The Catholic Church was a “net winner” from the Great Famine as the urban Catholics who survived it were more likely to be regular Mass-goers than the largely rural poor who died, enabling the church to increase its influence on the population at large, a prominent academic has claimed.
Prof Breandán Mac Suibhne of National University of Ireland, Galway told the West Cork History Festival in Skibbereen that it was perhaps “vaguely perverse” to suggest the Great Famine assisted Irish Catholicism to become a dominant force in the lives of Irish people, but it did influence how religion impacted on people’s lives.
“As late as the 1970s the figure was like 92 per cent or 93 per cent, but back in the 1830s, the figure for the country, as a whole, was something like 30 per cent so high Mass attendance by Irish Catholics is very much a modern phenomenon and, certainly back in the 1830s, it was nothing like it was in the 1970s.
“For people in these areas, religion was not chapel-oriented and clerically directed devotion like Sunday Mass was not important to them… their religion was one of holy wells, and season festivals, and prayers and priests were important for only a couple of things – Baptism, marriage and death.
“What you get in the 1850s is serious hard-core proselytisers hitting the country in the form of the Redemptorists – these are the storm troopers of Roman Catholicism, ‘Do you reject Satan and his works?’ and they made Confession, Communion and Confirmation rites of passage in Catholicism.”
I also heard that many of the country’s Catholic church buildings were built during the famine.
And – how many Catholic bishops and priests died of hunger in the famine?
Then Cardinal Cullen came along and started tge devotional revolution- medals, rosaries relics, novenas etc.
Mass attendance grew from 30% to 90+ %.
While the poor Irish starved to death, their new IRISH GENTRY (clergy) prospered.
And collections and revenues increased.
Talk about making a mint on human misery.
The RCC has always had the knack to turn blood into gold 😢