Re: How held back is Ireland due to the Catholic Church?
A fellow called Lanciani (Rodolfo Amadeo) was the head honcho in Rome for the latter part of the 19th century when it came to excavations and archaeological digs in that city. He wrote beautifully on many of the discoveries made on various digs through the layers of that city and in fact his maps of ancient Rome are still the accepted standard among archaeologists and historical cartographers for the period between the 'drui' or old religions and christianity as it built over that fascinating era.
He was a practising Roman Catholic himself and his writings are scholarly and you can see where he felt something of a crisis between his unwillligness to criticise the church and the dedicated scientist in him. He refers at one point to the replacement and destruction of drui shrines and statuary as an 'exquisite vandalism'.
References; a translation of his 'Pagan and Christian Rome (1896) (online at LacusCurtius)
I think this book is available free on Kindle as well. Recommended both for subject and style... wikipedia on Lanciani http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodolfo_Lanciani
Think National. Act Local. Oh- and superstition is just the dark matter of human history.