Don’t mention anti-Catholicism in the North

Posted By: May 31, 2017

Echo Opinion

Fr. Sean Mc Manus.

Irish Echo/May 31-June6, 2017/page 12.

Thanks to The Irish Peo­ple newspaper (now dis­continued)  being digitalized, one can read this:

“Father Sean Mc­Manus in giving the Benediction said: ‘We pray for an Ireland free and independent, where the little man, the man of no property, the ordinary guy, can walk tall without having to depend on political patronage…. An Ireland where all power, whether political, ecclesiastical, military or economic will always be used for the good of the people.

‘We pray, in particular, that once the divisive British presence has been banished, we will have a Country of harmony and reconciliation. An Ireland where religion will never again be used as a political device. An Ireland where the Catholic man from the Falls Road can go and have a pint of Guinness with his Protestant pal from the Shankill Road. . . An Ireland where the young Protestant woman from the Shankill Road can date the young Catholic man from the Falls Road.

‘We pray above all for the little children of Ireland that one day they will soon be able to share the same playground, the same classroom, the same school, and, yes, one day the same Church to worship the same God that died for both.'”
(Second Annual Irish Northern Aid Dinner, New York City. January 18, 1974.)
The Irish People Newspaper. Page 9. January 26, 1974.

That brought back a lot of memories.

It also bears witness that this Fer­managh man has always had a deep ec­umenical theology and has been animated by a non-sectarian vision for his homeland, or as Wolfe Tone put it, the desire to “substitute the common name of Irishman, in place of the de­nominations of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter.”

When I first came to America, on Oc­tober 2, 1972, I saw it as my duty to counteract England’s Big Lie: that there was a “Religious War” in Northern Ire­land (the Six Counties of Ireland that England was still holding onto).

But being from Fermanagh, I knew it would be silly and woefully non-histor­ical to ignore that, in fact, England had (since The English Reformation, as dis­tinct from the German Reformation) used anti-Catholicism as a major weapon in its conquest of Ireland.

Before the English Reformation (1169 to 1536), very Catholic England op­pressed very Catholic Ireland without using the weapon of anti-Catholicism.

Some silly Irish Americans, however, felt that to deny that there was a reli­gious war in Northern Ireland they had to avoid condemning anti-Catholic dis­crimination. That stupid idea was spread by the Stickies (the Official Re­publican Movement, as distinct from the Provisional Republican Movement. (It was also spread by the British em­bassy, naturally).

In the early 80s, I launched a cam­paign to expose the constitutional foun­dation of anti-Catholicism in Ireland: The Act of Settlement, 1701- the foun­dation stone of the Royal Family.

This act still today forbids a Catholic from being the monarch. It’s like having a provision in the U.S. Constitution bar­ring a black person from being presi­dent.

I always point out that the Orangemen did not enact the Act of Settlement. Thus, state- sponsored sectarianism and anti-Catholic bigotry are enshrined in the unwritten, non-codified British con­stitution.

One person – believing in the Stickie nonsense and the British big lie – tried to oppose my campaign: “[McManus claims] Americans should be objecting to the Act of Settlement. under the be­lief it has something to do with the con­flict in Ireland. It is quite possibly the most idiotic thing for Americans to be lobbying for.”

How convenient. Absolving the British monarchy and parliament from any connection with “the conflict in Ire­land.”

Fortunately, nobody listened to that egregious nonsense.

However, the big lie is hard to keep down. It has popped up recently.

Another person — the spiritual heir, perhaps, to the former person — took to the internet to decry my analysis of the root causes of Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, and how the Protes­tants are not to be ultimately blamed but the British constitution: “Sean Mc-Manus’ continued harping on it being Catholics vs. the world drives me nuts – it’s counterproductive to progress.”

A bit like trying to dismiss African American opposition to anti-black big­otry as being counterproductive to progress. God save us from such progress, and from such egregious mis­understanding!

Furthermore, isn’t the phrase “Catholics against the world” a very strange formulation for someone pro­claiming his concern for justice in Northern Ireland? It almost betrays an animus for all Catholics in the world, period.

But isn’t it a bit ironic that this Fer­managh man has to listen to lectures from people who apparently have a very superficial understanding of the real nature of England’s rule in Ireland?

Indeed, especially ironic, given the quoted benediction at the beginning of this article over 43 years ago about my vision for the relationship between northern Protestants and Catholics.

Not to mention that for this year, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reforma­tion, I have made many statements re­joicing in the theological agreement between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doc­trine of Justification – the one issue that more than anything else sparked the Re­formation; and welcoming, also, the fact that the Anglican/Episcopalian Church and the World Methodist Council have endorsed the Agreement on Justifica­tion.