Mary Kenny’s new book whitewashes the sins of the Catholic Church

The Way We Were: Catholic Ireland Since 1922 Mary Kenny Columba Books, €19.99

In her new book, Mary Kenny – my colleague in the Irish women’s liberation movement – accuses me of being critical of the Catholic Church: I had two priests and a nun in my family. Tsk!

It feels like an odd admonition as the zeitgeist dictates that only people within a culture can criticize it, but it fits Mary’s system here: everything the church has done in Ireland has been basically great, and everyone who criticizes them is wrong. Her “evidence” – people and events – isolated from their context and politics, must all march to the rat-tat-tat of Mary’s drum.

So the relationship between Church and State was not a toxic pact, but a “marriage.” Who cares that the church, given control of social and educational affairs by Parnell in exchange for its support in the national struggle, developed a regime so repressive that 1950s Ireland had more people per capita in church-run facilities locked up when the Soviet Union?

A regime in which mother and baby homes were filled by Irish families so ashamed of their pregnant daughters that they subjected them and their grandchildren to brutality, adoption without a trace to America, or lifelong servitude in a Magdalena Laundry?

There is no mention that this evilness is brainwashed by the church.

It was a regime in which girls and their families were denounced from the altar, Archbishop McQuaid had spies in maternity hospitals to ensure no “illegitimate” baby escaped the clutches of the Church, and “Holy” personally assisted Eamon De Valera’s son, a gynecologist Adoption of babies in the USA.

Even the deeply flawed 2021 report on mother and baby shelters admits that 9,000 babies have died at the hands of nuns – meaning the actual number must be many times that. Hundreds of thousands of young Irish girls and boys were destroyed in institutions overseen by the church hierarchy. But Kenny’s interpretation is that it was the church that selflessly cleaned up society’s chaos.

Then comes the birth control train (inexplicably renamed “condom train” here), which Mary claims she’s too bored to even think about. Far from being a shiny “up yours” for church and state, she now sees it as a “lark,” a “prank” — and we all know the pill has always been legal, really. She herself had received this “packaged anovulant” from a general practitioner.



Archbishop John Charles McQuaid

video of the day

When the Pope (“that poor beaten down, beaten man”) came to visit, he had to apologize for what the Church had done. To apologize! Though Mary doesn’t mention that he wasn’t “poor, dejected, beaten” or apologetic enough to pay the $4 billion his church still owes to abuse victims.

And so Mary happily goes on with her bucket of whitewash. In the Bible, according to Mary, Savita did not die because of the 8th Amendment, which gave a fetus equal status with its mother, she died of sepsis. End of.

And again, according to Mary, Philomena Lee of course had a hard time, the nuns lied to her and her son for 50 years while each of them asked for information, with Philomena only finding her son in his grave, which the nuns made him pay for .

But no, that wasn’t cruelty on the part of the nuns, says Mary; it was the fault of Philomena’s family for putting her in a mother and child home in the first place. See?

And Mary assures us that famous drag queen Danny La Rue was a “lifelong Catholic from Cork” who didn’t come out as gay because he was too “discreet”. Which is a hoot because the truth is he didn’t come out because that would have been career suicide in the 1960s.

Of course, as for Seán MacBride being recast as a saint here, Mary tells us he didn’t betray Noel Browne, the man responsible for the best TB eradication program in Europe, when he tried to get free maternal health care enforce and children up to 16 years, so frightened the ecclesiastical and medical elite that it had to be abolished.

And for all the doubters in the back row, Mary blithely assures us: “For long centuries” Christianity has been “the soul of Ireland”. Without her, civilization will collapse, and we’ll all end up eating mashed avocados on toast and chanting “Take your rosaries off my ovaries” to the final nun.

Those wondering how this once brilliant, feisty feminist was transformed into a staid apologist for Catholicism won’t find all the answers here — but there are some clues. By the time Mary left Dublin to return to Fleet Street, she explains she was “lost” and it was a “career blunder”. As she writes here, she “wasn’t experienced enough to do the London job”.

Is it presumptuous to conclude that Catholicism might have given her a tribe when there were bright feminists in the UK?

it makes me so angry And so sad. Mary Kenny’s new book whitewashes the sins of the Catholic Church

Fry Electronics Team

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