Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland Reviewed in Reviews in Religion & Theology by Vladimir Kmec

My latest book, Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland: Religious Practice in Late Modernityhas been reviewed by Vladimir Kmec in the academic journal Reviews in Religion and Theology (January 2017, 24(1), pp. 98-101).

Kmec is a Government of Ireland Post Doctoral Researcher at University College Dublin, focusing on Religion, Ethnicity and Migration: Contested Politics of Diversity and Belonging. He also is affiliated with Cambridge and worked on the British Academy’s project on the role of religion in conflict and peacebuilding. I supervised his Ph.D., which he completed at Trinity College Dublin in 2015. 

Here’s an abridged version of the review.

Vladimir Kmec’s Review of Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland

Ireland has maintained a reputation as a bastion of traditional Catholicism for centuries. The Catholic Church was interlinked with and dominated almost every sphere of the Irish society. In the last decades, the Irish Catholic Church has gradually lost its influence, however.With this displacement, Irish people’s attitudes to the Catholic Church have changed significantly. This change occurred alongside the transformation of the religious landscape of Ireland from one in which the Catholic Church maintained a monopoly of religious, social, and political power to one inwhich Catholicismis one option amongmany others. This transformation
has been prompted largely by immigration which has brought about new religions and new Christian denominations. Irish traditional churches were enriched by members with migration background. Some immigrant groups even established their own ethnic immigrant congregations within the Catholic Church.At the same time, the number of atheists and nonreligious people has increased. But apart from religious diversity and the increase of atheists, the island has also seen the development of ‘extra-institutional’ religion. Ganiel’s book traces the dynamics of this transformation in an excellently crafted, richly illustrated and thoroughly analyzed way.

… Chapters 4–11 provide detailed accounts of eight case studies from across the island of Ireland,which illustrate various forms of extra-institutional religion as well as their wider implications. These case studies focus on everyday aspects of people’s religious lives and experiences. This diverse range of cases includes congregations and communities of Catholic and Protestant background as well as a sample of individuals from non-Christian religious traditions. For instance, the case study of the Parish Pastoral Council in Ballyboden, Dublin, represents a form of extra-institutional religion within the premises of the institutional Catholic Church. Ballyboden parishioners distinguish between the ‘institutional’ and the local church. Although they are not convinced about the impact of their individual transformations on the institutional church, they see the future of the church in the grassroots involvement of laypeople and good local priests. Another example, the chapter on Jesus Centre in Dublin, a parish of a Pentecostal Nigerian-based church, explores how migrants created an extra-institutional space where their beliefs and practices are contrasted to Irish Catholicism. Jesus Centre both complements and challenges Ireland’s traditional institutional churches because it allows for personal transformation, and because its interactions with other churches and secular groups contribute to wider transformations.

The concluding chapter reflects the key aspects of extra-institutional religion and the role of this concept in explaining the religious change on the island of Ireland as well as its wider application in other contexts. The extra-institutional religion creates a space in which individuals on the island of Ireland express their faith in contrast to the institutional Irish Catholic Church,whether they are or are not part of the church. Based on empirical evidence, Ganiel concludes that this type of religious practice provides more freedom and flexibility in critically addressing the mainstream institutional church. Extra-institutional religion balances between the religious individualism of reflexive modernity, the historical legacies of collectivistic religions, and conservative or fundamentalist religious enclaves.

Ganiel’s book makes a novel contribution to the study of religion by presenting new understandings of the dynamics of religious change and the different forms of extra-institutional religion. Her analysis emphasizes the role of religion in reconciliation processes and ecumenical dialogue. She argues that, if religion is seen as part of the problem, it can also be viewed as part of the solution. Although the study focuses explicitly on the island of Ireland, it opens the floor for exploring extra-institutional religion in other contexts. Ganiel’s work offers rich accounts and analysis of people’s personal stories of religious journeys and understandings of religious change, which grasps readers’ attention. The book will be of a significant interest to students and scholars in theology, religious studies, sociology and anthropology of religion, and other disciplines that study religious changes. In addition, it will also be of appreciable use to many practitioners, including religious leaders and laypeople.

Some readers may have access to the full post at this link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rirt.12842/full

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