hysterics screaming “apologise!!!” at the poor man. If nothing else, it was good radio.

But an apology to who, exactly?

What is not clear, either in that call for an apology, or any of the other ten thousand expressions of outrage, is this:

Was Father Sheehy wrong to say what he thought, or to think what he said?

This is an important question. Whatever the craven, and more than slightly pathetic Bishop of Kerry might have said in his quest for the media to leave him alone, the views expressed by the Priest were, unmistakably, Catholic.

The Pope, himself, on the question of transgender people, has said the following: “Gender Theory does not recognise the order of creation”.

On Gay sex, the Pope himself signed a decree banning blessings for Gay couples. The words in it read: “God cannot bless sin”.

On abortion, you hardly need me to re-state the church’s position.

The question then is this: These are the official views of the church. Whether a Catholic says them aloud, or holds to them internally, they are supposed to be something Catholics believe. So why is the Minister for Foreign Affairs singling out one Priest for an apology?

Would he still owe an apology for simply believing these things, and not saying them?

Because we know, after all, that this is what Catholics are supposed to believe. Many do not believe it, of course, but there’s no way for us to sort the virtuous from the faithful.

Why not write to the Pope, and demand an apology for how the Catholic faith offends the sensibilities of the new, modern, Ireland?

Because that, I fear, is what this is really about: It is the opposite of tolerance, and pluralism, and inclusion, and secularism. It’s the Catholic religion coming head-to-head with the new state religion.

If the views of the Church – and they are the views of the Church – cannot be expressed in Ireland inside a church, then where can they be expressed?

Where does this end?


We tolerate things in this country in the name of religious pluralism, after all, that are far more impactful than simply words. Both Jewish people, and Muslim people, for reasons of faith, will not eat meat that has not been slaughtered in the traditional way – without stunning. We allow, in this country, the name of religion, animals to be slaughtered by having their throats sliced open while they are fully conscious.

Not only do we do this in Ireland, by the way, for people who live here. We also actually slaughter meat this way wholesale, for export, to satisfy the religious requirements of people in the middle east. Nobody blinks an eye. There’s money in it you see.

But we’re outraged over a sermon. Spare me.

This is not, I’d argue, a tolerant country at all. We are, in fact, extraordinarily intolerant. It is not a new point, but Ireland in 2022 is a mirror image of Ireland in 1952 in almost every single way, right down to the oppressive, ruthlessly enforced demands that every person conform to the single transferable way of thinking.

It may surprise younger readers to know this, but Catholic Ireland used to congratulate itself just as often as this new Ireland does: Just like the new Ireland is more moral than its neighbours, so was the old one. Just as the new Ireland has purged itself of the new sins, like thisphobia and thatphobia and theotherphobia, so too did the old one congratulate itself on purging itself of the old sins, like fornication and pornography and communism and degeneracy, and so on.

Of course, all those things were still there, beneath the surface. Just as the things Liberal Ireland believes it has eradicated remain today, beneath the surface.

One thing that has not gone, though, is the intolerance, and the smugness, and the moral certainty. Those things were not buried with John Charles McQuaid. They have just been passed on, to his secular successors.

You should all know: You all sound much more like Father Ted Crilly, protesting the immoral fillum, than you all sound like Barack Obama.

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