I don't want to derail another thread which happens to be hugely interesting so I'll carry over a topic of conversation for a new thread.
Until quite recently the Roman Catholic Church had a major influence on society in this country. People lived their lives by the standards set out for them by the Church (leading by example wasn't always a strong point either) and the Church's values and outlook were institutionalised after independence through the Irish Free State. For ages I held the naive belief that because Catholicism had been here for centuries, so had the Church influenced social behaviours, especially repressive attitudes towards sex. But as I found out Gaelic Ireland did not conform to Church doctrine on marriage and divorce at all and had a very liberal outlook when it came to those aspects of life. Until the Origins of the Irish Language thread http://www.politicalworld.org/showth...?t=8026&page=3 I still wasn't sure at what point in our history the Church took the majority of the people into its possession. I would have thought this happened on the final defeat of Gaelic Ireland, after the flight of the Earls but it appears it happened much more recent than that and probably happened from the Famine onwards. Did a quick search and found this about the influence of the Church pre-Famine http://multitext.ucc.ie/d/Ireland_cu..._1815ndash1870
It mentions how Anti-Catholicism coming from the evangelical movement helped to encourage Catholics to support the ChurchThe most visible areas of concern were the shortage and inadequacy of church buildings and the lack of sufficient numbers of priests to deal with large and scattered congregations. It was estimated that in 1800 the ratio of priests to parishioners was about 1 to 2100. At the beginning of the century bishops felt the need to standardise religious practices and to exert their authority in matters of discipline.
Progress was slow in the pre-Famine era. However, some important building work was begun and a new generation of reforming bishops brought their influence to bear on the lower clergy through regular conferences, retreats, and visitations. While priests were encouraged to improve their preaching and pastoral work, regulations were introduced to address personal standards of behaviour. Whilst discipline was tightened as a result of these measures, the rapid rate of population increase made any improvement in the ratio of priests to people impossible.
Strong efforts were also made to regulate the behaviour of the wider Catholic community, particularly in regard to the rituals of faith. The restrictions of the previous century had led to a wide variation in religious practice and the merging of popular folk customs with Christian events. The ‘merry wake’ is probably the best example. While the priest delivered the last rites, the main activities surrounding the newly deceased were very much social and communal, from the keening women (mná caointe) following the funeral to the drinking, dancing, games, tricks and general horseplay enjoyed by family, friends and neighbours. In country areas the funeral mass was also often held in the home, as were marriages and baptisms, though the priest’s house sometimes provided an alternative venue. The Dublin diocesan statutes of 1831 ordered that the requiem and funeral mass be held in the church, and under Archbishop Cullen the administration of the sacraments was transferred from home to church. The secular traditions surrounding the wake, however, proved more resistant to reform, though the elements that were most offensive to the priests—mimicry of the sacraments, especially marriage, and satirical attacks on the clergy—had largely disappeared by the second half of the century. Boisterous behaviour at patterns (the feast day of a parish’s patron saint) also aroused the criticism of the hierarchy, who were particularly concerned about their Protestant counterparts and how they viewed the superstitious and immoral traditions which surrounded them. These pre-modern aspects of popular Catholicism presented the Church with significant challenges to its authority over social as well as religious life.
It has also been said that the necessity of defending Catholic doctrine united all classes in defence of the ancient faith, and in fact probably served to entrench Catholicism in the minds of the ordinary people.
The Famine really was a blessing for the Church, with the threat of enlightenment and the recent establishment of a secular republic in France, the clergy had the perfect opportunity in Ireland to scare the population into unconditional piety.
And the man that seems to have had the biggest influence on shaping Church control of Ireland is a Paul CullenThe Great Famine was the most serious disaster of the century, an ‘event of cosmic significance’ during which superstition and fears were rife. Research suggests that the initial Catholic folk interpretation of the Famine was in terms of a supernatural judgement, God’s wrath and divine punishment of the people’s sins, a view apparently encouraged by the Church. It does indeed seem that the psychological shock of these years led to an increase in religious faith and practice. The loss of around two million of the poorest of its people ensured that the Catholic Church emerged from the period of famine in a stronger position to carry out its pastoral role. Indeed, it has been claimed that the confidence and progress of Irish Catholicism between 1850 and 1875 was marked by a ‘Devotional Revolution’.
As a reformer and ecclesiastical politician, Cullen created the modern Irish Catholic Church, regulated its clergy and its practices, and bound it closely to Rome.Cullen strengthened the relationship between a more devout people and their more disciplined clergy. The Synod of Thurles, convened by Cullen in 1850, marked the beginning of a more tightly controlled religious regime. The ratio of priests to people had been reduced to 1:1250, and as a result of an increased Government grant to Maynooth, after 1845, many of these priests were more likely to be from the lower ranks of Catholic society.Cullen was deeply hostile to the physical force tradition in Irish politics, and he strongly condemned the Fenian movement. However, he was primarily an ecclesiastical reformer, deeply committed to the papacy and anxious to make the Irish Catholic Church conform, to the fullest possible extent, with the Roman model.So in such a relatively short space of time the RCC really made its stamp on Irish society. Anyone wanting to add anything on this subject is welcome. Is this overstating things or was this change on how people in society now acted one of the biggest to happen in Ireland for centuries? Like despite all the political tumults over the preceding centuries, were the changes to how ordinary people behaved as a society more drastic during this Church uber-conversion?As many have remarked, the sexually conservative nature of late nineteenth-century Ireland was one consequences of the Church’s increased control, especially of the middle classes.