Saint Ignatius High School

In Ireland, a Cultural Revolution

In Ireland, 35 years after the passage of the 8th Amendment to the country's constitution, a revolution is rising. Today, celebrities are projecting their voices into conversations regarding the unborn. Mr. Healey offers context and Catholicism in this Lesson from Loyola Hall.

I recently received an email from Anthony “Doc” Fior ’02 with the provocative heading “Sad to hear about U2.”  If I did not already know the source of the sadness I might have thought that they had disbanded or that one of them had fallen seriously ill or had suddenly passed away.  The sadness to which Doc referred was their full-throated support for the “Repeal the 8th” movement in the Republic of Ireland.
For those not attuned to the latest movement in Irish revolutionary politics, “the 8th” refers to the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland.  In 1983, over concerns that what happened in America would eventually happen in Ireland, pro-life groups within the Republic sought the support of the three main political parties in drafting and passing an amendment that would keep the courts from producing a Roe v Wade type of decision in Ireland.  The leaders of all three parties agreed, and the eventual public vote produced a two-thirds majority in favor of the 8th Amendment.  Without Dublin, the least ‘Irish’ city in √Čire, the amendment was supported by almost 75% of the voters.
The reason why I used the adjective ‘revolutionary’ to describe the movement to repeal this amendment that protects the life of the unborn because it fits the profile of all such efforts throughout history.  “In the beginning,” St. John tells us in the Prologue of his Gospel, “was the Logos” – universally translated as “Word”, but also meaning “Order” and “Reason” and “Logic”.  When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and sided against Logos they initiated the first and most devastating revolution in history – a revolution so disastrous that it brought about the sacrifice on the Cross of the Logos Who “became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
In all revolutions there are casualties, and not only because revolutions tend to be violent, but because once the violence begins it is almost impossible to stop it.  There is a wonderful scene in the brilliant BBC series Downton Abbey where Tom Branson, the Irish revolutionary and family chauffeur, is discussing the incipient Russian Revolution with his fellow servants.  He reassures them that the Tsar and his family, although taken prisoner, will remain unharmed.  Branson’s cool logic, exercised in the safety of a great house in Yorkshire, concluded that once the Russian royal family was out of power there was no need to do them any violence.
Because revolutions have no brakes the Romanov family was murdered by the Bolsheviks, and in like fashion their modern Irish heirs desire to open the way for the next logical step in their own cultural revolution – a revolution that began when the people of the Emerald Isle stopped imitating their many saints and scholars and began aping the sins of their Anglo-American neighbors across the pond and the channel.
Forty years ago the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney told an audience of Fighting Irishmen and Irishwomen that, as he saw it, the Irish were a people who had depth but no direction whereas Americans had direction with no depth.  In their continuous cultural move to be just like Americans the Irish are defining themselves as a people without either direction or depth, and a prime example of this brave new Irish world is the support that people like U2 and actor Liam Neeson are giving to the fight for the right to kill one’s child.  While no one should be surprised that the leaders in this assault against the unborn represent the Irish wing of the entertainment industry, it is still – as Doc Fior said – sad.
The casualties of political, social, cultural and sexual revolutions are often hidden from sight, but they exist nevertheless.  It would be difficult to find a family here or in Ireland who has not felt the fall-out of the decisions of those who followed their desires rather than reason-order-logic.  All revolutions are built upon passion, not Logos, and none more so than the sexual revolution.  The silent victims of sexual freedom die at the rate of about 1.5 per second, every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day.
Back at Downton Abbey, Lady Edith Crawley, middle daughter of the 7th Earl of Grantham, succumbed to passion and became pregnant by a man whose untimely death meant that no quick marriage could cover up her indiscretion.  She travelled to London and was taken secretly by her aunt to procure an illegal abortion.  So disturbed was Lady Edith by the abortuary that she could not go through with the procedure, and instead was secreted away to Switzerland to give birth.  Little Marigold went on to grow up as a beloved daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.  But she was also a visible sign of Edith’s decision to go against those who told her that an abortion – to use the pro-Repeal words of U2’s guitarist – is “the smart thing to do.”
Ireland has had a long and proud history of fighting against oppression, but maybe this battle is one too many – the time may have come where the Irish, like so many people throughout history, live out what Portuguese educator Paulo Freire spoke of in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed: that the oppressed find their model in their oppressors.  If you can’t beat them, join them.  That seems like “the smart thing to do.”
Let us pray that the Irish voters, instead of doing the “smart” thing, will do the right thing and protect those who are the most oppressed people on the planet.  No matter the outcome of the vote, the fact that it even came to this point in that place is truly sad.