'This healthy, questioning catholic ethos has had an enduring, lifelong effect on my philosophy of life '

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'This healthy, questioning catholic ethos has had an enduring, lifelong effect on my philosophy of life '


Harry Browne reflects upon the Catholic Church and the difficulties and challenges of being a Catholic in today.


Harry Browne


Trinity College Dublin




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I was born into a catholic family in an extremely catholic country at a time where priests were unquestioned and bishops were treated a princes of the church, with all the rights and privileges which that station entitled them to. I was raised in the traditions of catholic Ireland but that is not to say that all the edicts of the clerics were accepted in total by my parents, particularly my mother. I have alluded to an incident with a christian brother and his leather strap earlier and my mother's response was typical of her attitude to those in authority. Where the authorities impinged on her children she was perfectly capable of expressing herself to the highest levels in no uncertain terms. This healthy, questioning catholic ethos has had an enduring, lifelong effect on my philosophy of life. I attend mass on most Sundays and act as a reader in Donnycarney church on one Sunday in the month. I also dispense the Eucharist in Beaumont Hospital once a month, I could be described as an active catholic. This does not mean that I am entirely happy with the current state of the church. To my mind there is a critical want of leadership in the modern church, with the pathetic response of the bishops and the Vatican to the current scandal of clerical sexual abuse. I do not subscribe to the popular view that such perverted practices are widespread or more prevalent in the clergy than in other walks of life but I believe that the clergy needs to be held to a much higher standard than do those in a less morally responsible position in society. My own values are the result of my upbringing and are derived from the example of my parents and also the general societal forces which were active when I was young. There was a much broader acceptance of responsibility in the wider society in former times. People were much more likely to intervene if one saw an incident taking place which was not right, and on the other hand, it was not uncommon to receive a 'clip around the ear' from a total stranger if he, or she, felt that one was transgressing in some way on the common good. I am not advocating a return to those good old - bad old days but there is a common 'nothing to do with me' attitude about, which we would be better off without. It is all too common to see small children being dragged through shopping centres with harassed parents shouting and sometimes swearing at them. A little nosy parkering might be a good thing in such circumstances. Also the treatment of older people by their juniors often leaves a lot to be desired. I realise that this diatribe makes me sound like an old crank hankering after the old days but my plea is merely for common courtesy to prevail. No more and no less. On reading the above I seem to be suggesting that I am a paragon of all the virtues. Far from it. I have more than my fair share of vices, which I am not prepared to share with my readers but suffice it to say that when weighed in the balance I hope that it will not be tipped too far in one direction or the other.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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