Survey: Most Irish Catholics Are Protestants

Based on a recent survey, the majority of self-described Catholics hold views incompatible with RC teaching.

What’s a Protestant?

My understanding of the term is that it applies to Christians who don’t accept in their entirety the teachings of the Roman Catholic church.  The entirety is important.  All the Christian denominations agree on the vast bulk of their beliefs but none, apart from the Roman church insists on absolute obedience.

It follows, therefore, that any Christian who refuses to accept dogma laid down by the Pope is not a Catholic.

Now, why is this important?  Well, in reality, it isn’t, since we’re talking about a religious delusion.  They all think that a man rose from the dead, and most of them think that a virgin got pregnant by magic.  What’s more, they all believe that even after you die, you can exist as a happy ghost.  But nevertheless, a recent survey produced some very interesting results.

Despite what I might wish, we can’t ignore the Roman Catholic church with all its insanities, because it controls the bulk of our primary schools and still has a firm grip on many of our politicians.  We must examine it, even if we recoil from the nonsense it teaches, and this brings us to a very interesting phenomenon in Ireland — the Association of Catholic Priests.  You might recall that one of its prominent members, Tony Flannery, was in the news recently after being told to stop thinking what he thinks and think something else instead.  This is a very RC concept, recalling precisely what happened to Galileo when he proved that the Earth orbits the sun.   I never understood how it could be possible to believe something just by choosing to do so, but that’s religion for you.

Hey you!  Don’t believe that.  Believe this.

The Inquisition stuck Galileo into house arrest and forced him to take back what he knew to be the truth, but here’s a question.  What organisation silenced Father Tony Flannery?  It’s called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger before his elevation to the CEO job.

And what was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called before it received its current title?

Why, it was called the Holy Inquisition, the same crowd who arrested Galileo, perhaps using the same offices, the same desks and maybe even the very same quills, but rebranded with a new logo and perhaps a new mission statement.  One thing is certain, the Inquisition never moved out of the house on the corner from where they operated for five hundred years despite name changes and new looks.  A sort of ecclesiastical Lubyanka.

Whatever the extent of the rebranding, the change was enough to fool Tony Flannery into believing he could write whatever he wanted in the ACP’s magazine.  He never saw the backlash coming, and that’s because Nobody expects the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith!

Guess what, though?  The Association of Catholic Priests didn’t just lie down and die.  Flannery’s immediate superior spoke out in his defence as did many other Catholic priests.

And what are the issues?

More religious insanity.  After all these years, the dysfunctional old men in the Vatican are still talking about contraception, which they made a doctrinal  issue.  They’re worried about married priests, which is not a doctrinal matter since many Catholic priests are happily married with families with the full approval of the  Vatican.  I refer to those Anglican priests who moved over in protest at women priests in the  Church of England and the Church of Ireland.

The issue of women priests is most certainly a doctrinal issue.  The Roman Catholic church considers women unworthy to be ministers of its faith, purely because of their gender, and let’s be clear about this.  Any Christian who refuses to accept this view is, by definition, a Protestant.  They might not like to hear this, but it’s a fact.

Ask most Irish Catholics what the Eucharist is, and they’ll tell you it symbolises the body of Jesus.  Wrong.  The teaching is simple: the consecrated host IS the body of Jesus.  You’re a Christian and don’t believe this?  You’re a Protestant.  The end.  Of course, atheists believe none of this tosh, but that’s a different matter.

What about this survey?

Of 1,000 Catholics surveyed, 87% said priests should be allowed to marry.  77% said women should be priests.  60% disagreed with the Catholic church’s views on homosexuality.   Three-quarters believe that the church’s teachings on sexuality have no relevance to their family.  55% think a bishop should be like a mayor, serving a fixed term, which of course raises all manner of bizarre scenarios including the danger that all Irish bishops will turn into Willie O’Dea.

On the basis of these figures, since three quarters of Irish Catholics disagree with the fundamental teaching of the Vatican that women may not be priests, it seems that three quarters of Irish Catholics are actually Protestants.

