Remembering ‘Holy Catholic Ireland’ at the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions Conference, 23-24 May at Queen’s

celticcross2Tomorrow I’ll be giving a paper at the annual conference of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions, held this year at Queen’s University Belfast. My paper is titled, ‘Remembering “Holy Catholic Ireland”: Responding to the Clerical Sexual Abuse Scandals,’ and draws my research for the book I am currently working on, Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland.

The conference runs Fri-Sat 23-24 May and is organised around the theme ‘Religion and Remembering.’

The keynote address will be delivered by Prof James L Cox (Edinburgh), on “Religious memory as a conveyor of authoritative tradition: the necessary and essential component in a definition of religion”. His address is tomorrow 4.30-5.45.

My panel is also tomorrow, from 2.00-4.00, and features three other papers:

Deirdre Nuttall, ‘Keeping Their Heads Down; Shame and Pride in Irish Protestants’ Narratives about Identity.’

Tony Walsh, ‘Silence and silencing: Aspects of Protestant identity in the Irish Republic.’

Brian Bocking, ‘Forgetting to remember: towards an alternative Irish religious history?’

A full timetable, list of panels and abstracts and registration information are now available via the conference page here.

I’ve reproduced the abstract of my paper here:

Remembering ‘Holy Catholic Ireland’: Responding to the Clerical Sexual Abuse Scandal

Dr Gladys Ganiel, Trinity College Dublin at Belfast (the Irish School of Ecumenics)

Clerical sexual abuse, and its cover-up, has been a major part of the story of the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Fewer Irish men and women attend mass and many are disillusioned with the ‘institutional’ church. The image of a ‘Holy Catholic Ireland’ has been tarnished beyond repair, and the cosy relationship between church and state is a distant memory. But in many ways all that was unholy about Holy Catholic Ireland continues to haunt the church and the Irish people, especially those suffering from the trauma of having been abused. This paper explores the ways Catholics in Ireland are dealing with the revelations and the memories of abuse. This includes the institutional church’s responses, such as public statements, carefully-worded apologies, the Pope’s letter to the faithful in Ireland, and a service of healing at Dublin’s pro-Cathedral. It also includes grassroots responses, such as the writings of now censored priests like Tony Flannery and Brian D’Arcy, which relive and try to make sense of trauma and abuse, and events such as the ‘listening sessions’ and healing service organised by the parish pastoral council in Ballyboden, Dublin, after the Murphy Report. It argues that the current, ad hoc nature of the responses have not produced a healthy, ongoing healing process. So it raises questions about the relative effectiveness of these responses and asks how the Catholic Church in Ireland – including its hierarchy and the people in the pews – can more openly acknowledge (and repent for) abuse, as a first step toward healing. Drawing on insights from the fields of conflict transformation and transitional justice, as well as current examples of good practice in Ireland, it explores the possibilities for acknowledgement and healing, including rituals of lament and public commemorations. The research on which this paper is based will inform the author’s next book, Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland.

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