Slight return: left politics and being Catholic

This is a slight return to a post from last week but looking again at Fergus O’Donoghue’s decent Studies blog a little more in the last few days, there’s something that stands out: conviction is more respected than populism. On his own blog, Fergus takes Pat Rabbitte to task about his supposed anti-Catholic stance. In particular Fergus dislikes that fact that, in a radio interview, Pat

…was discussing the mismanagement of funds in FAS and declared that our “Catholic heritage and colonial past” mean we think “it’s OK to cheat the State.”

While I can see agree why Fergus may find this offensive, implying that an alignment of postcolonial underdog status with Catholic ‘heritage’, I am afraid that he misses the point entirely. We cannot forget where Pat’s ‘theology’ lies: in a statism that is opposed to forms of power other than ‘the State’. I am aware that I’m reifying for the sake of argument here about ‘the State’ and ‘the Church’ but Pat Rabbitte’s view of Catholicism suffers the same reification. In my comment on the post, I urge Fergus to ignore it and it will go away. Pat’s easy baiting using an undifferentiated conception of the ‘power of the Catholic Church’ serves no one at all, least of all the audience of a lunchtime radio show.

But there’s a bigger problem. In contrast, Fergus had earlier declared his admiration for Joe Higgins’s old-time-religion way of speakin’ to the plain peeple of Ireland. Capturing Joe for ‘the Church’, Fergus thinks wishfully that

[i]f Joe Higgins had stood by his original calling, he would be, at the very least, a monsignor in diocesan administration, if not a bishop.

Now thems terms I can relate to! He might even have become a bishop. Joe would be delighted to know this, if only he had followed his earlier calling. Joe’s a “priestly figure” you see, who, seemingly, missed his calling by lining up alongside those pot-smoking West coast freaks back in ’68. And here’s the rub. Joe did follow his calling: and it was the socialist one. For Fergus, conviction that runs as deeply as Joe’s is to be admired, even if he did not follow ‘the right path’. A prophetic manner is infinitely more appealing than populism but remember that Pat can be as incisive and as visionary as Joe even if he occasionally likes to brush 150 years of history into a lazy soundbite. Unity at a time of crisis is important.

If those with convictions like Joe’s within (and near?) the Catholic Church don’t speak up, it’s not because they’re afraid to do so. It is because they inhabit their everyday practice and action. Now that’s a calling.

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2 thoughts on “Slight return: left politics and being Catholic

  1. Thanks Kevin. I think I’m getting tired of the ‘you’re a progressive? you must be atheist then…’ line.

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