My own view is that most Irish Catholics have not the slightest understanding of what their faith entails and therefore there are very few Catholics of any sort in the country.  That’s not such a big deal for me, but maybe it would be good for those who call themselves Catholic to reflect on it, especially since their church continues to seek influence over things that affect the likes of me, such as schools and health care.

I might not have much time for the beliefs of the Association of Catholic Priests, beliefs I consider to be fantasy wrapped up in the spurious discipline of theology, which I defined elsewhere as the study of shit we made up.  Nevertheless, I admire their courage in the face of intimidation from Rome.  It took guts to publish this survey after what happened to Tony Flannery, and I wish them well in the struggle to retain their personal integrity.  The chances are slim enough, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see the whole lot of them proclaiming the exact opposite of what they’re saying today.  After all, if they can swallow the doctrines of Catholicism without blinking, they’d hardly strain at swallowing their own words.

But if they’re serious in their desire to move forward, they could make a significant beginning by doing one simple thing.  Stop calling themselves Father.

The nervous boy in clerical garb I met recently was not my father, nor would I honour him with the term.  Stop it, lads.  Drop this Father nonsense and be Mister again, as you were before Paul Cullen invented your silly title.  You’re not anybody’s father, or at least, you shouldn’t be.




40 thoughts on “Survey: Most Irish Catholics Are Protestants

  1. Pretty terrible analysis in many, many ways. Writers like you pollute legitimate debate with ridiculous half baked arguments. Protestantism is much more than disagreeing with the Vatican, dissent has obviously played a large part shaping the Catholic church as it is today. Protestantism is fully its own religion and has developed over hundreds of years. To suggest that someone is Protestant for disagreeing is to ignore the complex and varied religious system that Protestantism is. You obviously know nothing about cultural systems. For a start, rationality is a not a test for cultural validity. That is to say, religion not “making sense” rationality in no way diminishes it’s validity as a social practice. You, my friend, are a rationalist extremist, like Richard Dawkins. You’re also just clearly having a dig at Catholics, trying to wind them up by suggesting they’re Protestants, obviously offensive name-calling considering, for example, the Troubles in the north.

  2. SK,

    ‘Protestantism’ – a religious system? You have no understanding of the word ‘system’ if you think of the disparate religious groupings that are described as Protestant in any way cohere as a system.

    You even confuse the possessive ‘its’ with the verbal form ‘it is’.

    What you are, SK, is semi-literate.

  3. “polluting the debate”? Are the survery results themselves not to your liking Sk?

    The facts are the majority of supposed Catholics are not adhering to the dogma pontificated by the men in skirts from Rome.
    Absolute adherence to the codswollop is demanded by the men in skirts.. this isn’t happening, due to the fact that people don’t agree with the rules nor do they care. So the only true catholics it seems are the men in skirts themselves. In public at least.

    ‘Catholics’ don’t agree with the Church’s stance on contraception. As they are using it.
    ‘Catholics’ don’t give a fiddlers what sexual orientation any adult has.
    ‘Catholics’ don’t agree with the church’s exclusion of women from priesthood.

    So if you have some legitimate opposing views to debate, fire away..
    It’d be vastly better than spouting nonsense.

    E.g; ” rationality is a not a test for cultural validity”
    What does cultural validity mean?
    Are you trying to suggest that a person shouldn’t examine cultural norms objectively?
    Are you suggesting that one should be content to be a happy drone and not question what’s culturally accepted?

    I happen to be reading a review of a book earlier on that very subject –
    ‘I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams’
    Might help broaden your perspective a little… I hope it doesn’t wind you up too much now.

  4. Definitely one to buy.. might not be for you though Sk.
    One review –
    “There is a reason this collection is called I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts. Dery’s interests are catholic and, like many Catholics, he occasionally veers toward the perverse….

