Rarely has a religious culture collapsed more rapidly than that of Catholic Ireland, which just 30 years ago seemed indestructible. Incredibly, it looks as if the Irish Church will have ordained more bishops than priests in 2020. It goes without saying that the Irish abuse crisis has hugely accelerated the process of secularisation in what was once the most Catholic of countries. Young people in Ireland now refer to the clergy with a withering disdain verging on hatred.
My guest today, the celebrated Irish journalist, broadcaster and playwright Mary Kenny, offers a more nuanced analysis of the powerful and paradoxical world in which she grew up: one in which Catholic clergy and lay people could be simultaneously fervently pious, warm-hearted and yet paralysed by petty snobbery. She talks about how the Irish Free State handed far too much power to bishops and priests. In effect, they replaced the disappearing Anglo-Irish nobility as the new aristocracy of rural Ireland, exercising an authority over people’s lives that could be generous or malevolent and sometimes a mixture of both. I think it’s a gripping interview, full of the little details that make Irish short stories so compulsively readable.
About the show
The most important and controversial topics in world religion, thoroughly dissected by a range of high profile guests. Presented by Damian Thompson.
Pope Francis renewed his campaign against the Latin Mass this month, permitting his liturgy chief Archbishop Arthur Roche to issue all manner of threats to clergy celebrating the ancient liturgy. This “clarification” has been greeted with horror by bishops around the world, including many who aren’t keen on the old rite. This episode of Holy […]
Say what you like about Pope Francis, but he’s incapable of giving a boring in-flight interview. Last Wednesday, coming back from Hungary and Slovakia, he was asked about the problem of pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion. He immediately launched into a ferocious denunciation of abortion, describing it as homicide, saying there was no middle […]
America’s Catholic bishops are furiously divided among themselves this week, after a liberal faction led by the Biden loyalists Cardinals Cupich of Chicago and Wilton Gregory of Washington tried to stop them discussing the question of whether the radically pro-choice president of the United States should be allowed to receive Holy Communion. The US conference […]
Today’s Holy Smoke podcast is about the increasingly brutal bullying and silencing of people — especially Christians — who hold the ‘wrong’ opinions on controversial topics. A culture of censorship is becoming ever more deeply embedded in public institutions not just in Britain but also throughout Europe. In London last month we witnessed the nasty […]
This week’s Holy Smoke examines the fragmentation of American Catholicism following the election of pro-choice Catholic Joe Biden. It focuses on the strangest current of thought among the many conservative Catholics calling for an urgent change of approach in order to confront what promises to be an authoritarian liberal administration. It’s called integralism, a label […]
Cardinal Blase Cupich, the ambitious left-wing archbishop of Chicago, must have imagined that Joe Biden’s inauguration last week would be a moment to savor. He and a small number of his liberal colleagues, known as ‘the Biden bishops’, have been working tremendously hard to make sure that, once their candidate was elected, any mention of […]
It’s the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. In this episode of Holy Smoke, Damian Thompson is joined by his fellow composer Sir James MacMillan to discuss a side of Beethoven that the postmodern artistic establishment prefers to ignore: his unwavering faith in God and the surprisingly strict morality that arose from […]