I well remember my old bishop will we call him Jeremiah? — chuckling at the efforts of the touchy-feely brigade to set up a non-denominational school in his diocese.
Do you know what, Fitz? he used to say, as we sat in his Palace enjoying a case or two of wine over a long weekend.
What, Jerry? I used to reply. There was no point arguing with him, and in any case, he was paying for the wine, though I recall he was fairly fond of the whiskey too. That unfortunate incident at the Union Cross with him in his underpants in the middle of the road. I’ll never forget it.
Those hippies will never get their school, he used to roar. Never!! I’ll fight them tooth and nail.
And so he did.
Jerry put every possible obstacle in their path. He spoke to all the public representatives, and most of them kissed his ring, apart from one socialist who refused to bend the knee.
Jerry, he used to say, I’ll see you for a pint on Friday.
Here is something I never understood.
Bishop Jerry respected that heathen more than he respected all the God-fearing public representatives who agreed with his position on the decline of morals in Irish society.
I did not understand it then and I still do not understand it now.
Why did my Bishop, in the middle of the night — though he might have been under the influence — why did my Bishop insist on phoning a known Lefty when he might have been better employed calling a member of the Confraternity?
Here is something that troubles me even more. Why did my Bishop assume the semblance of a man who enjoyed his conversations with a patent unbeliever? Why did he laugh, even after he had put down the telephone? This has always troubled me.
Nevertheless, Jeremiah stood firm against the secularisation of schooling. He understood how important it is to grab hold of young minds early and shape them – form them, mould them – entice them under the Catholic blankets, so to speak.
In my opinion, Dermot is playing a masterful game, and I applaud him for it. The Lefties believe the one, Holy, catholic and apostolic Church is relinquishing the schools, and yet he has not lied to them.
Dermot is a master of mental reservation, as one would expect of a man schooled in the ways of the Holy See.