This week’s Tablet has a special focus on ‘Francis in Ireland,’ and I have contributed an article, ‘Only the People can now Save the Church in Ireland.’
The article can be read for free on the Tablet’s website after a quick and painless registration process. Of course, given the range of contributions from others like Gerry O’Hanlon, Siobhan Garrigan, Sarah MacDonald, and more, it is worth purchasing a copy!
Here’s a taster of the first few paragraphs of my article, which includes sociological analysis as well as my personal experience of the Irish Catholic Church:
The Pope in Ireland
I first encountered the Pope’s Children when I was a student in the United States at Providence College in Rhode Island, a liberal arts college run by Dominican friars. I was on the athletics team, and the coach was Irish. He had recruited the best athletes he could from Ireland to run for Providence, so they were my teammates.
“The Pope’s Children” is a nickname used in Ireland for those born around the time of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979. As an American-born Baptist, I had scant knowledge of Irish Catholicism. I had a vague notion that Irish Catholics were stereotypically devout. But although there was a quiet faith among some of my teammates, there was more doubt, scepticism and even cynicism about religion than I had expected.
My time at Providence inspired my graduate studies at University College Dublin. Now, two decades later, I am an Irish citizen, a Presbyterian married to an Irish Catholic, and a sociologist of religion at Queen’s University Belfast. So as Ireland prepares for Pope Francis’ visit this weekend, my interest in how it will impact on the Catholic Church in Ireland is both professional and personal.