Following Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland we are posting this article by D. R. O’Connor Lysaght of Socialist Democracy (Ireland).



He came, he saw and, well, he addressed congregations considerably smaller than those prophesied, talked to representative of the many individuals assaulted by officials of his bureaucracy and went back to Rome. During his stay, he expressed strong distaste for the holy perverts, but did not announce any positive steps to deal with them. Of course, he could be trying to play a long game, but the question here is whether such a game is winnable.

Already, the enemy is surrounding him. The letter by archbishop Vigano is aimed if not to force him to abdicate, then to discredit him and destroy the moral authority he needs to deal adequately with the pestilence. It is the old technique of suggesting that ‘sure, everyone has been doing it’, along with the all too common confusion of homosexuality and pederasty. In this clash, Francis is, no doubt, the lesser of the two evils, but if he is serious, his chances of succeeding are considerably less than even. His enemies are protected by layers of dogma drafted originally to deal with problems of earlier and very different ages but now maintained as eternal truths. In any case, it is not for this homepage to make calls for action for the Catholic Church to reform itself, even if it would listen. Concern is with the secular powers.

Of these powers, the Government and its head are the most significant. For the media, the Taoiseach’s speech of welcome covered him in glory. It was certainly less sycophantic than, for example, John Bruton’s welcome (’You are everything we aspire to’) to the Prince of Wales. Nor did he display his socks to the pontiff, in public, at least. Nonetheless, he shared with Francis a denial of analysis and a resultant refusal to prescribe solutions. Clerical abuse just happened.

Everyone besides the clergy were to blame. The ‘people’ along with the priests are properly contrite and the people’s Government can continue with its policies as before. This ignores the whole question of Church-State relations. There need be no pressure on the Church to pay the amount outstanding from what it agreed to pay in compensation. Schools will continue to be run by clerical managers. As for the hospitals, well, the new National Maternity Hospital is to be run by the Sisters of Charity who we must hope will show a more compassionate standard of care than they did to the inmates of the Magdalen Laundries.

Varadkar’s double game is an attempt to continue, in the face of evident failure, the strategy of neo-liberalism. To maintain its economic strategy of free markets, it offers Lefties progressive policies in the social sphere. In Ireland especially, this means turning on the old defender of class privilege, the Catholic Church and its privileges.

There are several problems with this. Firstly, the most popular social reforms under this heading are achieved. Perhaps clerical ownership of schools and hospitals will keep enthusiasm high on this front, but it does not seem to have the potential of the repeal of the 8th Amendment. Secondly, this clerical ownership is not just about the principle of subsidiarity taken up by the Church to justify it. It is also copper fastened by factors far more sacred to net-liberals than any religious dogma, political economy and its base in property ownership. Though clerical control is not actually cheaper than direct democratic control, it is believed widely to be so and is in keeping with the principle dear to neo-liberal hearts of public-private partnership. In addition, its supporters claim that it is defended in the constitution, which would mean considerable expense, legal and political in removing it

In any case there are clear signs that the neo-liberal project is exhausted. The misery it has been inflicting on the working people is not balanced by its social changes. In fact the new right is targeting that social enlightenment as being a factor causing the liberals’ economic failures, and to use revived repressive demands to cover the fact that they will maintain the ’free’ market that is the real cause of these failures. This is most obvious in connection with the matter of immigration, but this is just one part of potential socio-political regression.

The left movement remains in shards, its parts too inclined to political narcissism. It is overdue for it to unite on the slogan ’the problem is not the migrants but the market’.


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  • I read the letter Pope Francis sent to all Catholics in the world condemning the abuse scandals. They’ve occurred in Germany, Pennsylvania (over 1000 victims, 300 paedophile priests over 3 decades) and Ireland. The language in the letter is angry and mournful. The “solutions” he suggests are fasting and praying a lot! Survivors want to be listened to more seriously, structural change is needed, abusers should face criminal courts as they do outside the church, women could be promoted to have more power as its felt they are protective but not powerful enough to be heard. Will the church will ever take these issues really seriously? I’m not holding my breath.