History and the Shaping of Irish Protestantism
McMahon, Eileen, Journal of Church and State
History and the Shaping of Irish Protestantism. By Desmond Bowen. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1995. 718 pp. $39.95 paper.
Desmond Bowen's book is an ambitious and impressive survey of the history of Ireland presented through the eyes of Protestants. Bowen argues that too often scholars have limited their analysis of the forces that shaped Irish history to British imperialism. The court of Rome has also played a major role in shaping the lives of Irish Catholics religiously, culturally, and politically. Whereas Irish Catholics feared and hated the imperial power of Westminster, Irish Protestants saw as equally threatening to their freedom the imperial power of Rome. Irish Protestants' fear of Rome and view of the pope as the Antichrist may seem anachronistic in today's ecumenical age. However, by enlarging the study of Ireland to include the European context of the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and wars of religion, Bowen demonstrates a peculiar logic to Irish Protestant thinking. In doing so he creates novel insights into familiar topics of Irish history.
Most histories of Ireland present Irish Catholics as the politically, economically, religiously, and socially oppressed members of the Irish isle. Bowen argues that the historical experience of Irish Protestants has persuaded them that they are religiously and culturally a people under siege. Since the time of the Counter-Reformation, Protestants believed that only their version of religion provided freedom for individual conscience. They have remained vigilant in their resistance to any authority that would limit, circumscribe, or define for them the will of God.
Bowen traces the development of Christianity from the early Celtic period to the present. While it is impossible to summarize this long and complex history here, the theme Bowen develops is the growth of papal interest in Ireland since the Reformation, the triumph of ultramontane Catholicism in the nineteenth century, and its enshrinement in the Irish Republic. It was this development of Roman authority, firmly entrenched religiously and politically, that set fear in Irish Protestant hearts that, as the minority, they were threatened if Catholics dominated Ireland. Indeed, Irish Protestant freedom in the Republic was curtailed through laws prohibiting divorce, birth control, and abortion as …
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Publication information: Article title: History and the Shaping of Irish Protestantism. Contributors: McMahon, Eileen - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 40. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 1998. Page number: 185+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.