    This same urge to dismantle our communal illusions and reveal the maggots writhing beneath also fuels the piece “Pontification: On the Death of the Pope,” an essay that exposes the American media’s chilling complicity in consecrating the memory of Pope John Paul II, despite his responsibility for the church’s continued prohibition on condoms, a policy that hastened the deaths of literally millions of Africans”

    “Here are essays on the pornographic fantasies of Star Trek fans, Facebook as Limbo of the Lost, George W. Bush’s fear of his inner queer, the theme-parking of the Holocaust, the homoerotic subtext of the Super Bowl, the hidden agendas of IQ tests, Santa’s secret kinship with Satan, the sadism of dentists, Hitler’s afterlife on YouTube, the sexual identity of 2001’s HAL,….etc

  5. Perhaps catholic thinking – in religious matters – now has it’s focus in Canterbury not
    All the woo-woo about Jesus was added by Rome when a philosophy popular amongst
    slaves was hijacked by the slave owners and turned into a religion.
    This was done to drive a wedge between Christ and his followers as the philosophy was
    seen as dangerous to the old order – how better to nullify it than by shrouding it in religious mumbo-jumbo and ritual under the control of the ruling classes.

  6. Glad to hear your responses. I would especially like to hear something from Bock.

    @Ian: Protestantism is certainly a religious system. Just because it is fractured into many sects does not make it any less compelling or satisfying a religion to its adherents. What exactly is the test for a true religious system? If you’re suggesting that unification is necessary or even top-down authority structures, then you have a narrow conception of religion. And apologies for my grammar mistakes, though I hardly think that my mistakes earn me the title “semi-literate”.

    @FF1: By “polluting the debate” I mean suggesting that a person of one religion is actually a member of a different, and to some opposing, religion. This is no way adds to the debate and steals the focus from the real issues. It’s offensive in a very obvious way. You yourself are no stranger to this tactic. By calling Catholic clergy “the men in skirts from Rome” it seems to me you are suggesting they are cross-dressers in order to make them seem ridiculous as people. There are real reasons to oppose some of their views, there’s no need to resort to gender-normative name-calling. There are many places in the world where men wear long garments.

    I realise ‘cultural validity’ is an odd, perhaps erroneous choice of term. Another way to put it is that ones views may be in conflict with one another from a rationalist perspective and yet can co-exist for the practitioner. I would suggest that these views are in no way “wrong” and the person holding them is entitled to believe them. You would be right to note that this is a kind of relativist view.

    I believe we cannot examine cultural norms in a truly objective way. To be sure, objectivity should be struggled for but admitting it is practically impossible is a necessary and honest step. It is necessary because otherwise you will fool yourself into thinking the conclusions you arrive at from your “objective” method are objectively true and thus unchallengeable. I believe a certain reflexivity is needed to avoid that.

    Personally I draw my own lines when others’ views infringe on me in a negative way. So instead of seeing their views as “wrong” or irrational, I would see them as unbeneficial or even harmful. Instead of attacking it from a religious or moral stance, negotiating in terms of what is beneficial and harmful could be more appropriate. Accepting and being “a happy drone” is definitely not what I suggest, I’m very much into critical thinking. And I’m sure I would enjoy that book, sounds interesting.

    @sheepshagger: I would like to see the evidence for your theory.

  7. SK — I’ll hold back from commenting until you’ve had a chance to instruct Ian thoroughly on his place as a Protestant and his role as a priest.

  8. SK, I don’t believe cross dressing makes anyone seem ridiculous.
    I have respect for however anyone chooses to express themselves, when it doesn’t impede on anyone else’s rights in any way.
    Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    To be perfectly honest with you I don’t really care what beliefs anyone wants to hold. Don’t care if they are harry krishna, tree hugging, hippies, or rastafarian pot heads.. whether they believe in the holy trinity or ‘I and I’. Whether they practice shamanism or do decades of rosary beads, as long as it isn’t forced on me and I have a choice about it. We didn’t for far too long in this country. And still don’t.
    Kids have to waste valuable time in school being taught the dogma and beliefs dictated from Rome, that a high percentage of adults who consider themselves Catholic don’t even agree with or adhere to themselves.
    If you find that offensive, tis a pity about you.. it’s merely pointing out the obvious.

