Anti-Clericalism (Paul-Dubois, 1908)

1.21-23, 393-94. L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland, with an Introduction by T.M. Kettle, M.P. (Dublin: Maunsel and Company, Ltd.; New York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1908), pp. 509-10. BL

Extract from L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland, (1908), on anti-clericalism in Ireland.

As a French writer undoubtedly sensitive to his own country’s status as a contemporary focal point of anti-clerical activity, Paul-Dubois is reluctant to admit that there is very much of it in Ireland. But Mulligan might clearly be described as a “scoffer”:

For the moment it cannot be denied that the day is very likely approaching when the Irish democracy, having attained its majority, will demand from the clergy an account of themselves. Anti-clericalism, in the sense in which the word is understood in France, has not so far taken a hold on the people of Ireland, for their faith has roots too profound, and, if one may say so, too national. We shall therefore not apply that term to the hostility, even to this day more political than religious, against the Catholic Church exhibited by the Irish Protestants, or at least by the more noisy among them, with their everlasting cry of “Too many churches,” “Too many priests,” “Too much wealth.” These Protestants fail to remember that they themselves had not the trouble of building churches because, at the Reformation, they took possession of those of the Irish. They also overlook the fact that the Episcopal Church possesses not only the very considerable capital which Disestablishment handed over to it, but that its clergy is sensibly more numerous than the Catholic clergy in proportion to the number of the laity. On the Catholic side anti-clericalism is confined to a small group of “intellectuals,” or self-styled “intellectuals,” who naively admire the worst anti-clericals of France, a growing number of agnostics, Voltairians, scoffers, and indifferentists. Then there are some politicians temporarily at war with the clergy on account of political jealousies, and some republican extremists who are more or less avowed partisans of the doctrine of physical force which the Church has always proscribed; but these are adversaries of the politics of the clergy rather than of the clergy themselves. In fact, anti-clericalism is a small enough affair at present. Ireland, which, owing to the exceptional social power of the clergy, would seem to offer much temptation to the sectaries, is not yet ripe. But undoubtedly the movement has already started and is in progress. What will be the outcome of it? It will depend to a great extent upon the clergy themselves. When things come to the test the best safeguard of Catholicism in Ireland may be found — felix culpa — precisely in the anti-Catholicism of the Anglo-Irish Protestants.