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Catholicism and the Catholic Church in Contemporary Ireland: The Church-State Relationship, the Societal Role of Catholicism and the Applicability of Secularisation Theory in the Aftermath of the Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports
University College Stockholm, Stockholm School of Theology, Department of Eastern Christian Studies.
2023 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Abstract Throughout the period of 1972-2022 and previously, Catholicism has been a robust aspect of Irish national culture and identity and the institutional Catholic church has enjoyed a degree of sociopolitical influence and extensive co-operation with the Irish state. This has led to characterisations of Ireland as an outlier amidst secularisation patterns worldwide, whilst the 2009 scandals following the publication of the Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports into clerical sexual abuse have led to claims of the collapse of Irish Catholicism and the church.  Both the former and latter depictions of the Irish case appear to be rooted in the conflation of overlapping theoretical and practical issues. At the theoretical level, the cultural role of Catholicism as an aspect of individual and community identity appears most relevant to its longevity but has been frequently conflated with religiosity, as measured by churchgoing, belief in divinity and prayer and other forms of religious participation reported via flawed quantitative methods. This appears to have led to Ireland’s mischaracterisation as a highly religious state. The unsuccessful application of modernisation-based secularisation theory to Ireland therefore appears to have been flawed.  Re-examining the Irish case reveals that, whilst secularisation theory does not prove adequate, some of its predicted outcomes are observable via significant shifts in the sociopolitical outlook of Irish Catholics and their rejection of clerical authority prior to the scandals. However, the continued prevalence of Catholic practice and identity show that this does not represent the predicted rejection of religious affiliation, thus strengthening the case for the key significance of Catholicism’s social and cultural role and the inapplicability of secularisation theory.  The collapse of the church since 2009 also appears questionable, with legal and practical factors such as constitutional exemptions, ownership of schools and policy consultation via the Structured Church-State Dialogue Framework complicating the church-state dynamic. The state’s approach appears to be primarily rooted in pragmatism and a reluctance to meet the cost and workload of altering the status quo, rather than in the perceived views of the electorate, and has stagnated following a brief period of backlash after the Reports. As such, both Catholicism as an aspect of society and culture and the institutional church, as considered wholly separate from one another, are likely to remain robust in the near term.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023. , p. 79
Keywords [en]
Catholicism, culture and social issues, Catholicism in Ireland, Religiosity and secularisation
National Category
Religious Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ths:diva-1812OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ths-1812DiVA, id: diva2:1749791
Subject / course
Eastern Christian Theology
Educational program
Master Program in Religion, Politics, and Democracy
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2023-04-11 Created: 2023-04-11 Last updated: 2023-10-11Bibliographically approved

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