    Also, it’s not “resorting to name-calling” using appropriate descriptions.
    If I were to say a lot of priests and bishops seemed overly preoccupid with the sex lives of people, it’d hardly be inappropriate to call them dirty old perverts.

    I think a major hindrance to any objective analysis is a fear of being offensive.
    How can you examine and critique any cultural norms and practices in any objective fashion if criticism is not allowed for fear of offending anyone?

  9. SK,

    You really should get out your dictionary and look up ‘system’.

    There is not now, nor has there ever been, a Protestant system.

  10. @ Ian. Nice day for a walk we’re all christians here, how about not lording it over someone who isn’t so middle class and lame as you seem to be.

  11. Don’t understand, why do you think i meant that? Paisley said that about the Garvaghy Road, the middle class and lame bit I stand by.

  12. It’s not obvious you were quoting anyone. I’m not sure what’s wrong with being middle class, if that term even has any meaning.

  13. Ian was criticizing he’s grammar and syntax, from what i’ve read here, Ian is a minister, seemed a little unfair and cheap, didn’t say it was obvious that’s why i clarified.

  14. John,

    SK presumes to tell me what I believe, which is like me telling Bock what he believes.

  15. Ian — I was hoping that SK would continue his lecture to you on what it means to be a protestant, but he seems to have lost interest. Pity. When he was finished setting you straight, I’d planned to respond to his original comments.

  16. @Ian, believe what you want, Protestantism is a system of belief. I’ll admit that it is not a unified system, as I’ve said before, but it is no less a system with many similarities between groups. I realise that from the perspective of a practising Protestant the suggestion that ones practices are similar, or even the same, as someone practising a different sect of Protestant belief could be offensive, one has to look at it with a certain distance, both critical and historical. No offence meant but I will have to disagree with you.

    @FF1: Why, of all things then, fixate on Catholic clergy as “men in skirts”? You said it no less than three times. I am not putting words in your mouth, I am interpreting your intention, which is unfortunately clouded by your choice of words. There are many appropriate descriptions of Catholic clergy but I think that “men in skirts” is not one of them.

    I agree with you that fear of offending gets in the way of certain statements. However I think it is easy enough to adjust your language from actually trying to offend (which I think was your intention) to perhaps offending because of its provocative content. For example, I don’t think it’s constructive to call sex preoccupied priests “dirty old perverts”. But you might offend someone by saying that there should be no religious schools in the country at all. In my view that is a defensible kind of offence.

    My original argument with Bock, however, remains largely undiscussed. So do you all suppose that a Catholic who disagrees with some of the churches dogma is automatically a Protestant? Especially Ian, who I now get the feeling is a Protestant, do you agree with that statement?

  17. SK, you might have a point as to what is a defensible kind of offense if I cared, but unfortunately I don’t give a rat’s ass about what you think is constructive.
    Go patronise someone else..

    Just to say, I really don’t care about how anyone defines their beliefs..
    e.g. takes no faith whatsoever to be an atheist, not enough ‘faith’ to be a Catholic.
    Couldn’t care less.

  18. I think SK has a point but I also think he is missing Bock’s point completely.
    SK is arguing that dissent within the Catholic church does not mean that the dissenters are Protestant. He is of the opinion that disagreeing with certain rules has in fact made the church evolve into the Catholic church we see today and will continue to do so. He believes that this is what we are witnessing at the moment.
    Bock argues that Catholics within the church who live by certain rules that are contrary to Catholic teachings are behaving more like protestants. This is true. Until the catholic church changes the rules to accommodate the day to day behaviour and opinions of (apparently most) Catholics, protestant would be an accurate term to describe them.

  19. I’m not saying they’re behaving like protestants. I’m saying they are protestants.

    Catholics are required to believe all the core teachings of the church. Any Christian who refuses to accept the fundamental dogmas of the Catholic church is not a Catholic. The one that stands out for me is the Eucharist. Nearly every Catholic I’ve asked has said this symbolises the body of Christ. When I point out that they’re supposed to believe it really IS the body of Christ, they laugh at me. Therefore, in rejecting the central dogma of Catholicism, they are, ipso facto, protestants.

    SK’s talk about cultural identity is all irrelevant guff, and has nothing to do with this post.

  20. Being Protestant is about individual conscience, about thinking for oneself.

    If one exercises one’s conscience in rejection of church dogma, one is Protestant.

  21. I disagree that a protestant is someone who merely holds an opinion on the Eucharist that is contrary to catholic teaching. They become a protestant only when they voice this opinion, give two fingers to the Pope and walk away from the church. It would be impossible for everybody in every organisation, be it sports club or church or whatever, to agree with every single rule of that organisation. They may hold personal opinions on certain rules but that doesn’t mean they want to leave the club.
    To be a protestant one must not just hold an opinion that he or she might share with a friend now and then over a pint. It must be acted upon.

  22. You mean pretend to be a Catholic? You can’t be an RC if you don’t believe in transsubstantiation. That particular dogma is the whole point of the religion.

  23. Folks, the point Bock is making (correct me if I’m wrong here Bock) is very simply that if you profess to be a Catholic but dont agree with all of the Roman Catholic teachings/rituals then you are by very definition a PROTESTant.
    You might not worship in Protestant churches, waving your hands in the air and speaking in tongues but by not agreeing you are objecting/protesting… Simples :)hence the term Protestant.
    The term came about from way back in the day when a group of well to do aristocrats, Luther and Calvin (I think) decided that Catholocism as it was being practiced with the many rubbish rituals and all the dogma was a stretch too far from exactly what was contained in the Bible. They objected and they reformed. Getting rid of the Pope, confession, the notion that at communion you’re actually eating/drinking the body/blood of Jesus and doing away with any worship or special treatment of Mary among many, many other changes.
    I had this exact debate a few years back and almost lost the will to live! “Protestant” is still a dirty word to a lot of alleged Irish Catholics and it still generates an emotional, sometimes agressive response which seems to dispell any rational thinking when the topic is broched.
    That’s my 2 cents, back to work now :( keep up the good work Bock.

  24. Waving one’s hands in the air and speaking in tongues is not common in most Protestant churches. But that’s the nature of protest, it’s not systematic, (despite the contentions of SK), it takes many forms, many of which have little in common with each other. The Church of Ireland would have more in common with the Roman Catholic Church than with some of the fundamentalist groups, but the right of individual conscience remains a distinguishing element.

    Seamus Heaney talks of remaining a Catholic because the Roman Catholic Church was a ‘logical absurdity’, whereas the Anglicans were an illogical one. Yet, given the demands of the Hierarchy, if one does not subscribe to its doctrines, it seems illogical to describe oneself as a member of the Roman Catholic church. Perhaps the dissident voices within the Catholic Church are illogical absurdities rather than Protestants.

  25. Hi Ian,
    “Waving one’s hands in the air and speaking in tongues” has been witnessed by me in EVERY protestant church I’ve ever visited. Not that I think it’s wrong and I’m not making a big deal out of it but I feel your assertion that it’s not common is incorrect.
    I’ve been to (probably) 7/8 protestant churches in Ireland and France (my wife is a protestant) and it happens EVERY single time without fail… gets a bit uncomfortable to be honest but if that’s what floats your boat then I’m all for it.

  26. Keith, I’m not sure which Church of Ireland churches you have visited, I know of only two Church of Ireland churches in the Republic of Ireland (out of the hundreds in the country) where you might encounter such things.

    Pentecostals might be regarded as ‘Protestant’ by Roman Catholics, but are part of a very different tradition from Anglicans

  27. All I have to say on the subject is: But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6

    And this includes those who justify pick and choose faith and deviate from the truth that is in the bible. For example, Jesus is very clear about divorce. I don’t care if x% think divorce is ok, they are betraying their faith by going against Jesus.

  28. John of Chicago,

    Your point is a vindication of what Bock is saying; that people who pick and choose betray their Catholic faith so are de facto Protestants.

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